A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Monday, October 09, 2006

(Perps+Guns) + (Teachers+Guns)=Lots of things with holes in them, hopefully not people

And the recent spate of school gun incidents just keeps on a-comin':
A 13-year-old student wearing a black trenchcoat and carrying an assault rifle walked into a school today and opened fire.

The boy, who was not identified, pointed the gun at two other students as he entered Memorial Middle School in Joplin, Missouri, and was confronted by an administrator, who tried to talk him into putting down the Mac-90 assault rifle, said Joplin police spokesman Lt. Geoff Jones.

The administrator, Assistant Superintendent Steve Doerr, told the student: “You don’t have to do this, there is another way,” Superintendent Jim Simpson said.

But the boy refused to put the gun down and fired one shot into the ceiling before Doerr managed to call police.

The boy kept trying to fire, but the rifle jammed, police said. The student then left the building, followed by another administrator. Police arrived shortly after and arrested the boy as he crouched behind a nearby building.

No one was injured.

Apparently, this kid had instructions for making bombs and a diagram of the school in his backpack, so they completely evacuated the school and searched it from top to bottom, just to make sure.

Interestingly, the governor of Missouri, aka "The Boy King," was in Joplin at the time. So he allegedly stated that he thought perhaps teachers should have the ability to be armed on school campuses.

Y'know, I AM armed. Got two of 'em, in fact. Plus "Mad Martial arts skillz."

Way back on August 18, 2005, I wrote about whether teachers should be armed. Let me just repost part of my argument:
One should use a gun when one wants to use the greatest amount of force to resolve a situation, not the least amount. Having teachers carry weapons would be a mistake, for a number of reasons.

1. Most people with access to weapons, being reasonable, law-abiding citizens, hesitate to pull the trigger, but they don’t hesitate to pull the gun out, hoping that the perpetrator will be dissuaded by the mere sight of a weapon. Instead, what happens all too often is that the weapon then gets taken away from them after a violent game of “chicken.” So now the perp has TWO weapons. And if he’s really determined, there’s already a dead or wounded “hero” on the ground– because the perp is NOT a reasonable, law-abiding citizen with deep, unacknowledged doubts about his own ability to use violence. We cannot assume that most teachers really have the will to kill, if necessary. That’s why we’re teachers, not cops.

2. Oh, but killing isn’t necessary, you say. Just shoot to disable or wound. But most people don’t have the training to do this, and they know it. Even the police have a less-than-perfect record at this, which is why both cops and civilians hesitate to pull the trigger in the first place, as mentioned previously– reasonable people know and recoil from the permanent consequences of sending that projectile irrevocably down that barrel.

As my gun-loving Uncle taught me when he taught me how to use a gun, “Honey, if you pull out your weapon against some threat, you need to know you’re going to use it, and use it until it’s empty.”

And even if teachers were willing to do so, we don’t have hours a week to spend training ourselves to become this skilled– we’re already drowning in a plethora of tasks just to try to educate our students.

Putting more weapons on campus is not the way to solve the problem of weapons on campus. It would be nice to think that the knowledge that teachers might be armed might prevent some of these crimes, but I don't think it would work that neatly. And this type of solution wouldn't have saved the young Amish girls, either.

I do know for a fact that having the Chief Good Ole Boy down the hallway packin' heat would make me feel FAR LESS safe, though.


At 10/10/06, 6:45 PM, Anonymous NYC Educator said...

I agree with you.

I'm reminded of Archie Bunker's proposed solution to hijacking problems--"Youse pass out the pistols before takeoff, and then youse collect 'em when the plane lands."

I think those who advocate arming teachers show a similar depth of consideration.

At 10/11/06, 8:46 AM, Anonymous rightwingprof said...

The unanswered question is, if carrying (and I carry always) is not the solution, what is? Singing kumbayah has never solved anything.

The only thing that will stop a guy with a gun is another gun.

At 10/11/06, 2:08 PM, Blogger mikevotes said...

That's kinda my thinking.

Plus, most workplaces have gone the other way because of workplace violence issues.

I would think that more guns would make more workplace type violence more likely.


