There is an old joke about prayer in school. That there will always be such a thing as long as there are pop quizzes in algebra class.
The quip is based on a faulty premise. No level of government in the United States has ever banned students praying in school. The U.S. Supreme Court did correctly ban the practice of prayers led, or required, by the state agents who run public education.
It is no joke, though, that the latest incident of a mass shooting in an American school has led some people, including the current occupant of the Oval Office, to suggest that one way to protect students and teachers from such atrocities in the future would be to arm members of the faculty and staff.
That, too, is based on a faulty premise. Because there is no logical reason to believe that more guns brought into school buildings — by teachers, students, janitors or anyone else — would make anyone safer.
On the contrary. More guns = more opportunities for people being shot. Some of them, to be sure, will have it coming.
But for every time a good teacher with a gun stops a bad ex-student with a bigger gun, we can expect hundreds of cases where those guns are stolen, lost, go off by accident, are turned back on their owners or become instruments of domestic violence, suicide, road rage or homeroom hostility.
The idea that a teacher or assistant principal, even one who is familiar with firearms and has had some level of training in their use, can coolly and competently keep his head while all those about him are losing theirs, that they can drop someone who has suddenly turned up, blazing away with a much larger and more powerful weapon, without adding to the carnage of crossfire, only makes sense to people who have seen way too many movies.
The idea of arming schools smacks too much of what more and more people see as the gun lobby’s primary purpose. Not “freedom,” Second Amendment or otherwise, but the spread of the kind of fear and mutual mistrust that will turn schools — and shopping centers and offices and arenas and parks — into armed camps where everyone may be “protected,” but most of us are uneasy and afraid.
As long as Utah, like some other states, has laws that allow concealed carry and don’t ban guns from schools, there will be guns in our schools. Most of them will never be fired, brandished or even seen.
That doesn’t mean it is a good idea. It certainly doesn’t mean that we ought to go out of our way to allow, encourage or pay more teachers to start packing.
Their lives are already stressful enough, thank you.