Author’s Note: I contributed to this short film’s Kickstarter Campaign.
G is for Gun is a thirty-minute documentary film exploring the highly controversial trend of armed faculty and staff in K-12 schools. Only five years ago this practice was practically unheard of, but since the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, it has spread to as many as a dozen states. Often without public knowledge, there are teachers, administrators, custodians, nurses, and bus drivers carrying guns in America’s schools. G is for Gun documents a growing program in Ohio that is training school staff to respond to active shooter situations with guns, and follows the story of one Ohio community divided over arming its teachers.
Katie Way & Julie Akeret
Being an outsider to American society, it can sometimes be a struggle to understand their attitude and approach to guns. While school shootings aren’t unique to America, whenever they happen in other developed countries around the world, there tends to be a seismic change towards how guns are sold and distributed. For example, when the UK had the 1996 Dunblane Massacre (which, for all intents and purposes, was our equivalent of the Sandy Hook shooting); our entire society seemed to shift, resulting in the banning of most handguns in the UK. Such stringent laws meant that we have had no school shootings and only one mass shooting in the following 22 years.
But until the political will is there, America has had to go in a different direction to protect its children: the arming of teachers. G is for Gun opens with what has to be a parent’s worst nightmare: an armed and masked individual striding the hallways of a school. Sure, it’s immediately obvious that it’s a training exercise, but as each gunshot rings out in a place of learning, it’s hard not to have a visceral reaction.
Some of the statistics that the short presents are truly eye-opening. Thirteen states already have some form of program where school teachers of K-12 classes (the UK equivalent would be Nursery to the end of Secondary school) either carry or have access to guns. Many of them doing so without parental or public knowledge.
Though the short makes it clear that this is an issue affecting the entire country, Way & Akeret choose to focus on the micro, specifically the small town of Sydney in the state of Ohio. This was a town deeply affected by the events of Sandy Hook, and one that voted to arm teachers less than a year after that terrible tragedy. And keeping things small scale makes the issue far more accessible. Rather than the forked tongue of a politician, we get to listen to real people explain why they chose to embrace or reject this changing attitude to armed educators.
But as a person who has lived almost his entire life in a nation where being anti-gun is the norm, I have to applaud the filmmakers for helping us empathise with the desire of these teachers to defend, not just themselves, but the youngsters under their care. If anything, that sad acceptance of an unwinnable situation is what stands out the most. While many of these educators are willing to train themselves to handle a weapon; none of them do so happily. But with an average of one shooting in an American school every week, can you honestly blame them?