The heads of the two largest U.S. teachers' unions on Thursday roundly rejected renewed calls by Republican politicians—some of them funded by the firearms industry lobby—to arm educators following the massacre of more than 20 children and staff at a Texas elementary school.
"Teachers should be teaching, not acting as armed security guards," National Education Association (NEA) president Becky Pringle asserted in a statement.
"Our public schools should be the safest places for students and educators, yet the gunshots from a lone shooter armed with a military-grade weapon shattered the physical safety of the school community in Uvalde, Texas," she added. "The powerful gun lobby and their allies did not waste a second after the horrific killing of 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School to call for arming teachers."
"Bringing more guns into schools makes schools more dangerous and does nothing to shield our students and educators from gun violence," Pringle said. "We need fewer guns in schools, not more."
"We need common-sense solutions now. Schools need more mental health professionals, not pistols; teachers need more resources, not revolvers. Arming teachers makes schools more dangerous and does nothing to protect students and their families when they go off to school, shop at the grocery store, attend church services, ride the subway, or simply walk down the streets of their neighborhoods. Those lawmakers pushing to arm teachers and fortify school buildings are simply trying to distract us from their failure to prevent another mass shooting."
"Educators and parents overwhelmingly reject the idea of arming school staff. Rather than arming educators with guns, we need to be giving them the tools needed to inspire their students," she said. "Rather than putting the responsibility on individual teachers, our elected leaders need to pass laws that protect children from gun violence and bring an end to senseless and preventable killings."
"Americans want the carnage to stop," Pringle added. "My message to Congress: What are you going to do?"
Polling has shown that teachers are overwhelmingly opposed to being armed in the classroom.
"I think that arming a bunch of people without the training or desire to shoot guns is a disaster in the making," explained one respondent to a 2019 survey of U.S. educators by California State University professor Lauren Willner that found 88% of teachers were opposed to being armed. "I worry about students getting their hands on guns, and I worry far more about gun accidents than about school shootings."
Echoing Pringle's stance, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten said in a statement that "only in America do people go grocery shopping and get mowed down by a shooter with hate in his heart; only in this country are parents not assured that their kids will be safe at school."
"Gun violence is a cancer, and it's one that none of us should tolerate for one single moment longer," she added. "We have made a choice to let this continue, and we can make a choice to finally do something—do anything—to put a stop to this madness."