Guest Opinions

Don’t arm teachers: More firepower is not the answer for schools, or society

Signs like this greet visitors in the parking lot and entrances to Idaho’s Garden Valley School, which has about 250 students in pre-k through 12th grades.
Signs like this greet visitors in the parking lot and entrances to Idaho’s Garden Valley School, which has about 250 students in pre-k through 12th grades. Provided by Garden Valley School

I respectfully disagree with the March 11 guest opinion by Dr. Christian Oakley to arm multitudes of individuals within our public schools. Unfortunately, his condescending rhetoric exemplifies and reinforces the lack of respect and tolerance for public debate on difficult issues such as this one. He attacks any ideas other than his as being neither specific nor based on evidence. He then goes about proposing solutions that are vague and baseless. Reactive measures that have already saved lives during active shooter incidents are belittled as being naive and foolish. His rational solution is to have armed relatives act as “sheep dogs,” apparently roaming the hallways in their spare time, ready to gun down suspicious characters in a moment’s notice.

[RELATED: Arm teachers: My school district gave our staff guns teachers. We’re safer for it.]

[RELATED: Shootings are a problem that requires a monumental solution: Trained, armed volunteers ]

I find Dr. Oakley’s vision for weaponizing our society, much less our schools, to be a capitulation itself to a chaotic society for which ever more firepower is the only answer. I refuse to give up on reining in gun violence just because there are so many guns out there already.

My professional organization, the American College of Physicians (ACP) has in fact proposed specific recommendations in a 2014 position paper on reducing firearm-related injuries and deaths. A clear majority of ACP members see firearm safety as a public health issue and believe that a comprehensive, multifaceted approach is necessary to reduce the epidemic of gun violence. Among the recommendations that also have strong public support are universal criminal background checks and banning firearms that have features designed to increase their rapid killing capacity.

Of course, protections would need to be consistent with the constitutional right for individual ownership of firearms under the Second Amendment. The controversial nature of these recommendations should not deter us from having a civil discourse on the matter both locally and nationally. Dr. Oakley’s suggestion that confiscating or buying back every gun in the United States has been proposed as a credible solution is ludicrous.

Perhaps the most important recommendation is for more research to be funded on firearm violence and on intervention and prevention strategies to reduce injuries caused by firearms. The Dickey Amendment from 1996 has had a chilling effect on this area of research, mandating that “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” This is akin to telling cancer researchers that they cannot produce any results from government-sponsored studies that might support a specific chemotherapy agent.

Until we have more latitude to apply scientific rigor to the data that we already have, we will lack the evidence base to support truly rational solutions to this national problem.

Stephen Montamat is a Boise physician.