A mere four days from the tragic events of Sandy Hook Elementary School and all manner of causes and solutions have been placed on the table. How do we stop this kind of violence in our country, and more specifically, in our schools?
Even the silent until now “four million moms and dads, sons and daughters” of the NRA has said they’ll weigh in with some ideas later in the week. I’m not holding my breath that their thinking will include anything more than token gestures devoid of “common decency” or genuinely “meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again“. An organization like the NRA isn’t likely to pull a Joe Scarborough and make a 180 degree turn on gun rights in this country. At best they’ll offer up some limits on clips sizes and agree to a ban on certain weapons to certain people. It will be a grand press conference with little impact. Plus, we all can agree, this isn’t JUST about the guns.
I only hope our ire and involvement can be sustained. Everyone keeps saying this feels different. This hurts more. It’s more tragic. It’s certainly more infamous, and this country responds well to infamy. Unfortunately fifteen minutes of notoriety paired with a public that has a fifteen minute attention span sometimes leaves things half done.
How many times have we said NO MORE before getting distracted by the next big thing? It’s an old complaint, but that doesn’t make it any less valid.
Perhaps I am being cold. Consider it a step in my grieving process. I’ve done sad. I’ve done hopeless. Now I’m moving though anger, just like the rest of you. I only hope we come out the other side with some serious solutions backed with serious funding and support so that when we reach acceptance we’re in a better place.
One idea getting attention includes lawmakers suggesting that schools arm themselves to defend against these violent and deadly attacks.
Let’s start with how wrong their premise is. By suggesting that schools be armed they are admitting and accepting that violence in schools is a given and we should just prepare for the next attack.
It’s the school fault. They need better security. They need armed guards. They need combat training in PE instead of a game of kick ball. A school that doesn’t want to get attacked had better ensure they don’t make themselves vulnerable.
What a crock. It’s a false promise that blames the victims akin to the idea that we should teach women how to not get raped as opposed to teaching people not to rape.
But let’s assume we do end up turning our schools into fortresses. One teacher I spoke with had this to say:
“As a teacher, I was trained to teach children the skills they need to survive in this world–reading, math, science, social studies. I was not taught how to shoot a gun nor did I ever want to be taught how to shoot a gun. I do not want to have a gun in my top desk drawer ready to shoot someone entering my classroom. I do not want the responsibility for knowing that this gun is in my and fifty other desks in the school. I do not want the responsibility for what that gun could do in the wrong hands. I have 24 plus children to look after and reaching for a gun would not be my first impulse. This is a problem that needs to be addressed outside of the classroom and not pushed on teachers who barely have the time to prepare and teach each day. Adding the responsibility of defending my classroom with a weapon was not what drew me to teaching and giving me gun as part of my standard operating supplies would not be advantages to education in this country which is already at risk.”
She went on to talk about the practical aspects of expecting teachers to also be armed guards:
“Those people who think that a teacher wants to be trained the same as a soldier going to battle need to look at the reality of this. The gun would have to be under lock and key as children are naturally curious and can be fascinated by a weapon without understanding the inherent danger [as a parent I’m not all that keen on the idea of gun safety being part of the happy first week of school activities like how to line up for lunch, where do I hang up my coat, and fire and tornado drills]. Would I be able to care for the children, keep them in a safe place, and unlock and fire a gun at someone entering the classroom? Probably not. No, I don’t want to be a soldier or a policeman. I chose to be a teacher–to teach, not shoot. This has to be handled outside of the classroom, outside of the school. Schools should not be a battlefield. Armed teachers, principals, counselors, instructional aids, lunch staff, maintenance crews, bus drivers, and parent volunteers are not a realistic first line of defense. We can do so much better for our kids.”
Her point is passionately and honestly made. An armed to the teeth school is not a solution. It presumes far too much of the citizenry and conveniently relieves the government of their responsibilities.
One last point—a personal one. I am the daughter of a police officer and I spent a part of my childhood in a country going through active war and daily terrorism. I grew up with guns from revolvers to semi-automatic pistols to machine guns. I’ve shot them all at gun ranges and seen my father carry them while on duty. I have great respect for the purpose of those weapons. Their purpose was to serve and protect.
“A police officer,” my father once told me, “only pulls the trigger as a last resort. If you’re shooting to maim you’re shooting for the wrong reason.”
He spoke these words as someone who had been on both sides of the gun. As a police officer in a dangerous city there were times when he had no choice but to pull the trigger and once, on a particularly bad day for his force, he was shot while on duty (he survived; many of his friends did not). And even he disliked guns. They were a tool for his job, not a toy, not a right to exploit. Certainly not a back-to-school supply. Like so many first responders, he would have been the first to run into a school like Sandy Hook Elementary but he would have been the last to say the answer to violence is in the perceived power that comes from holding a gun.
“You only pull the trigger as a last resort.”
I don’t believe that’s where we are yet as a country. Even this cynic believes we have more hope left in us and it’s not time to pull the trigger.