In the midst of hysterics and chaos, I’m going to write this multi-part piece for myself as much as anyone else. I’ll let you know my bias and my agenda at the front end…I don’t want to die in a hail of gunfire and I don’t want to be reliant only hopes, thoughts and prayers if I find myself in the middle of it. Is there actually a nuanced approach to public safety that we can take that both reduces the chance you find yourself in that situation and also gives you the best possible methods to escape it?
I’m going to do my best to propose that there is.
Part I – Who am I and where are we as a nation?
If you watch the media, and I hope you don’t, the entire world is falling apart. Yet, when I’m out in the world with CNN muffled, Twitter alerts turned off, the world is an amazing place. We are living in the best country on Earth. If you have any historical perspective, we are living better today than any Emperor of Rome. Yet nobody ever talks about that which is tragic.
Who am I? I’m a public school teacher. I’m a union member who is proud of my local union and ashamed of the NEA and CTA. I’m also a father, a husband, a gun owner, a competitive shooter and an American. And, like you, I don’t want to live in a world where I have to fear for my safety and the safety of my children. Unlike many of you, I have had the experience where carrying a firearm helped avert a dangerous situation. Hopefully that gives me some credibility to speak here. If nothing else, it does give me relevant experience.
The first step I’d propose we all take is to reflect on just how lucky we are to live in America. Everything you hear on TV is about how terrible this country is. There are some messed up things in the world for sure. The media is stoking hatred and tribalism. When’s the last time you heard anything about how we are all one nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all? I hear that every morning as my school still does the pledge of allegiance. Every student in my class of 32 stands, on their own free will. My class is also composed of all races, religions, colors and creeds. They are all Americans. When you turn on the tap and drinkable, clean water comes out, remember that puts you ahead of most people on Earth. Be proud of your nation, your heritage and come together to celebrate it. Every American citizen is your countryman, be proud of it and treat them like they matter.
Also, remember the water crisis in Flint, Michigan? Is that still a thing? I hope it has been fixed as I’d rather we take money destined for Pakistan and use it for Americans in Flint. However, notice that the media only sticks with a crisis as long as it is politically useful and generates viewership. They never really cared about Flint. Take that into perspective as well when you tune in. The purpose of MSNBC, Fox, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC isn’t to give you news, it is to outrage you and addict you to their product. They stir the debate on gun control as long as it outrages and gets ratings. What they show you isn’t reality any more than The Apprentice.
So when you feel like it is all falling apart, realize that we are lucky in so many ways to live in America. Most people are incredibly good and that isn’t something you can say of the people of all nations. Some nations tolerate and expect corruption, and while I fear we are headed the same direction, we can still save this country. We are all Americans and that should unite us. E Plurbus Unum…out of many, one. Turn off the TV and go out and meet your fellow Americans. The extreme majority are actually wonderful people.
Finally, I don’t want to die in a gunfight. I also don’t want to die in a car crash, or from a lightning strike, or a stroke, or anything else. So next I’m going to try to convince you we need to get away from “I don’t want to die from gun violence,” to “I don’t want to die, period.”
Part II – The true danger of gun violence
The next step I propose is that when we take into account who to listen to, we think first about their goals and expertise. When it comes to schools, is the object to have fewer shootings? Truly? I would propose the answer is actually no.
The object should be to have safer schools. Period. All forms of violence included. I want fewer rapes on campus, fewer gang fights, fewer stabbings, and fewer shootings. I want safer schools. That doesn’t make me beholden to a single issue like gun control and instead gives me the flexibility to approach the goal in any way that gets me there.
