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Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Guns in Schools

I did what they wanted that morning. I stopped to reflect on the violent deaths of twenty schoolchildren, their teachers, and others in an elementary school in Connecticut. I tried to imagine myself as a parent, a student, a teacher, and others in that scenario, and each of these efforts led to the same conclusion. Several weeks later, they still lead there.

"I'll be back in a few days." That's what I said. That was, let's see . . . Most of a hundred days ago. Ouch.

I just moved several mostly-written blog posts from my 2012 folder to my 2013 folder. Here's one of them, which I mostly wrote in late December, then amended slightly after several more weeks listening to public and private discussions.

I did what they asked me to that day. It was the day when the Mayans said the world would end -- unless they quit calendaring because ran out of funding for the project, or because the stoneworkers or calendar-makers union went on strike. Whatever. The end of the world is not the point.

I took a moment -- then quite a few more moments -- to ponder what happened in Connecticut one week before that morning, on December 14. A mentally ill man used one of his mother's legally owned but catastrophically unsecured firearms partially to depopulate an elementary school. Does that description sound cold? So did -- and still does -- a lot of the politically exploitative passion on the subject, notably including that of New York City's First Tyrant, Mayor Bloomberg, and his national counterpart, President Obama.

If I Were One of the Parents

In that morning's reflection, I first put myself in a parent's shoes, as best I could. I am a parent, and the youngest of my four offspring is in elementary school. If one of those innocent victims were my child . . .

I would think that the world hadn't waited to end until the Mayan calendar ran out.

I might be angry enough to want to kill the killer, except that he already took care of that himself with one of his mother's handguns.

I don't think I could resist indefinitely the thought that he is someone's child, too, and sorrow for his parents and family -- empathy or compassion, if you wish me to make it sound virtuous -- would mix with my own sorrow. Eventually, it might overwhelm my anger. At least I'd like to think so.

I would want to lash out against a society that allows . . . But I can't do that, because God allowed it, too, and I am disinclined to lash out against God for letting us choose between good and evil and face many of their consequences.

I would wish that there were no guns -- no guns anywhere, I mean, not just no guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens. But that is a foolish wish. It is impossible, and most efforts to pursue it merely serve the interests of tyrants and criminals, both foreign and domestic, in part by leaving good people defenseless in the first minutes of an attack.

I would wish that the killer's mother had protected her guns from her son by locking them in a safe to which he did not have access. But she'd have been so busy wishing that, too, if he hadn't killed her first, that I might not dwell on this.

I would wish that it were more difficult for a heavily armed murderer to get into a school. But locked doors don't stop someone who is willing to shoot his way in, and metal detectors wouldn't help, either, unless there were also armed personnel staffing them, who were vigilant and also willing and able to prevent him from shooting his way through the checkpoint.

I would wish that the teachers in that school had been carrying loaded handguns and trained to use them effectively and reasonably safely (safely, that is, for everyone but the shooter).

If I Were One of the Teachers

I have been and hope yet to be a teacher, albeit of older students, so this isn't too great a stretch for me. If I were a teacher in that school, I would wish that I had been armed, trained, licensed, allowed, encouraged, and in all other respects prepared to use extreme force to oppose extreme violence. I could not have saved everyone, perhaps not even myself, but maybe my shooting back would have kept the death toll under dozens.

I fired a handgun for the first time in my life a few weeks ago, a 40-caliber Glock semiautomatic belonging to someone at the American Fork Police Department. With a bit of excellent instruction from my son, then some able coaching from one of my favorite police lieutenants, I put my first six or eight shots in the 10-ring and rather tightly grouped, which is pretty good for a beginner. Prior to that morning at the Orem Police Department's shooting range, the only firearms I had ever discharged were bolt-action .22 rifles at summer camp, when I was a Boy Scout.

I'm not an expert. I'm a novice. One brief morning of well-coached target shooting doesn't equal good judgment and accurate shooting under fire; I am acutely conscious of this. But I would want adults there who had weapons and really knew how to use them -- someone trained to use them in a school attack -- between my child or my students and the killer. Realistically, who could that be, besides the teachers?

You don't bring staplers and dry-erase markers to a gunfight.

If I Were a Student

If I were a student in a classroom in that school, I would want some armed adults between me and my would-be murderer. If there were none -- as in this case -- I would want to know why not. I don't think any excuse you could give me would be good enough.

Under fire I might reach into my desk or my backpack for something, anything, with which to fight back. But I would do so in vain. I would know this in advance, because my possessing anything dangerous enough to be useful -- in some cases even my drawing a picture of such a thing -- would be enough to get me tossed out of school.

So I would die. Or maybe I would survive, perhaps physically wounded, certainly grievously wounded in other ways. Maybe I would live a long enough life thereafter that I would begin partially to comprehend the suicidal, homicidal mind of the shooter. Maybe I would eventually stop having the nightmares in which I watched and heard my classmates and teacher die all over again. Maybe I would finally get over, or at least get past, the survivor guilt.

But I could live ninety more years, I think, and never come to settled terms with the institutional madness which valued ideology or politics -- or the warm and fuzzy illusion that being defenseless is the best defense -- over the lives of my teacher, my peers, and myself. I think I would never be able to accept the sniveling partisans who rushed to propose legislation which, had it already been in effect, would not have prevented the attack. I probably could never conquer my disdain for the self-absorbed executive who was so busy pursing his own political victories that he didn't bother to require his administration to enforce the gun laws that were already on the books, before insisting that we make more such laws.

If I Were a Voter

If I were a voter, and I am, I would watch mostly in vain for some sliver of hope, some defender of wisdom among the nattering crowd -- the crowd, that is, of rational people who are more serious about other things than they are about defending young life, and of serious people who aren't rational enough to embrace a few simple facts.

Fact One: These things almost always happen in places where law-abiding people aren't allowed to be prepared to defend themselves or others. That is, they happen when a murderer brings a gun to a "gun-free zone."

Fact Two: A police officer in the next school where this happens might reduce the body count somewhat, if he happens to be in the right place at the right time. But one known, uniformed opponent, who can be in only one place at a time in a large school, is a relatively easy target to identify and avoid (or eliminate). If every second or third or fourth teacher is armed and trained -- the shooter won't know which ones -- the tactical situation will be a lot more favorable for the good guys, and there will be just a few funerals instead of dozens.

Fact Three: To stop a bad guy with a gun, you need a good guy (or gal) with a gun. Or several of them. That the top dog of the National Rifle Association said so doesn't make it false.

If I Were a Priest

If I were a priest, which I am or at least was, depending on your definition . . .

I would want to be found advocating compassion, charity, forgiveness, faith, and freedom, to be sure. But somewhere in my mind, nearer the front than the back, would be this recurring thought: What if the next place it happens is a church? What if it's my church?

Three Good Things to Read

There really are serious, rational people out there, trying against all odds to have a serious, rational discussion about all this. You have to work a little to find them. I strongly recommend you read and ponder the following. The first two are not directly about guns.

You don't have to agree with any of them. I don't agree entirely. But they are serious people trying to have a serious discussion, and that is both important and very refreshing.

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