The shock and horror over Sandy Hook, and the subsequent online gun control food fight have been a diversion from closer reflection for me, to the point that I truly forgot of this incident - something that could just as easily have turn me into a widower and deprived my boys of their mother.
Right after Virginia Tech, my wife's high school had a near-disaster. A kid brandished a firearm, threatening two students, with many students and staff nearby (it was adjacent to the cafeteria). The kid then ran to his car, drove to a nearby gas station to call his mom on his cellphone. Mother gave police his location. When they showed up, kid shot himself. Original accounting of it here
That could have gone down much worse. MKK was quite shaken by the incident.
Now, her school for various reasons has a dedicated security presence. And given my wife's account that "extra" police were called in afterward, some were on campus at the time of the incident.
And yet the incident occurred. And yet kids were threatened. And kids could have been shot.
The cops' firearms were not he only present. MKK had been told on the QT by students that there were certainly guns on campus - or in the kids' cars. More than a few parents simply aren't going to send their kids off without some means of protecting themselves. Other kids make this choice on their own. The guns are always one particular bad impulse control day away from being deployed.
Yet there is a bit of good news: Hundreds of millions if not billions of student-days pass between such incidents. We raise our children better than we fear, and we should credit ourselves that much. Not perfectly, and through that imperfection creeps disappointment and the occasional disaster. But there is no call, I think, to transform our schools into armed camps. Or to get rid of them entirely, as others propose.
Yet, to some extent we DO arm our schools. That's high school in the modern era. Everyone knows there's guns. And cops. And bad things go down despite the precautions -rarely, but horribly when they do occur.
Unfortunately I can't rule one way or the other that guns and security at my wife's high school saved anyone, or saved no one. That premise was never clearly tested.
What was clear to me that day from earlier writings is that guns are poor impulse control devices, that mental health is very much at the core of a subset of violence that has nothing to do with either lawful or criminal ends in the usual sense and - this is important - we safely get tens of millions of kids to and from school every day.
We can do better at that last job, but we should give ourselves a little credit that we are more in control of this fundamental part of American life - public education - than tragedies like Sandy Hook (or the near-disaster at my wife's school five years ago) might suggest.
Like the man says, we can do better. And doing so might take less of an upheaval in our lives than many fear. But a transformation is coming, regardless.