Talking About Guns at School

How do you handle gun conversations in class? Here's one way.I have a concealed handgun license. I own a couple of pistols and enjoy shooting them. I like to shoot trap and skeet. And I’m married to a lifetime member of the NRA.

You could say I like guns.

Being a teacher and liking guns is a bit of a challenge, though. When students talk about guns, I have to be careful.

I don’t want to lie (it’s tough earning trust as a math teacher these days). But I don’t want to encourage inappropriate conversations.

I talk about talking about guns.

That’s not a typo. I talk about talking about guns with my students.

If you try to shut down all conversation about guns with a student that brings it up, it goes south on you.

Instead, I talk about where, when and with whom they can talk guns.

Where can students talk about guns?

Well, the question is more, “Where can they not talk guns?”

And the answer is: School is not the place to talk guns.

The mention of guns tend to make non-gun people nervous. And it’s not the goal of the school to make people nervous.

If kids talk about guns at school, they could be in earshot of others.

So they should zip it until they’re someplace appropriate.

When can students talk about guns?

Once they’re in a good location, they can ask this question.

And again we go with the inverse: Do not talk guns when you’re supposed to be focused on your assignment.

This is a fairly simple one. They have things to do. Gun talk isn’t one of them.

You can say, “I love that you have a passion, but we’re factoring polynomials. Please focus on that.”

Remind them that their lunch break might be a good time to talk guns, but since they’re in the wrong place (i.e. school!) then it’s a no-go.

With whom can students talk guns?

You know that part about non-gun people getting nervous when people talk guns? Yep – that’s the key here.

Here’s the rule: If you like guns, it’s your responsibility to be sensitive to those who don’t. Respect their feelings and save the conversation for someone else who enjoys it.

Remind students that, before they start a sensitive conversation with someone, they need to find out if it’s okay.

“May I ask you a personal question…? How do you feel about gun laws?”

(Notice the use of “gun laws” instead of “guns” lessens the feel of a psychotic nut-ball asking the question.)

Of course this only applies when they aren’t at school and when they’re not doing their assignments.

Those two trump this one.

Memory cue: PTA

Just because I like guns doesn’t mean I should be talking about them – at school, during class or with students. But it’s important to help students learn about the appropriate place, time and audience, too.

Help them remember by using PTA:

  • Place – If you’re at school, no gun talk.
  • Time – If you’re doing an assignment, no gun talk.
  • Audience – If you’re talking to a non-gun person, no gun talk.

PTA – Is the place right? Is the time right? Is the audience right?

And this goes for any conversation… right?

How about you?

How do you handle it when a student wants to talk about a socially sensitive topic?

Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments and please share on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.


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2 Responses to Talking About Guns at School

  1. I will have to disagree with you. Not talking about a subject with a person because it makes them uncomfortable will not help that person learn.
    Is it a good idea to not talk about slavery in history class because one of the students may fell uncomfortable.

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