If you are still on board, the second point I’ll offer is that you should be very weary of anyone who uses the term “gun violence.” Their goal is different than yours and mine. They want to focus on a political agenda and not an outcome. They literally do want to take your guns away. That’s their goal. Their goal isn’t actually based on making anybody safer. I won’t go into the long history of gun control being the first move of a dictatorial government who wants to engage in genocide (see Armenian Genocide, Soviet Russia, China under Mao, Holocaust, etc). I won’t go into the many examples of gun control failing in modern times to have any meaningful impact on crime or safety (and actually, make things less safe. See: Prohibition, Chicago or read John Lott’s More Guns, Less Crime.) I won’t go into how Prohibition of alcohol actually increased crime and was so miserable a failure as to be repealed as a Constitutional Amendment.
If you think gun control works, then why hasn’t the war on drugs worked? Why doesn’t banning murder stop murder? Simple question and if you’re open minded, it might give you some insight as to why prohibition always fails.
If someone says to you the term “gun violence,” their goal is to take away guns or they are simply being used as a political pawn. Again, that is not even remotely the same as the goal to make people safer. They are focused on a method with no care for the outcome you are interested in. You are either with the people who want to reduce gun violence (which really just means imposing gun control) or the people who want to reduce all violence (which requires actual thought, nuanced policy and focuses on a meaningful outcome we are all behind). Which is it?
On a related note, did you know that blunt objects like hammers and rocks kill more people every year than rifles and shotguns of all types? Anybody here glad to be bludgeoned to death instead of being shot? Let’s make the goal to reduce all murders and violence and act accordingly. Let’s ignore anybody who talks about “gun violence.” If you ask them probing questions to find out what they know about guns, you’ll find they all know practically nothing. If your doctor knew little about the human body, would you take their medical advice seriously? Of course not. Then why do we take the opinions of people who know nothing about guns seriously when it comes to guns?
If I thought there was any evidence that gun control made my kids safer, I’d pick their safety over anything. However, there is no evidence to support that idea.
Part III- Why gun control is the wrong tool to deal with dangerous people
Unfortunately, evil and dangerous people will exist in the world. No matter what we do, evil will continue to exist and bad things will happen. We will always have to be ready to deal with this reality. That’s why we have a military and police force. That’s why some people decide to legally carry a firearm.
So shouldn’t we take guns away from dangerous people? I agree that we should…but it still wouldn’t work. Why?
First, there is plenty evidence that the government is completely incapable of actually doing this effectively. For instance, the Virginia Tech shooter, who I will not name, should never have been able to buy a gun. The Sutherland Springs church shooter should have not been able to buy a gun, but because the Air Force didn’t forward the right information, he wasn’t in the system. Dangerous people who by law shouldn’t get guns still get guns.
Dangerous people are also, by definition, dangerous. If we took their guns away, but they hijacked a school bus full of children and drove it into a lake would we declare victory because the kids drowned and were not shot? Of course not. If you are too dangerous to own a gun, you are too dangerous to drive a car, fly on a plane, buy fertilizer and diesel fuel, rent a truck and so forth. Dangerous people shouldn’t have access to anything other than the medical help they need. This is why we need to bring back mental health facilities. Mental institutions has a negative connotation, but the bottom line is that they exist for a reason.
Part IV – How do we make schools safer?
We know the answers. Here they are:
- Some kill because it makes them famous. Do not give the shooters media attention. Do not make them famous. Do not use their name or their picture. Make it clear that they will be erased from history and that they will be forgotten. Those who seek fame will be deterred by this.
- Some kill because they are mentally ill. Create a social system that cares for people. The shooter in Florida should be in a mental institution right now and those 17 kids and teachers should be alive. Instead, we just passed the buck. Broken people are dangerous, and we need a place to care for them. Dangerous people shouldn’t be out and about, period. And guess what…that would mean that we have effectively taken guns away from these people while they are institutionalized getting the help they need. I’m for that.
- Some kill because it is easy. Stop creating targets of opportunity. Eliminate the blanket gun-free zone laws. Pass a law stating that if you have a gun-free zone at your business or at your schools, you are legally liable for the defense of everyone in your gun free zone. They’d have to take security a little more seriously.
