The Interview: Teacher Of The Year And Gun Owner Nate Bowling On Arming Teachers & Keeping Kids Safe In School
The Interview: Teacher of the Year and Gun Owner Nate Bowling on Arming Teachers & Keeping Kids Safe in School
Browse the previous 74 interviews, which feature notable individuals such as Sydney Chaffee, the 2017 Teacher of the Year, former education secretary John King, and former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice. You can find the complete archive conveniently located here.
When Nate Bowling, who was recognized as the 2016 Washington State Teacher of the Year and a finalist for National Teacher of the Year, shared some tweets revealing his interest in guns following the tragic Parkland school shooting, it caught people’s attention. As an AP geography and AP government teacher, Bowling didn’t fit the stereotype of a typical gun enthusiast. Moreover, he is a well-known blogger who focuses on social justice issues.
I’ll include this additional information. I find shooting AK-47s and AR-15s extremely enjoyable. I truly mean it, they are great fun. However, if banning these firearms would prevent another horrific incident involving defenseless teenagers, I would support such a measure.
— Nate Bowling (@nate_bowling) February 23, 2018
However, Bowling, who is also an Air Force veteran, has interests in both firearms and teaching. He sees some connections between the skills required for success in both areas. Additionally, like many gun owners, Bowling deviates from the gun lobby’s stance on gun policy. I had the opportunity to discuss firearms and his thoughts on keeping schools safe from gun violence with him.
The following interview has been slightly edited for the sake of brevity and clarity.
T74: When did your fascination with guns begin?
My first encounter with a gun was during summer camp while I was a Boy Scout. I remember shooting a .22 rifle and finding the experience rather unsettling. The next time I fired a firearm was during my time in the Air Force, specifically during basic training in 1998. I wasn’t particularly skilled at shooting, and it still scared me. My interest in firearms didn’t fully develop, and I didn’t become a gun owner until 2011 when I purchased my own house.
As an African-American male, my relationship with law enforcement is quite complex. Frankly, I had concerns over whether I would be recognized as the homeowner in a potentially dangerous situation if the police were to arrive at my house. Therefore, when I made the decision to become a homeowner, I also chose to become a gun owner. I find target shooting enjoyable, especially when done outdoors. I also appreciate indoor shooting. I regularly visit a shooting range. I own a traditional 12-gauge side-by-side break barrel shotgun. Once a year, I go out and shoot skeet, which I thoroughly enjoy.
My first encounter with shooting an AR-15 or M-16 during my Air Force service was quite intimidating. It’s a substantial firearm with a powerful kickback. However, as I continued to shoot more frequently, I became more comfortable. In fact, shooting guns has become an enjoyable experience for me. I appreciate the breath control required and the focus it demands. It’s a peculiar form of relaxation. Shooting firearms with larger calibers is even more thrilling. You have the opportunity to shoot at targets placed at increasing distances and witness the results of your efforts.
Teaching is similar to shooting in that when a lesson is ineffective, adjustments must be made. The same goes for shooting. When you’re on the range and observe that your shots are not hitting close to the target, you make the necessary adjustments. I find great satisfaction in activities where I feel in complete control. When I’m at the range, I have control over what happens to my shots downrange, just as a teacher has control over the outcomes of their students while they’re in the classroom.
Do you believe teachers should have firearms in schools?
Personally, I believe the idea of arming teachers is one of the most foolish policy proposals I’ve heard recently. I’m genuinely concerned about the rightward shift in national gun policy and discussions surrounding guns. If we look back to the 1970s, even conservatives in California, including Ronald Reagan, supported gun control legislation. In 1994, there was bipartisan consensus during the Clinton administration to enact an assault weapons ban. Over the ten-year period when the ban was in effect, both the frequency and severity of mass shootings decreased. This fact is well-documented. Currently, there is a video circulating online featuring Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, where he expresses support for the notion of gun-free zones, even within schools. It’s disheartening to witness the significant shift in the American gun debate, where we are now discussing arming teachers.
As an African-American teacher, I often find myself contemplating a hypothetical situation where a mass-casualty incident occurs, causing chaos. In this scenario, my instinct would be to grab my firearm and intervene to stop the shooter. However, a concern arises when considering how the police might encounter me in this armed state and mistake me for the actual shooter. It is cases like these where simple solutions to complex problems might seem appealing. But personally, I do not find this particular solution appealing, as it only addresses a small part of the larger issue.
As both a gun owner and a teacher, I strongly believe that schools should be designated as gun-free zones, with the exception of law enforcement personnel. In my school, we are fortunate to have a school resource officer who is a valuable member of our staff. Moreover, I believe there are some straightforward measures we can implement to enhance safety. For instance, considering the number of shooters who have been apprehended while trying to reload, I am convinced that limiting magazine size can save lives. Therefore, I support the idea of implementing restrictions on magazine capacity. Additionally, I am in favor of reenacting an assault weapons ban. However, it is important to consider the millions of assault weapons that already exist in circulation, making it unfeasible to confiscate them all. Nonetheless, we should refrain from introducing more into our society. I also support the implementation of rigorous background checks that utilize publicly available data. Many other systems that are not currently integrated into federal background checks could provide valuable information and potentially save lives. Waiting periods for individuals seeking to purchase firearms have proven to be effective in preventing impulsive acts of violence. The solutions to these issues are not overly complicated. By looking at strategies implemented in other countries, we can find practical and sensible gun legislation that should be championed by both political parties. This is a matter of safety and common sense, transcending political affiliations.