I am a parent of an elementary school child. Most of you reading this will have children of some age or another, too; and even if you don’t have children, you might plan to have them in the future, or simply be a concerned citizen who understands the tragedy of failing to protect our society’s future – our children.
I – and you too, I’m sure – can all too easily relate to the horror of what happened in Newtown CT last week, and there is absolutely no way in the world anyone wants to see their child at any risk of suffering a similar fate in their local school.
I also agree that ‘something needs to be done’ to prevent yet another school massacre. Yes, there have been too many of them already, and yes, we can’t allow more to happen. Everyone can agree on that.
But – and here’s the thing. What have we learned from the Sandy Hook tragedy, and from all the other ones too?
First, without exception, the gunman/gunmen have not been legally in possession of the firearms they had. They have broken various state and federal laws with severe penalties just by possessing firearms and taking them onto the school grounds in the first place. The laws against these people possessing firearms and taking them onto school property were of no use whatsoever.
Secondly, there are already extreme prohibitions against shooting and murdering people, be they school children or anyone else. Penalties all the way up to capital punishment apply for such actions. And these penalties had zero effect on these crazy people.
There is no recorded case in US history of a would be mass-murderer saying ‘Oh, shucks! I can’t go out and kill all those people, because it is against the law for me to own a gun, it is against the law to take a gun into a school, and it is against the law for me to shoot the children and teachers.’
Furthermore, there are no new laws we could pass and no new penalties we could add which would create any measurable deterrence. Mass murderers already risk death or life imprisonment for their actions. We can’t sentence them to death twice, and our society wouldn’t be comfortable sentencing them to a decade of excruciating torture or anything like that (besides which, even that would probably not deter such people).
Now, let’s continue our logical analysis of the present problem.
These crazed gunmen aren’t as completely crazy as they may seem. What do they know about any school, anywhere in the country? They know that once they get inside the school, there is no danger at all – absolutely positively none – that anyone will resist their actions, or shoot back at them. They know they are in a place full of trapped defenseless helpless people, and as the statistics all too tragically show, the results are obvious.
Now it is true that your average school teacher is probably far from your first choice of person you’d want to equip with a gun and ask to defend you in a critical situation. But – think about this : We require our teachers to train for years before they are certified as qualified to teach in our schools. We require them to have ongoing training and refresher courses to remain certified. Many school districts require teachers to have first aid training, too. We even require teachers to be re-fingerprinted every year (why – do fingerprints change from year to year?) and pass annual criminal background checks.
Would it be so completely impossible to bolt on a one week defensive firearms course to the rest of a teacher’s training? With annual range refreshers, too? And rather than prohibit firearms in schools, why not require teachers to have firearms; either concealed or openly carried on their person, or secured in a desk drawer or locker – anywhere that is closely at hand in their classrooms.
What would that do to potential gunmen? Do you think it might discourage them from attacking schools in the first place? And, if someone truly crazy still persisted in his attack, how many casualties do you think he could inflict before becoming a casualty himself?
Even if the armed teachers did nothing more than simply shoot blindly at the classroom door from behind the concealment of their upturned desk when the gunman tried to enter, wouldn’t that be helpful? Wouldn’t that buy time for the police to react and respond?
The thing is this. Gun control, teenage sex, and drug use have one thing very much in common. You can pass as many laws as you like making teenage sex illegal, you can do whatever you like to make illegal drug use severely sanctioned by draconian prison terms, and you can pass as many laws as you can dream up restricting the right of free citizens to own firearms. But randy teenage boys are always going to find a way to sate their lust, no matter how many laws they may break. ‘Stoners’ and other dregs of society will find a way to illegal drugs, the same as they have been for decades, and the same way much of society found its way to alcohol during prohibition. And bad people will always find a gun, and will always use it.
We’re not going to be drawn into debates about drug laws and teenage sex. But we are going to say that the solution to prevent future school tragedies is not to add to the current surfeit of laws that make such things illegal, and doubly the solution to future school tragedies is not to penalize law-abiding citizens and to make it harder for them to own, carry, and – if necessary – lawfully use their firearms in necessary self-defense.
The solution is to encourage teachers and other law-abiding citizens to be armed in schools as well as everywhere else in their lives. Rather than having schools as the ultimate ‘soft target’, let’s make schools into hard targets. When was the last time you saw a gunman attack a police station? Right – never. Let’s make schools as unattractive a target as police stations already are.