- Stop equating guns with violence. Ever wonder why there isn’t a mass shooting at a police station, gun show, or shooting competition? There are guns everywhere. The reason that there isn’t a mass shooting? There are guns everywhere. Guns themselves are not the problem. Again, blunt objects like hammers are more likely to be used in a homicide than a rifle or shotgun. Let’s put the focus on stopping violence. Guns are a great way to stop violence. When the church shooter in Texas was engaged by a civilian with his own AR-15, he never took another life after that.
- Turn off the media. Put your focus on the lives of your children, your community, your church and your community. The world is an amazing place. Enjoy it for all the wonderful things it has, because nobody is getting out of this alive. Stop focusing on the negative.
- Have an armed staff member on campus. The first rule of a gunfight is to bring a gun. I think we’ve seen enough to know that the complete prohibition of staff access to firearms costs lives. We want the police there quick because…they have guns. Guns in the hands of good people is a solution, as politically unpleasant as that may be for some.
- Allow staff to have firearms in their personal vehicles. I personally wouldn’t want to carry a gun in class all day, but if I needed a gun my truck is 30 seconds away. Today the law bans me from having a firearm in my vehicle and I follow the law. If that law were repealed, I would install a safe in my vehicle for a firearm and there would be one in there. That would give me a fighting chance.
Part V- Guns in the classroom
Do guns belong in the classroom? Not exactly.
The blanket policy of having a gun-free zone is insane. It has never saved a single life, but it has cost many. The opposite end of that spectrum would be allowing teachers to have guns at school with virtually no restriction or oversight. That would be equally insane. This is the hardest part of the whole thing to get right. I’ll try to look at all the issues and form a conclusion by taking a look at prisons, which sadly, share a lot of the same traits as some of our schools.
Guards who interact with inmates don’t carry guns. Inmates could easily get access to the guns and that would be bad. This should be obvious. Inmates and students are often not all that different. For this reason, I don’t think teachers should carry guns in class. I think it is just as likely to create a problem as to solve one. Easy access to guns is not a good thing and with these school shootings, unlike a rape or robbery, you may have the benefit of time and distance to get to a firearm. On the other hand, prisons are filled with alternative tools for corrections officers. Giving teachers less than lethal weapons in the classroom would be a reasonable compromise. I’d much rather face down a threat with a bean bag shotgun than with a whiteboard eraser.
The guards who interact with inmates don’t carry guns…but they are always under the protective eye of guards who do carry guns. I think that there should always be a staff member on campus who is armed or has the ability to arm themselves quickly. Most campuses have administrative buildings that are more secure, can control student access and would allow for the safe and secure storage of a firearm. That firearm should be taken home every night and returned every day. At all times a staff member in the office who is trained to use it should be present. Each summer there should be mandatory training for the staff members tasked with security. The bottom line is that there should be someone who is given the job of keeping the campus safe in a crisis.
The biggest problem with all of this preparation is that often students are either informed directly or figure out on their own what the plan would be in the case of a school shooting. Knowing the response of your opposition ahead of time puts a potential shooter at a huge advantage. This is where you have to have a back-up plan.
My last line of defense would be allowing staff to store firearms in personal vehicles. I’d much rather make a dash to get a gun out of my vehicle than sit and wait to get shot. This would keep a firearm away from students, but not so far as to be unrealistically inaccessible in crisis. It also would be impossible for a shooter to accurately predict who would have a gun in their car, how they would get to it, etc. Speed, surprise and violence of action wins the day in combat, and a staff member with a firearm in their vehicle might be able to pull off all three.
Part VI – Can we do it?
You have one side screaming about “gun violence” and as long as they have a serious seat at the adult table, nothing will get fixed. We can do it, but only if they get the boot. They don’t share the goal of safe schools. They want something else and are using student safety as a pawn to get it.
If we can ignore them, then yes, I think it is doable. I share the goals of making students and schools safe places to be and would love to hear what you think in the comments below.