Following the school shooting in Florida on February 14th, several Dawson College students disapproved of President Donald Trump’s teacher arming solution, while hailing the nationwide student-led gun control protests.
The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killed 17 students and teachers on Valentine’s day. Shortly after, President Trump proposed to arm school personnel, including teachers, to deter further similar incidents. While many Dawson professors and students disagreed with this decision, they showed solidarity with the #NeverAgain movement, which advocates for gun control legislation in the United States.
United States History Professor Pierre l’Heureux qualified Trump’s decision as “ludicrous,” stating that the argument that: “the best way to avoid violence is to deter it by having other people armed”, is “completely ridiculous. You have to remember that the [Second] Amendment was passed in 1791, when Americans relied on the citizenry to fight the [Revolution].”
Philosophy Professor Derrick Farnham, a retired Canadian Army captain, asserted that Trump’s decision is “unrealistic” because arming teachers would “involve the equivalent of a summer training program, and that takes months.”
Some Dawson students also shared this opinion. Second-year First Choice Science student Simon Bustamante said that teachers do not have the “responsibility to protect school grounds” and that it is rather the duty of “trained professionals like security guards.”
Jeff, a second-year General Social Science student, claimed that “there should never be guns in a school, as they remind students that they are under constant threat. School is a place for learning and worrying, not about guns, but about grades.”
Additionally, the Parkland mass shooting sparked protests advocating for gun reforms nationally. The #NeverAgain movement, spearheaded by survivors of Stoneman Douglas, attracted the attention and the support of numerous people at Dawson.
Humanities Professor Timothy Slonosky admired the students’ initiative, but added that for the movement to have “meaningful impact on the long-run,” students must start “targeting specific politicians and defeating them in elections. They have to channel that activism into actual political results.”
Skepticism regarding the success of the movement was expressed by several other respondents. Professor Farnham was “very pessimistic about that, because there have been shootings regularly [during his] entire life, and lots of protests,” but no progress has been made. “To take away guns from Americans is to take away Americanness. I cannot see how Americans can oppose their gun laws if they want to stay the same people,” he added.
Gregory Isaacs, a first-year Law, Society, and Justice student, is not optimistic concerning the impact of #NeverAgain because the “only way to achieve change in the States is through politicians’ wallets, and so long as the [gun lobby] holds power over lawmakers, [nothing can be done].”
Stoneman Douglas and Dawson College are two of many schools that experienced a shooting within their walls. On Sep. 13, 2006, a gunman stormed into the CEGEP and killed one student. Professor l’Heureux survived the shooting, recalling that no similar gun control activism followed. “The context was very different,” said l’Heureux, referring to the absence of a “political culture” in Canada surrounding the right to bear arms.
George Sanchez, Dawson’s executive of Health and Safety Issues, said: “You never heard about arming teachers or guards [following the shooting], because it’s a very different mindset between our two countries.”
Similarly, there were demands by the Dawson community to arm the school following the shooting. To that, Sanchez clarified that “we didn’t want to look like an armed camp.” At the time, Dawson’s Director-General Richard Fillion also affirmed that “we’re a school first, not a prison.”