February 19 2018: High school students from across the D.C. area protest gun control laws and gun reform in front of the White House following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.Photo: Joseph Gruber / Shutterstock
When billionaire philanthropist, Betsy DeVos, appeared in front of congressional legislators during her confirmation hearings as Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of the Department of Education, Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut asked whether firearms should be allowed in schools as a strategy in protecting students.
Rather than ruling it out, she answered: “I think that’s best left to locales and states to decide.”
When pressed further to elaborate, she referred to an earlier remark by Republican Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming who mentioned an elementary school in Wapiti, Wyoming that erected a fence to protect students from wildlife.
“I think probably there, I would imagine that there’s probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies,” DeVos said.
Well, aside from the possibility of arming bears, she now advocates for the bearing of arms for classroom teachers. She has reportedly proposed using Department of Education funds to purchase guns and to cover the costs of firearms training for teachers as a tactic in reducing school violence.
Following the deadly shooting massacre last February at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, and after meeting with survivors, Trump placed DeVos in charge of heading a commission on school safety.
As typical as it has been in the Trump administration, DeVos, who came to her position with virtually no experience and knowledge of public education policy, chose commission members who had virtually no experience and knowledge of gun violence prevention.
Since her confirmation hearings, DeVos has proven her utter lack of qualifications and contempt for public education. As a private citizen, she advocated for a voucher system that would divert funding from public schools to private, parochial, and for-profit charter schools. Recently, she was charged with plagiarism.
During her interview with Lesley Stahl on a March 2018 CBS 60 Minutes segment, when asked about her thoughts about school funding, she responded, “We should be funding and investing in students, not in school buildings, not in institutions, not in systems.”
Currently several civil rights groups are suing DeVos for revoking Title IX guidelines that help protect college survivors who report sexual assault. She has consistently reversed Obama-era civil and human rights protections for students.
On 60 Minutes, regarding her position on arming teachers in schools, she stated that “I hesitate to think of my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Zorhoff. I couldn’t ever imagine her having a gun.” Evidently, however, she not only imagines but advocates for current teachers to pack heat.
If she had listened to advice given by Douglas High School students and many others in the field of gun safety, rather than jumping to the call of the NRA and firearms manufacturers, she would cease trying to fight guns with more guns. Rather, she needs to advocate for common-sense gun safety legislation.
But owing to long-held positions and the political climate, the chance of this Congress allowing proposed legislation to come to the floor is merely a pipe dream unless we change the composition of our Republican-dominated local and federal governments.
Public schools continue to eliminate after-school programs and arts and humanities programs due to rising costs and reduced funding. Teachers on average commit hundreds of dollars each year out of their own pockets to help provide students with basic school supplies.
Diverting funding from needed programs into arming teachers is a tactic that diverts us from the actual issue. There are simply so many legally obtained firearms in the United States that no amount of teachers packing more legally obtained firearms will alleviate. In fact, it is likely to make it worse.
To paraphrase Bill Clinton, “It’s the guns, stupid.”