February 23, 2018

Schools and Guns

I am encouraged by signs that the latest school massacre may actually result in some helpful legislation, largely due to the activism of the students who survived it. It is not at all clear that the students will get the changes in public policy they are demanding, however, either from the Florida legislature or from the Congress.

Any thinking person understands that the most effective and most obvious “solutions” to the problem of school shootings necessarily involve restrictions on the availability of guns. Despite this fact, politicians, “influenced” by the NRA, are loath to adopt any provision the NRA will construe as chipping away at Second Amendment rights. And virtually any proposal to make guns less available in any environment whatsoever will be so construed. It makes no difference that the arguments put forth by the NRA are simply insane. (At CPAC yesterday, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre delivered an angry speech calling any attempt to limit guns to be part of a socialist plot to “eradicate all individual freedoms.” LaPierre really shouldn’t go off his medication.)

Though heartened by possible solutions to mass shootings being widely discussed, I am distressed that the idea of arming teachers, an idea being advanced by President Trump, is being treated in the media as anything other than the harebrained idea that it is. Teachers generally chose their profession because of their interest in education and love of children, not because they want to hunt down miscreants intent on killing themselves and their charges. Perhaps the hazardous-duty pay Mr. Trump has advocated will find some takers, but I doubt that many schools will be able to enlist a posse of 20% of the faculty that the president proposes.

Our president—not my president, I am tempted to say—has opined that he disapproves of active shooter drills. This, like most of his remarks on the subject, is crazy. Does he disapprove of fire drills as well? Should we abandon school fire drills and simply give volunteer teachers fire extinguishers? Students can do whatever seems reasonable at the time.

Because most school shootings are perpetrated by actual students, security, whether in the form of armed guards, metal detectors, or key entry systems,will likely not deter a determined shooter, who has lots of time to identify lapses in security defenses. Moreover, once a shooter begins a rampage, he —invariably he—must first be found before anyone with a gun, be it a guard, member of the staff or faculty, or a law officer responding to the attack, can engage him. Even if the NRA’s good guy with a gun identifies the gunman, shootouts are notoriously unpredictable affairs. I doubt that many teachers anticipate with anything but dread a gunfight at the OK corral in the corridors of their school. Are armed teachers supposed to abandon their students to their own devices while they play Wyatt Earp? A shooter who knows that some teachers are armed—a student shooter might even know which teachers are armed—is likely to try to kill teachers first. Have eager teacher volunteers considered that?

In light of the foregoing considerations, I offer two alternative suggestions, each of which might be found desirable by our moron-in-chief or the NRA: First, we could simply replace all teachers with armed police officers. They can take on the instruction role and will be available for defensive duty when the need arises. (I’m not sure what to do with the displaced teachers. Perhaps they can find a more lucrative profession.) Second, if there cannot be armed adults everywhere, we can arm all the students. Therefore, wherever a shooter shows up, a good guy with a gun is guaranteed to be readily at hand.

Are my suggestions any crazier than Donald Trump’s?

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