First let me say that I am heartsick over this tragedy. When my principal came to me and told me there was a breaking story about an elementary school shooting I was stunned—this is not the kind of thing one gets used to. When I heard it was a kindergarten classroom involving as many as twenty children dead, I was literally heartsick. I hurt. If anyone doubts the existence of evil in the world this was pretty solid evidence. Like every school in America these events cause us to take stock in our policies and procedures: If it happened on my watch should we hunker down in the classroom or should we take our students and flee as fast and far as we could? How do we further restrict access to the building? How much will we be talking about this with students on Monday? What’s appropriate, what’s needed, what’s too much? These are discussions that will be taking place this next week all over the country in schools both public and private. There are many conclusions and many answers, depending on the particular school and their particular circumstances. But one thing I am sure of: arming the adults at the school is a very, very bad idea.
The first parent I saw on Friday at the end of the day confronted me right in front of our library as kids were heading out to their buses. He said, “After today’s shooting, I have two words for you,” and he gave me the first and last name of a high school boy at my school. I’d been speechless all afternoon and I was beginning to feel comfortable in having little or nothing to say. But not this time. Yes, the boy he mentioned has had difficulties at our school over the last 7 or 8 years, struggling through his parents’ nasty divorce, living with a mother who works for minimum wages at the Wal-Mart so he doesn’t have the same “toys” as all his peers (sounds cliché but it’s true). He is socially awkward and he sometimes is annoying to teachers. But violent he is not. And he has come light years from his first days at our school, in large part because the administration has fought the adults who want him isolated, even expelled, just because they see him as “weird”. The parent was completely surprised when I told him that what he just said was awful and that I don’t want that repeated where anyone can hear it. He ignored my pleas and continued right on so I ushered him into the library where there weren’t any kids.
He started right in with, “If I had been here with a gun, the first thing I’d have done was blow his fucking head off!” This coming from a recent retiree from the Army. 24 years of service with multiple tours in Iraq I, Iraq II and as a contractor in Afghanistan. He is from the warrior class. No doubt. And his first thought would have been to shoot...the boy he just named. That his first thought was to shoot anybody at all is bad enough, but to already have a kid in mind is exactly what many who want to carry guns would do.
And there is the problem. Guns kill people, and bad human judgment helps that immensely. Forget the cute slogans. Forget the NRA propaganda that absolves them from all responsibility. Guns kill people. And they don’t often kill the “right” people. These are facts we know. These are facts that are in the news every day. Every day! I don’t think I have to cite the research on all of that in this post. We know that countries with easy access to small arms are more violent. We know that thousands of deaths each year in America are attributable to guns—both intentional and accidental. We know that in the absence of 20, 30, 40 round magazines it would be much more difficult for those who are determined to do their worst to do what they intend to do. But today, I am more concerned with the notion that more guns in the hands of more people somehow makes the country safer.
You see, the parent I was speaking with had worked for the school for a short time. After his military retirement we hired him on as a part-time bus driver. After two weeks of the occasional stopping the bus and ripping into students—literally terrorizing the youngest ones—we had to let him go. He made horrible decisions about who to discipline and who to ignore. He screamed at kids who had their feet in the aisle. He stopped the bus and berated kids who talked too loud. The man who cannot make good decisions about who to discipline on a bus route is NOT the guy I want coming into my building, armed to the teeth, looking for the bad guys. I fear there would be a lot of student and staff collateral damage (to use the military lingo) in that scenario. So, give me all the arguments you want against gun restrictions and the second amendment and “armed citizens are safe citizens” bologna, my best response is that if we arm everyone, even more crazy people will have guns.