Our president endorses arming teachers so that our schools are no longer “soft targets,” without ever wondering when our discourse became so perverted that we have to talk about “hardening” places of learning. In what other country on earth that isn’t in the throes of a civil war do citizens worry about their children being gunned down as they’re trying to learn algebra and literature?
Only in America do we have this extreme gun fetishism, where we pretend 310 million privately owned firearms aren’t part of the problem, where we accept the sale to 18-year-olds of weapons that belong on military battlefields, where we are loathe to place the smallest restriction on gun transactions. It’s pure insanity, and it’s 100 percent American homegrown insanity.
In no other civilized democracy on earth have its citizens chosen to follow the same lunatic, self-destructive, gun-worshipping path – the blood of our children be damned – as we have. It’s mind-boggling. After every school shooting, I think, “Maybe this one will finally lead to self-examination, healthy debate, and ultimately to change.”
I keep thinking we’ll wake up, like an alcoholic after that awful bender that at last forces a reckoning: No, it’s not that I grew up in a one-parent home, and it’s not that I’m under constant pressure at work. These things may have contributed in some way to my unhappiness, but the real problem is the damn booze. Until I face that, nothing gets better.
In America, the problem has become all the damn guns, and how easy it is to get them.
Now here’s why it’s a terrible idea to give teachers weapons:
(1) Guns accidentally discharge. In schools. Yes, it has happened.
(2) People sometimes forget things. Like guns. In bathroom stalls. Here’s a case where a teacher left a pistol on a toilet tank and children ages 6 to 8 found it. What if they had decided to test it, or one had jokingly pointed it at another and said, “Bang, bang” and squeezed the trigger?
(3) An armed school resource officer was already at the Parkland high school – this is someone who should’ve been much more qualified to stop the shooter than a random teacher – and he did nothing! Expecting people to lay their life on the line, unless they are well-trained to do just that (police officers) and they do so regularly (as opposed to have periodic drills), leads to moments where who knows what will happen. School shootings are rare for a particular school, and existential moments of a kind, when the good guy faces possible death. It is hard to predict how people will respond in existential moments.
(4) Which part of the school budget do you starve so you can feed the need to put more gun-toting educators in the school. President Trump suggested bonuses for teachers who carry concealed weapons. So who pays for that?
(5) When this armed teacher – who may have training, but is almost certainly not as qualified as a trained law enforcement officer -- accidentally shoots some other children by mistake, or a ricochet shot in a classroom winds up buried in some child’s face, who becomes liable? Does the school assume liability for its armed teacher? And who pays for this liability insurance?
(6) What happens when a SWAT team arrives and, in the heat of the moment, mistakes the teacher for the shooter?
(7) What if the “concealed carry” good guy turns into a shooter himself? Many good people own firearms. But there are also people who get an unhealthy power kick from carrying a weapon, and you’re probably not going to screen all of them out. So what happens if the good guy with the gun becomes a bad guy with a gun?
But look: let’s address the really shocking thing here.
It’s that’s we’re even having a discussion in which we refer to schools as “soft targets.” That we live in a country where a school is seen as a “target” of any kind for a weaponized killer is a disgrace. Have you ever heard a U.K. politician talking about “hardening” their schools so they’re not as vulnerable to killers armed to the gills?
The root problem isn’t mental health. Every country in the world has a subset of the population that has severe mental health problem. We’re not unique in that regard. How we are unique is in the sheer amount of firepower floating around – one gun for every man, woman and child older than the age of three -- and very few restrictions on who can buy these weapons.
The real problem is we’ve got a gun addiction.
Like an alcoholic coming off a long bender, will we ever face that?
P.S. Also, if you think the AR-15 is just "another gun," you really need to read this.
One of the trauma surgeons opened a young victim in the operating room, and found only shreds of the organ that had been hit by a bullet from an AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle which delivers a devastatingly lethal, high-velocity bullet to the victim. There was nothing left to repair, and utterly, devastatingly, nothing that could be done to fix the problem. The injury was fatal.