Will we one day soon drop off the kids at school knowing their teachers are armed, trained and ready to gun down any potential mass murderer bent on harming the students? If one Alabama lawmaker has his way we will.
The idea is perhaps a natural response to the horrors of school shootings that have happened in other parts of the country. We’ve been fortunate in this state not to have experienced a school killing spree like the one that took place in Parkland, Florida, last week — or the many others that have taken place nationwide since Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold became the poster children for school murderers on a dark day in Columbine, Colorado, nearly 19 years ago.
I say we’ve been lucky because kids have brought guns to school, although none that I know of were intent on mass murder. Every community in the United States faces the same issue of guns winding up at school. Just last week there were two incidents of guns on campus in the Mobile-Baldwin area. Fortunately neither resulted in anyone being hurt.
In the wake of last week’s killing of 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, we’ve begun the same worn-out debate about how to stop the next one before it happens. As usual there’s the logical outrage over how the shooter gained access to an assault rifle, countered with arguments that background checks and law enforcement both failed. Before long, we’re divided along political lines and everything is lost in the hot air of the same old arguments.
How anyone can continue to advocate for the sale of assault rifles, “bump stocks” and military-style magazines capable of turning one person into a killing machine is beyond me at this point. I’m a gun owner and believe in the Second Amendment, but when James Madison wrote that particular part of the Bill of Rights, he and the other Founding Fathers were still muzzle-loading flintlocks at a blazing rate of one shot per 30 seconds. The first Gatling gun was still more than 60 years away.
It’s hard to believe Madison wouldn’t have had added at least a few caveats to the Second Amendment if he’d been writing it while watching Stephen Paddock massacre 58 people at a Jason Aldean concert in Las Vegas four months ago, or witnessed Nikolas Cruz use an assault rifle to kill 17 high school students and teachers last week.
With each bloodbath the arguments for everyday Americans being able to access such weapons, the means to make them fully automatic and cartridges carrying hundreds of rounds grow weaker and more far-fetched. The latest one I heard was that people need such firepower to kill off the hoards of wild hogs tearing up property across the country. I hope that’s a joke.
As with any of our biggest hot-button issues, gun control discussions immediately get you labeled as either a tearful snowflake who would throw every gun into a volcano or a bloodthirsty maniac whose gun will have to be pried from his cold, dead hand.
But there are plenty of us who do believe a “well-regulated militia” is necessary to keeping a country free and also think it’s been amply demonstrated that selling assault rifles to the general public is a phenomenally horrible idea. There are enough hunting rifles, shotguns and pistols scattered across the fruited plains to make our government or any other think twice about attempting subjugation of the populace by force. But while we argue, lunatics are using assault rifles to make bigger and bigger bloodbaths.
Of course there are no easy answers to any of this because the first part of stopping the carnage is trying to identify psychopaths before they do something evil. In many cases there were warning signs. In others there weren’t. In some shootings law enforcement officials dropped the ball, and in others they never saw it coming.
So we argue over the root causes. Lack of mental health coverage and the subsequent failure to institutionalize dangerous people are always pointed to as major issues. Easy access to extremely powerful weapons is another. School safety is yet another.
In almost every one of these horrible tragedies someone makes the argument that one armed, well-trained person in the right place could have stopped the attack. With that in mind, Alabama State Rep. Will Ainsworth plans to drop a bill in this current session that would allow school teachers to carry concealed weapons in the classroom if they’ve gone through proper gun-safety training. It seems almost impossible to believe the solution we’re seeking is to have as many people as possible packing heat in school.
The downsides of such a law are obvious. Inevitably an imbalanced teacher will shoot up the school, or someone will leave a gun out where the students get it, or there will be a perceived life-or-death situation in which a teacher shoots and later we argue about whether that is what should have happened. Imagine what administrators would have to go through when firing a disgruntled teacher known to be carrying a gun. Talk about tenure.
Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I don’t necessarily think I’d feel like my kids are safer if 50 or 60 teachers are toting guns on their hips. It’s school, not prison.
Altercations between students and teachers are not exactly uncommon these days. How smart is it to add the potential struggle over a loaded gun to that equation?
Critics of even the slightest bit of gun control are correct — making legal purchase of assault rifles unavailable to the general public won’t stop a crazy person from attacking a school, church or country music concert. But it will at least make it less easy for such people to inflict maximum casualties.
As for protecting schools, it just seems like the most logical thing the state and country can do is hire trained law enforcement officers for every school. Yes, that’s expensive, but when the airline industry was threatened by terrorism we spent billions improving security at airports. Surely protecting school children should be at least as high a priority. We have plenty of money to fight pointless wars for decades on end; maybe we can set some of that aside for protecting schools.
Meeting force with force is, sadly, the best deterrent we have unless we can figure out a way to return to a time when public massacres weren’t part of life. But let’s not load educators up like they’re teaching at the O.K. Corral.