Photo by Brooke Estis Bleyl

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Guns in School?

James Butler ("Wild Bill") Hickok
I don't know why so many are obsessed with the idea that more guns make us safer. Not an idea that, oh, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Wild Bill Hickok, et al. would have embraced.  (Maybe it was just in the movies, but didn't lawmen have the cowboys disarm when they entered town--i.e., civilization?)

And armed guards in schools?  Totally ineffective.  Think: In all the armed robbery films you've ever seen, who gets dispatched first?  If you were demented and bent on attacking a public place (a school, movie theater, mall, whatever), wouldn't dealing with security guards be Item #1 in your plan?

Armed teachers?  Please.  That's a disaster in the making.  Highly trained, continually trained professionals (cops, soldiers) miss all the time, hit people they didn't intend to (did you read about the attack earlier this year near the Empire State Building? Link to story).  Imagine your elementary teachers blazing away in a hallway.  It's insane.  Asinine.

It's just a sad fact that we can do very little against determined, heavily armed lunatics.  Think: Even if all of us in a crowded Starbucks were heavily armed, and if a gunman suddenly burst into the shop, blazing away with an automatic weapon, most of us would be dead before we even knew what was happening.

And the killer?  He (yes, he: they're all men) wouldn't care, because virtually all of these young men expect to die--plan to die--in the attack.

And that brings me to the point I wanted to make today: These heavily armed assailants are our suicide bombers.  But for some reason we don't have the courage to restrict their access to their materials of mass destruction.  Don't we carefully control access to high explosives?  If young men were running into malls with homemade bombs strapped to their bodies, wouldn't we immediately begin rigidly controlling access to bomb-making materials?  You bet we would.

We cannot stop madness.  (Read some histories of mental illness.)  We're not all that good, either, at recognizing madness--true homicidal madness--in our family and friends and neighbors.  Ex post facto we're very good at it--but not ahead of time.  We can certainly do a better job of making adolescence a less stressful time for youngsters (all the anti-bullying programs will surely help), and, sure, we ought to think about the level of violence in all of our media.  And we need to make security of our children a priority--without making them try to learn and play in an armed camp.  A virtual prison, razor-wire and all.

But the most effective thing to do?  Limit access to weapons of mass destruction.  Severely.  I can think of no reason why a citizen of a democracy needs a firearm that can kill dozens of people in moments.  Needs virtually unlimited access to thousands of rounds of high-caliber ammunition.  It's as if we were collaborating, isn't it?  As if we were strapping the explosive vests on our young men, handing them the triggering devices, then piously standing back and saying Exploding vests don't kill; crazy people kill.

P.S.  Humans are the hypocritical species.  The inconsistent species.  So many deeply conservative people like to argue about the Framers' original intent in the Constitution--except, of course, when it's inconvenient to do so.  (Similar to our use of Bible verses: We quote the ones that support our biases, ignore the ones we don't like.)  Both the grammar and the original intent of the 2nd amendment are clear: It's an armed militia the Framers were talking about--not the right of all of us to own forty-seven assault rifles and hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammo.  And the arms they intended?  Flintlocks and weapons that were not firearms (swords, knives, pikes, etc.).  They certainly were not thinking of Uzis and Glocks and banana clips.  The Framers would stand drop-jawed in disbelief at what we have done.  With tears in their eyes ...


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