Trump's suggestion to arm teachers draws fire locally

Feb 22, 2018

President Trump's suggestion that schools would be safer with more armed teachers did not draw support from at least two people who have expertise on the subject.

The Florida school shooting last week in which 17 died is not the first mass shooting involving education, roughly starting with the Columbine shooting in 1999. Since then, there have been many others. How to prevent such an event has drawn a lot of attention.

On Wednesday, President Trump met with students and parents from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL and suggested armed teachers would really help prevent these shootings in the future. Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore disagrees.

"This not the Gunfight at O.K. Corral or something like that. I wouldn't want any teachers to have weapons," the union president said. "I think that the least number of weapons in the building, the better off we are. Accidents occur, whether it's a teacher, whether it's anybody. Unless you're really trained well, we don't want teachers carrying guns. Can you imagine a teacher accidentally takes a gun out and it accidentally misfires and shoots a student."

Rumore said police in school buildings might help.

"Some of them are trained into how to de-escalate situations, so the police officers that we have there - a lot of them, from what I understand - have been trained to try to de-escalate situations, to try to work with the kids," the union president said. "I think having a police officer in the building that's viewed as a friend of somebody that they can talk to - it's not just like they present as a fear - I don't think that's a bad thing."

At-Large Buffalo School Board Member Patricia Pierce had a long career with the Buffalo Police Department and Erie County Sheriff's Office before joining the Erie County District Attorney's Office as a domestic violence investigator. She supports police in the buildings because they are trained on how to use weapons. At the same time, when her kids were young, she did not bring her firearm home at the end of the workday. She left it at work.

"Right around the time of Columbine and up until then, no, I would never have conceived that something like that could happen - but it did and it has, and it's continued to happen," Pierce said. "Me personally, I was never one to bring my weapon home with me, when I was off duty because I just never wanted it to fall into the wrong hands."

Pierce says she supports what are usually called SROs: police officers assigned within a school building on a permanent basis, who get to know students and for students to get to know them and potentially tip them off to a problem.