I Don't Want Your Guns, But I Don't Want To Be A Human Shield Either

by Matthew Acciani
Hero Images / Getty

No teacher signed up to be a human shield.

There are countless struggles and sacrifices tied to the profession we chose. Low pay, low respect, national criticism, unpaid overtime, the list continues. Fortunately, for most of us, there are far more positives. We see the effects of our work. We help students grow in themselves and our material. We form connections and take the trust of parents to care for, mold, and educate their children and give our damnedest to do so to the fullest extent of our abilities. The sacrifices are well known and well accepted in order to pursue an occupation that we believe in.

Today, though, some sacrifices are being asked of teachers that were never part of the bargain.

There are many occupations where individuals actively choose, armed with foreknowledge, to place their life on the line for others. Our military and first responders deserve our fullest respect and thanks for undertaking the burden they live with every day, knowing that every morning could be the dawn of the day they are asked to pay the highest price for their occupation.

They are trained for such outcomes. This is a well-known risk associated with the occupations they chose to pursue.

I was not combat trained. I have never seen nor participated in live-fire. I do not know how to properly engage an active shooter to best prevent loss of life.

I teach history. I was trained to help students find meaning in the past. I teach economics. I work to help students read and understand how markets operate. I teach government. I pursued a degree in understanding how our political system operates.

I honor those who chose to become part of our military or law enforcement. It was not a choice I felt I could make for myself. I briefly considered such a path but struggled greatly with the possibility of needing to take another’s life. I made the choice to pursue a different career.

I was willing to make sacrifices to become a teacher. The thought that I might need to lay my life down as part of my chosen profession never entered my thought process as I determined my professional path.

Yet this has become a reality for members of the educational world. I have spoken many times with my students. Many of them expect their teachers to shield them from potential violence. Many teachers have made this sacrifice. I believe, God forbid the situation occur, I would do the same. Our students are our children. There is a sacred trust placed by parents in teachers as the caretakers of children. I would pray my own children’s teachers would do the same for my son and daughter.

I would not fault them if they did not.

They did not sign up to be human shields. Becoming a teacher was not supposed to include the possibility of laying down your life.

Yet here we are. Inhabitants of a nation in which our schools, the sanctuaries of our children, have become spoiled.

There are few teachers who have not considered where an attack might come from or how best to react. There are no classrooms where the question of “what would we do?” has not been discussed.

We argue about the cause. We offer our prayers. We mourn. We protest. We rage. We do nothing.

In the meantime, children are dying.

I don’t want your guns.

But I don’t want to be a human shield.

Would I lay down my life for my students? I believe I would.

And then my two children grow up without a father.

Just like the families of teachers in too many of these tragedies.

More guns is not the answer. Arming teachers is not the answer. More guns means more bullets, more shooting, more risk of death and carnage.

Maybe this is a mental health issue. Maybe it’s a race issue. Maybe there truly is a level of toxic masculinity.

It is definitely a gun issue.

Fewer guns, fewer school shootings.

It’s math.

It doesn’t matter what the biggest cause is. There are steps that can be taken to start preventing these tragedies from occurring. We don’t have to iron out the sole, specific cause before we act.

Maybe a truly driven individual, faced with an impossibility of getting a gun, will devise some new, different way of harming people at school.

Let’s make them. Force someone to work harder to harm the youth in our nation. Then we can address that issue as it arises.

This issue is present. It needs to be addressed.

Keep your hunting rifles. Keep your handguns. I don’t want them. Keep the 2nd Amendment strong.

But make it harder to get guns. If you are responsible, you won’t mind. You still get your rights. And maybe, just maybe, I won’t be asked to take a bullet for your child.