At 10/11/06, 3:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pro-gun or anti-gun, can we all agree that keeping potential gunners out of school is best? Try locking the exterior doors. does not cost a thing and can be done right away.

The build a good sallyport. Takes less than 3 days and even with a security camera should still cost less than $300.00

At 10/11/06, 4:05 PM, Anonymous Lee Dixon said...

And if educators (like yours truly) have trouble losing laptops, eyeglasses, suitcoats, etc.... how many guns might go missing in the course of a school year?

At 10/11/06, 4:07 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Funny-- years ago, I was in a school that had about 11-12 doors to the outside, and when I calmly suggested that perhaps we might want to lock them from the outside, I was told that I was being hysterical (and let's leave aside the obvious sexism of that response to anything suggested by a female for another day).

RWP, thanks for your post, although I don't think I suggested singin "Kum Ba Ya" as a solution to school violence isues, ever. A small question for consideration, though-- how many POLICE OFFICERS get their weapons taken away from them in the course of battle? I assume you are in a work situation in which you do not occasionally have to wade in and separate young pugilists. In just the last few days, I intervened in a situation that was getting ready to go physical. What should I do with my pistol when encountering this situation, since I certainly don't want to let students get a hold of my own weapon, besides whatever else may be going down?

At 10/11/06, 4:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In Canada the doors are locked in schools and thing like the Montreal shooting a few weeks ago STILL happen. Guns are not the ansewer, but metal dectectors and extra security are.

At 10/11/06, 9:22 PM, Blogger Darren said...

I was against this "arming teachers" gig until I heard the Wisconsin legislator who's promoting it interviewed on a radio talk show last weekend.

He doesn't believe in "arming teachers". But he does believe in allowing teachers to carry concealed weapons if they want to. His point was not that armed teachers would form some sort of Rambo-posse, but that they would at least be able to defend themselves--and for gravy, maybe that would save some students, too.

He said something that struck home with me. Some states already allow teachers to pack. He said that there hasn't been one incident in which an armed teacher has created a problem in this country. However, how many students--and teachers--have died in schools where no one was armed?

If his statement is correct, that there hasn't been a case of misuse, then...are we saying that we don't trust teachers who are trusted by the state to carry a concealed weapon?

At 10/11/06, 10:26 PM, Anonymous Mike said...

Here's the bottom line. Do you believe in an inalieanable right to self defense? If so, you must allow people immediate, on-the-person access to the implements most effective in exercising that right. If not, you are already dead. You only await the moment when your life will be forfeit to anyone brutal enough to take it. Which is more moral? More virtuous? Which is best for society: being ready and able to defend your life and the lives of others, or meekly surrending to the depredations of one who can barely be called human? How will society be most enriched? By the continued existance of a teacher, or a lunatic predator?

No one should ever be forced to carry a firearm, but any educated, competent person, male or female, can learn the shooting and tactical skills necessary to effectively employ one. In all the years I was a police officer/SWAT troop/firearms instructor, I employed a simple aphorism: Train as you intend to fight, because you'll fight as you trained. With proper training, one can effectively stop an armed killer. Anyone who, when facing their imminent violent death or the death of their students, cannot honestly say that they would resist obviously should not carry a firearm.

Are you really prepared to argue that when a madman is killing any teacher and student upon whom he can place his sights, you'd prefer that teachers be helpless to stop them? Would armed teachers really be more dangerous under those circumstances?

You see, arming teachers is for one, and one situation only, the situation I described in the last paragraph. With proper firearms, clothing, training and demeanor (yes, carrying a firearm is a significant responsibility that requires many personal changes) no one need ever know that a given teacher is armed. In fact, publicising that teachers are armed, but withholding who is is the key to effective deterrance throughout a school district. A potential shooter must assume that wherever he strikes, he will be met with immediate deadly force.

Even if the police could possibly respond to a school shooting within five minutes from the moment the first round is fired (highly unlikely in most jurisdictions) and know exactly where the shooter is upon arrival, and immediately neutralize him, at least 10 minutes will have passed and the body count would be limited only by the shooter's good will or lack of marksmanship. Most folks don't know it, but the police have no legal duty to protect any individual, nor may they be sued for failing to provide such protection. If they could, could any city afford a police force? Don't get me wrong, the police catching bad guys in the act, it's just rare.

