In olden, less-enlightened times, some of the cool teachers would reach back, grab an eraser from the chalk tray, and fire it at some misbehaver. I tried it. Once. By mistake I hit the nicest kid in the class square, ’er rectangular, in the face. I’ll never forget his “What did I do?” expression. Heck, he could have lost an eyeball.
I used to know an otherwise excellent industrial arts teacher who’d throw hammers in the general direction of miscreants. The cinder block behind the kid would chip, and the class would live happily ever after in a climate of fear until the next kid screwed up. One day he hit a student. The union rapidly negotiated his retirement.
Some folks believe the answer to reducing school and workplace shootings is arming everyone or anyone who wants to be armed, including teachers and college-level students.
This is a very bad idea.
What if one of us one day had the brilliant idea of firing off a warning shot and missed? How many of your teachers or professors have you seen “lose it”? Aren’t you glad they weren’t packing heat? Do you really want to live in a world where a teacher could accidentally or purposefully shoot your kid?
As for putting well-trained cops in every school, well, schools can be big places. It might reduce some casualties, but the cop probably won’t get to the site of the threat in time. That’s what happened in Columbine.
There are obvious things we can do to reduce gun casualties. We can close gun show loopholes making it more difficult for criminals and the unstable to buy guns. We can also standardize the interstate commerce in guns in our “one nation under God” so that the many guns purchased too easily in Virginia don’t find their way into New York, where they cannot be traced to crimes and criminals.
We all know what happens when one state tries to ban fireworks or gambling or underage drinking “in the land of the free.” Folks just get what they want in another state. Standardize the laws, and states such as Virginia won’t be able to wax rich on New York blood.
What will be more difficult, but not impossible, is compromising with gun cultures found in the once wilder West, South and rural areas that resist the reasonable regulation and registration of guns.
Having lived in rural areas, I’ve witnessed what it’s like to wait a half hour or more for the arrival of a Sheriff’s Department officer. Similar conditions exist in some of our financially strapped cities as well. Therefore, no one should be advocating keeping guns out of the hands of responsible Americans who need them for protection from imminent or possible danger, criminal elements and wildlife.
We must, however, keep guns out of the hands of criminals, youth, the mentally ill and those who have demonstrated irresponsibility in gun ownership and sales if we are to reduce the number of unjustifiable killings and injuries.
Except in imminent danger instances, gun ownership nationwide should also be conditioned on taking and passing gun safety courses. This will reduce the number of Sandy Hook-like cases where safer storage and restricted access to guns for kids, teens and the mentally ill might save more lives.
Saturday is the first anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting, where 26 people – 20 children and six adults – were shot and killed by Adam Lanza. All sane folk would agree we do not want to see more slaughters of the innocent.
Squeaky wheel gun nuts such as those who ridiculously advocate arming teachers and students will continue to get too much of the grease until more of us inject sanity into the gun debate. Until then, we must expect to see more guns pried from the cold dead hands of the killers and more of the innocent, excuse the expression, “greased.”
Dan Schwartz, J.D., Ph.D., of Amherst, has taught English and education in five states. He is a former university education department chairman and dean, and the recipient of a Wisconsin Teaching Fellowship.