Main|Bio|Books|USA Today columns|Opeds| blog|Media|Other Publications| Speaking|Links

Trump's awful plan to arm teachers is straight from the NRA playbook:

James Alan Fox, Opinion columnist Published 5:00 a.m. ET Feb. 23, 2018 | Updated 12:44 p.m. ET Feb. 23, 2018

President Donald Trump said Friday if teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida had been able to carry concealed weapons, they "would have shot the hell out of (the gunman) before he knew what happened." AP

Trump's embrace of 'scholastic carry' is a recycled NRA talking point from 2012. And it's still a really bad idea.

President Trump deserves credit for agreeing to meet with a delegation of frustrated and emotional survivors of the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Given his all too cozy and politically motivated alliance with the National Rifle Association, he was caught between the students' demands for tighter gun restrictions and his supporters' concern about sliding down the slippery slope of Second Amendment infringement.

At the end of the "listening session," Trump followed the NRA playbook. He offered up the gun lobby's rather minor concessions banning bump stocks and maybe raising the legal age for purchasing a high-powered weapon of mass murder destruction from 18 to 21. You could probably count on one hand the total number of mass killings over the past three decades that those changes might have affected.

Still, these are beneficial baby steps that can hopefully be embraced by lawmakers on Capitol Hill, including those in the GOP (which should be renamed the "Gun Owners Party").

Not so palatable, and that's putting it mildly, is Trump's suggestion that we arm as many as 20% of our nation's school teachers concealed carry for educators. Supporters of firearms-for-faculty maintain that ever since the early 1990s, when Congress established schools as gun-free zones, an armed assailant, be it a student-insider or a stranger-intruder, could be assured of facing little or no opposition. Maybe Johnny wouldn't be so quick to bring a loaded gun to school if he knew that teachers and administrators were packing heat.

However, rather than a deterrent for someone who himself may be prepared to die, this could actually be an incentive. Johnny, long feeling obscure and disrespected, might believe he could become a big man on campus by shooting it out with the deputy principal at high noon in the school cafeteria.

Trump has shown a tendency to think that many of his borrowed ideas and pronouncements are original. But in this case, as with bump stocks and raising the legal gun purchase age, he is simply promoting the NRA agenda. Just days after the December 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting, the powerful gun group announced its interest in funding a National School Shield Program, an effort to provide every school in America with armed guards, including retired police officers and trained volunteers. Although the NRA failed to see its dream fulfilled, several states have in recent years enacted bills to allow licensed teachers to keep their weapons locked and loaded while at school.

Trump's off-base idea raises several important questions about "scholastic carry."

What level of training is sufficient so that we can trust a teacher's judgment and accuracy when suddenly confronted with a calm and heavily armed assailant? And exactly what type of guns would be permitted for the faculty that could compete against an intruder wielding a high-powered assault rifle and toting enough ammunition to turn the school corridor into a shooting gallery?

Where would the guns be kept to give teachers timely access if a gunman stormed into the classroom? Should they be in the teacher's desk drawer?  Must they be smart guns to prevent them from being used by some angry student? Could we count on teachers to be more responsive than the armed deputy at the Parkland shooting who stayed outside instead of trying to stop the gunman?

Rather than equipping schools with armed guards, be they volunteer marksmen or teachers with a passion for guns, maybe Trump would like to propose that big, beautiful walls be erected around the perimeter of every school. That would cost billions, but maybe Trump could convince Mexico to foot the bill.

I'm not serious, of course. But I also can't take seriously the idea of turning educators into executioners.

For teachers, marksmanship should be about A's and B's. Not guns and ammo.

James Alan Fox is the Lipman Professor of Criminology, Law and Public Policy at Northeastern University and a member of the USA TODAY Board of Contributors. He is co-author of Extreme Killing: Understanding Serial and Mass Murder.  Follow him on Twitter @jamesalanfox.