Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Teachers Will Not and Should Not Carry Guns

It didn't take long in the aftermath of the latest mass shooting at a school for the discussion on gun violence and gun rights to intensify.  Sadly, it went pretty quickly where I thought saner heads would prevail.  Thus, in less than a week Governor Rick Perry and numerous other public figures called for the arming of teachers and administrators as a way to deal with this tragic condition of our society. In fact, one rural district in Texas allows concealed weapons because they "can't afford" security and are thirty miles from town.  Guns in the classroom.  Hmmmm.  I honestly can't believe that seemingly rational people would pose such an idea.  But, they did.  So, let's be clear about one thing.  Guns in the schools is not the answer.

America certainly has a problem with gun violence.  However, I am not going to assert that any specific gun legislation would curtail that.  Additionally, America has a problem with mentally ill people becoming deranged and acting out violently and publicly.  But this is not simply an issue of mental illness.  The sad reality is that we have a considerable number of mentally deranged people who don't get the necessary treatment to prevent them from acting on homicidal impulses.  And it is far too easy for these people to gain access to implements of catastrophic destruction.  Yet, it's not simply a matter of passing an assault weapons ban or perhaps strengthening the health care system.  One is an easy act; one seemingly impossible.  And neither will solve the problem.

Neither will armed teachers and principals in school.

In the past decade, schools and public buildings have made great strides in putting together response plans to decrease the impact of these tragedies.  But we haven't decreased the tragedies.  And armed teachers won't help.  For one, it's simply not going to happen.  I and millions of other teachers and school officials would simply refuse.  Secondly, proponents are delusional if they think that teachers and administrators would calmly and effectively be able to take out a shooter.  Police officers and soldiers practice shooting and crisis situations for thousands of hours - and they still make mistakes.  They still don't hit the right target.  They still commit friendly fire.  They still die in shootouts.  And they are trained to do nothing less than take out assailants.   The average citizen will not do better.  This is true, despite many middle class suburban Rambos out there who think a math teacher could step into the hallway and squeeze off a few rounds with little problem.

Certainly, there are plenty of commentators who are decrying the gun violence and calling for action on gun control or mental health issues or both.  And there are extreme views on each side.  However, some important perspectives on the seriousness of the issue and the need to act now are worth considering.  EJ Dionne of the Washington Post asks "Will We Forget the Kids Of Newtown?" If society does nothing different, if people ignore President Obama's simple point that "we can do better," then Dionne's concern will be realized.  One significant issue will be the impact of high capacity weaponry.  And, I'll admit that I've long wondered how that is defensible.  As Robin Williams asked years ago on stage, "Is there some big-ass moose out their with a bulletproof vest and night vision goggles?"  The assault weapon/machine gun issue seems to fall in with the laws against hand grenades and flamethrowers in my opinion.  On that issue, William Salatin offers some thoughtful commentary on "The Volume Killers" and the significance tied to how quickly these people have inflicted mass carnage - a scope that is simply not possible with lower capacity weapons.

America has plenty of guns.  Plenty.  And more guns are not the answer to gun violence.  Schools should maintain crisis plans and lockdowns, cities should promote the presence of SROs - school resource officers - and communities should seek to get better at identifying potential threats.  That said, it won't be perfect.  There will be more tragedies.  There will always be these types of tragedies.  But we can do more about it.  And, so, I will say it - we should consider some restraints on the gun industry.  A country that requires registration and licenses for people to own or operate a car, or sell cookies out of a home kitchen, should certainly require more stringent and traceable licensing of deadly weapons.

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