It is because arming teachers is for a last ditch response to the worst case scenario that one never "shoots to wound" or fires warning shots. Under the law, and common sense, one may legally shoot only because that is the only means to immediately stop one who is about to inflict serious bodily harm or death upon oneself or another. One always--and only--shoots because of the overwhelming and immediate need to stop the attacker. If the defender does his or her job properly, this will result in the immediate disability of the attacker and saving the lives of countless students. If the attacker thereby dies, well, he made his choice. Shooting to wound or firing warning shots is tactically unsound, ineffective, and exposes one to prosecution by implying that the situation wasn't really serious enough to require that the attacker be immediately stopped.

I'm afraid that all of the strawmen erected to stop the arming of teachers dissolve when the facts and logic are employed. For example, police officers do indeed sometimes lose their handguns to attackers because they are compelled to enter very dangerous situations. Teachers, whose firearms would be carefully concealed, are not so compelled. Schools should be violence free, but one doesn't promote peace by allowing the most inhuman and barbaric to impose their will on the innocent. Such as these are hardly stopped by gun free school zone signs, locked classroom doors or overturned desks, nor will dialogue prevail.

When children are killed in their school by a mad gunman, it will be cold comfort to their parents when they are told "at least we kept the school violence free by keeping guns out of the hands of teachers and principals. We really sent an anti-violence message."

Where is the highest morality? In making it clear to our students and the public that we consider life to be so valuable that we are willing to defend it with deadly force if deadly force is threatening to take it, or in speaking lovely sentiments and sending politically correct messages?

At 10/12/06, 3:44 PM, Blogger elementaryhistoryteacher said...

I believe I should have the right to arm myself if I want to, however, I don't believe I would carry my gun into my classroom even if I could.

My desk is no different than my personal items at home.....there's always some kid snooping around picking up something and examining it.

It's a tremendous responsibility to have a gun in my house with my own kids. I don't think I want the responsibility of having a gun around other people's kids.

I don't like feeling like I'm a sitting duck though and more and more that's the feeling I get.

At 10/12/06, 10:01 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Mike-- the answer to your first question, if I am nakedly honest, is: no, ultimately, I don't. I have no problem with sane people having the right to self-defense. But everyone who is crazy thinks they're sane, and unfortunately, in this country, they can get their hands on guns far too easily.

I trust myself to pull a gun only when lives are in actual danger, and if I pull one, shots are going to be fired, or I wouldn't have pulled the gun in the first place. I am quite familiar with firearms. But how many of us would actually pull a gun when faced with a former or current student? I think nearly everyone would hesitate-- and that would make the difference. The perp may be someone you know, and that would stay most people's hands.

Sounds snotty, but I trust myself-- I just don't trust almost anyone else besides the police in my school. It's easy to talk the talk, but to really walk the walk? I can think of at least 70 people who should NOT be armed in my school (including the chick who loses her keys every other day), but extending to the tough guy who nonetheless has done absolutely nothing to intevene in previous violence, but would simply be demading his RIGHTS rather than trying to make our school safer.

And my question regarding securing my firearm whilst I wade into a scrum still stands.

I really appreciate the honest dialogue inherent in these comments.

At 10/13/06, 12:07 AM, Anonymous Mike said...

Dear Ms. Cornelius:

I too appreciate rational commentary, and thank you for yours. May I offer just a bit more insight?

I can think of many people who probably shouldn't be carrying a firearm. But the truth is that we routinely trust people to accurately and safely do the most intellectually and physically demanding activity any of us do on a daily basis: drive a motor vehicle. Motor vehicles are indeed deadly weapons and are involved in deaths and injuries each year virtually an order of magnitude greater than those involving firearms. In fact, if we've been paying attention, we know of a number of recent attacks on students by people driving cars--"car violence?"

My point is, that in comparison to the literally thousands of observations and decisions one must make in driving a few miles, the shoot/don't shoot decision and the operation of a vastly more simple mechanism is within the capability of teachers.

