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Friday, February 23, 2018

ON ARMED GUARDIANS IN SCHOOLS - A FACEBOOK COMMENT

JC Leahy

The following reply to a comment was rejected by Facebook, so I publish it here to link back to Facebook.  

Hi Alicia. Sorry to be tardy in responding. I was celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary (Yay!! 40 years!!!), then dealing with a health issue, and then dealing with a bit of a family tragedy. Life! There is good and there is bad!

Now, where were we? Oh, yes, we were focused on the bad. Thank you for joining the conversation. It is wonderful to hear from you! Ellen had just asserted that there were 19 school massacres thus far in 2018. I had responded by pointing out, among other things, that statement was grossly bogus – which is to say inaccurate and misleading. You came to Ellen’s defense on that point and gave your perspective on the school massacre problem as a teacher.

On the 19 massacres statistic, I am reluctant to spend many words on this. There simply have NOT been anywhere near 19 school massacres in 2018. The statistic that Ellen referred to came from an organization called Everytown for Gun Safety, and was popularized by tweets from Bernie Sanders, Bill de Blasio, a guy named Jeff Greenfield, and several actors and musicians. Unfortunately – or fortunately – the statistic is bogus. The Washington Post’s Fact Checker gave some sort of Pinocchio award for Everytown for Gun Safety’s figures, meaning that the figures are a lie.. For example, on January 3, a 31 year old man in his car parked in a school lot phoned police and said he was armed and suicidal. He then killed himself. There were no teachers or students in the elementary school. In fact, the school had been closed for 7 months. In late January, someone reportedly fired a gun in the parking lot at a high school basketball game. No one was hurt, it was 8pm, and classes had long before ended for the day. Another incident involved a police officer. Apparently a 3rd grader crept up on him and pulled the trigger of his holstered handgun. Naturally, everyone was startled, but no on was hurt. Another involved a licensed peace officer who ran a college justice club of some sort. A club member accidentally pulled the trigger of a real gun rather than a training gun. Again, everyone was startled by no one hurt. These are NOT the kinds of incidents that qualify as “school massacres.” Indeed, all in all, it is my understanding that only 5 of the 18 (not 19) incidents occurred during school hours and resulted in any physical injury.

It makes me sad to see statistics like that so distorted because it draws us into focusing on (arguing about) the terms of the debate rather than actually solving the problem, which is school massacres. Criminal violence in schools is a big enough problem that it requires no dishonest exaggeration.

You also recounted emotionally how you have hidden in dark closets with children during active shooter drills. I agree that this is not good for the emotional well being of children. I, myself, remember participating in such drills when I was in elementary school. We were hiding from a nuclear attack, crouched down in the hallways in neat little rows of children, kneeling with our hands clasped over the backs of our necks. I doubt that this would have helped us in the event of a nuclear attack. I heartily agree with you that such drills may not be helpful, and probably are not good for the happiness of the children involved.

I also agree that children should have more support, food, and lots of other things at home. I myself grew up in a ramshackle, rodent infested old house with only-sometimes running well water, in a dangerous neighborhood, a long walk on a dusty road away from the nearest food store. That’s life. I was happy anyway. The lack of things didn't, however, make me go out and shoot kill anyone. It would, however, have been nicer to have more support, food, and lots of other things. So we agree.

I agree also that it is distasteful to see armed guards everywhere. My wife and I visited her native Philippines in 2006. The main thing I didn’t like about the Philippines was that there were armed guards EVERYWHERE. Every little shopping center had a uniformed guard with a machine gun. The bank had neatly uniformed guards armed with shotguns, inside and outside the bank, and to get into the bank you had to talk to the guard outside, who talked to the guard inside, who opened a big security gate to let you and only you in. At the grocery store, similar to a Giant Food or Safeway, I counted no fewer than five armed guards posted near the checkout counters. We went to a hotel at one point, and the porter who carried our luggage carried a shotgun in his other hand. There were armed guards everywhere, and it made me uneasy. So, I agree with you again.

Now that we agree on so many things, let’s focus on the problem at hand: which is, school massacres. Columbine was the first, and since Columbine we have made absolutely no changes in the way schools are patrolled and guarded!!! We know that virtually all school shooters are under 25 years old. We know that the perps use a variety of weapons, including handguns and military-looking semiautomatic rifles. In the Florida instance, the 19-year-old perp actually bought the weapon legally himself. Your proposal is that what we need is more counselors, nurses, psychologists, etc. in schools. You also want to ban military-looking semiautomatic weapons. I simply think that so many counselors, nurses, psychologists, etc for every school in America would cost so much that it is very unlikely to happen at all. If it DID happen, it is doubtful that the extra resources would solve the problem, although they might help. The main consideration is that this solution is SO expensive that it is very unlikely to happen. The other part of what you want, banning military-looking semiautomatic weapons is unlikely to solve the problem. Other weapons are available to killers. For example, the Benton, Kentucky shooting which you cited, in which 20 people were shot and 2 killed, was carried out with an ordinary handgun. Banning certain “mean looking” rifles will simply not solve this problem.. Which leaves the terrible problem unsolved.

So, what to do? We do know that most of these young perps come from dysfunctional (fatherless) homes. There is no easy solution for that. We also know that all or nearly all of the school massacre perps are under the age of 25. It seems obvious that it would be helpful to keep firearms out of the hands of persons under the age of 25. I know from experience that there are just too many hormones powerfully at work prior to that age to make gun unsupervised gun possession safe. The Florida perp had no criminal record and purchased his gun legally at the age of 18, for crying out loud! We also know that a number of these perps were taking psychiatric drugs. Some psychiatric drugs have documented behavioral side effects, including “homicidal ideation.” I think that bears serious looking into.

For, for do-able actual solutions, I say (1) ban the sale and possession of firearms for persons under the age of 25 and make parents or guardians responsible if they get a gun from home, and (2) have some sort of armed guardian presence in schools. I THINK THAT WOULD GO A LONG WAY TOWARDS SOLVING THE PROBLEM. I hate seeing armed guards everywhere. I even hated it when the Alexandria high schools hired “bouncers” in the early 1970's to control unruly students after racial integration, but the situation was dire and required bouncers. They do arm some teachers in Israel, and that seems to work for them. In America, it might have to be police officers because a lot of teachers would be uncomfortable with the guardian role. I understand that perfectly. I’m a registered nurse. I have been asked by hospitals more than once to eject unruly visitors, and my response has always been that dealing with violent persons is not my job; that is for hospital security to handle. So I can understand a teacher not wanting to take on the role of protecting children. However, the situation is dire, and SOMEONE has to do it. Police are expensive, but police may be the way to go. Some teachers might be willing to be trained to carry concealed weapons. I have a concealed carry permit, myself, and it’s not that big a deal. A few armed teachers could save the day in a situation like the Florida massacre, and their presence would probably be a deterrent. If not teachers, then we need to assign police. Also, the psychiatric drug angle needs serious looking into. We have to do SOMETHING, and it must be something that will likely solve the problem of school killings, rather than something that just makes us feel good or accomplishes some pre-existing aim

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