During a speech Friday morning at the Conservative Political Action Conference, President Donald Trump claimed that 10 to 20 percent of American schoolteachers are “very gun-adept people.”
He was responding to what he called a “fake news” claim that he wanted to arm schoolteachers — when he really meant he wants to arm teachers who are gun pros. “I don’t want a person that has never handled a gun that wouldn’t know what a gun looks like to be armed,” he said during CPAC.
I never said “give teachers guns” like was stated on Fake News @CNN & @NBC. What I said was to look at the possibility of giving “concealed guns to gun adept teachers with military or special training experience - only the best. 20% of teachers, a lot, would now be able to— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 22, 2018
It’s tempting to write off this claim as more Trump hyperbole. But Trump is in a position to make actual policy changes on gun safety, so it’s worth taking a serious look at his starting point.
There are 3.1 million public school and 400,000 private school teachers in America, according to a 2015 National Center for Education Statistics survey. If Trump wants to arm 10 to 20 percent of them, that would mean giving guns to 350,000 to 700,000 people. A review of the best available research shows no evidence that even a fraction of that number has significant experience with a gun.
“Every teacher I have any contact [with] says that they don’t want to be armed, that kids would be killed by errant bullets, that the halls would be pandemonium and many lives would be lost in crossfire,” said NYU educational policy analyst and former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch about the plausibility of Trump’s remarks. On the statistic itself, she added that Trump “made it up.”
Military veterans make up only a small share of schoolteachers
Trump said in his CPAC speech that “military people, law enforcement people, they teach.” And he’s right: Programs like Troops to Teachers and Teach for America’s “You Served for America, Now Teach for America” initiative work hard to train former military members to become teachers.
Troops to Teachers was established in 1993. Since then, roughly 20,000 veterans have transitioned into education. While that’s a significant number, it’s still only 0.57 percent of the total teaching population. And that’s assuming all of them are still teaching 25 years later.
Teach for America’s program has been around since 2012 and has placed 320 veterans in schools, according to the Military Times.
Very few women own guns
A National Center for Education Statistics survey shows that 76 percent of public school teachers are women. We don’t know for a fact how many of these women own guns, but we do know a few things about women who own guns in general.
A separate Pew research study found that the bulk of guns in America are owned by men, while 22 percent of women in America own guns. And only a quarter of those who have earned a bachelor’s degree (a prerequisite for teaching) are gun owners.
Of the women who own guns, it’s difficult to say whether they are truly “gun-adept.” About four in 10, 43 percent, say they go shooting or to a gun range often or sometimes.
Another finding in the Pew study is that ownership is not spread out evenly across the country, a distributional problem that would make it difficult to place gun experts in every school nationwide. About 46 percent of gun owners live in less populated rural parts of the country, compared with 28 percent who live in the suburbs and 19 percent who live in cities.
Relatively few gun owners receive firearm training
Owning a gun doesn’t necessarily count for much when it comes to protecting oneself or others during an active shooter incident.
Besides there being no real way to establish how someone will respond in such a high-pressure situation, only 40 percent of gun owners receive formal firearm training in the first place. Fourteen percent of non-gun owners receive this training.
Teachers study education or their subject area — not security
A look at the data for the most common college majors for America’s schoolteachers shows some not-so-surprising trends.
The most common fields of study include the natural sciences (16.5 percent), humanities (12.5 percent), and, of course, education (14.9 percent). Meanwhile, only 1.4 percent studied security and protective services, and 0.3 percent studied criminal justice.
If Trump wants teachers who are truly adept at using guns, he’s probably going to have to send a lot of them back to school.
The White House did not respond to requests for comment.