Might people hesitate under some circumstances? They might, but others will not. And in the worst case scenario, the only way to save the maximum number of lives, perhaps to prevent any loss of life, is for teachers to be able to respond effectively and immediately. If an armed teacher hesitates and is shot, they and their students are no worse off than if the teacher was unarmed. But if the teacher is able to stop the attacker, everyone is infinitely better off.
Again, if one cannot positively affirm that they would be willing to employ deadly force if it is required, they have no business carrying the means to employ it. If they are willing, it is incumbent upon them to gain the knowledge, training and to maintain the proficiency they need, and then pray that they never have to use it. But they will be a more confident and capable person, and everyone will be safer for their efforts.

Regarding the potential for losing a firearm, carrying a concealed weapon means carrying a concealed weapon. A handgun in a desk is useless to a teacher confronted in a hallway. Anyone carrying a concealed firearm has an absolute obligation to: (1) never reveal that fact; (2) never expose that firearm unless they are in imminent need of employing it; (3) safeguard the firearm at all times, which means keeping it on their person, inaccesable to anyone but them; and (4) be prepared to defend themselves and that firearm from others if necessary.

In my last post I observed very briefly that anyone carrying a concealed firearm must make changes. They must carefully choose their weapon--no huge hunting handguns--and conceal it artfully. They must wear clothing that truly conceals not only the weapon, but makes it virtually impossible for anyone but a trained professional to know that they are armed. They must willingly accept the necessity of being far more aware of their surroundings than 99% of their fellows, and they must accept the substantial responsibility that goes with the firearm.
It is a common axiom among those who are daily armed that they are among the most innoffensive, careful people on the planet. For they know they must go out of their way to avoid confrontations that others might welcome. There is, you see, just as with the police, always a gun present in any fight in which they participate--theirs. Again, the difference is that the police must knowingly enter very dangerous situations. Teachers need not.

Most teachers are intelligent and mature enough to do all of these things. Believe me, I have known police officers who did amazingly dumb things with firearms, and who I did not wish to be around. But we should not make the mistake of surrending the only effective, immediate means of saving lives in a worst case scenario because there are foolish people in the world. That some folks are dopey should be news to no one. No situation is perfect. We must do the best we can.

What, by the way, has happened to the famous, protective feminine instinct, the biological imperative of a mother to protect her young, or a teacher to protect her charges? Have we become so "civilized" that we willingly accept the inevitability of mass murder rather that obtain the means to prevent it?

Utah teachers have been carrying concealed weapons in schools for nearly a decade now. There have been no incidents of weapons taken away from students (do you suppose the media would run with such a story?) and no school shootings. Israel has had the same experience.

Would I prefer that carrying concealed weapons in schools not be necessary? Of course. But it is. Yes, it is still, mercifully, very rare indeed. But remember, the entire thrust of my argument is for the most effective response when all of the odds have turned against us and the worst case scenario has come to pass.

Again, it comes down to this: When an armed madman enters a school, do you want armed, competent teachers present, ready to immediately save lives, or, for whichever reasons you might embrace, would you prefer that schools be completely vulnerable to the depredations of the worst among us, at least until police officers can make their way to the scene?

Thanks again for the opportunity to discuss this issue.

At 10/14/06, 11:58 PM, Blogger quakerdave said...

Just for the sake of "self-defense", let's do this: Arm everybody. Teachers, administrators, aides, bus drivers, janitors, lunch ladies. Then, the day the neighborhood psycho comes to school looking to rape and shoot little girls (where is the discussion on THAT part of the story, pray tell?), when the local SWAT team arrives, they won't know whom to shoot. It'll be a little Baghdad, right there in your town.

While we're at it, arm all the kids. No more bullying problems! Pick on me, and I'll kill you. If I don't like you, I'll just shoot you. Why not? It'll be "self-defense".

This is absolutely, positively the most ridiculous thing I have evr heard in response to these tragedies. More guns mean more deaths. Fewer guns means fewer murders. Period.

The day I have to walk into my classroom packin' heat is the day I quit and take a job at Borders. If this is the best solution we can come up with, we have already lost.

At 10/14/06, 11:59 PM, Blogger quakerdave said...

*ever heard*

Sounded like Bush there fer a second... heh heh.


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