Gun Violence In Schools
Why we must begin to take this issue seriously
January 1, 2020
Mentioning gun violence is like farting in a crowded room, you find yourself suddenly all alone in a crowded room. Friends immediately have somewhere else better to be and those opposed to the issue walk out in protest, but without some discussion on this critical issue in this pivotal year and brand new decade we will suffer through another decade of school shootings that should never happen. I do not for a minute think that taking guns away from law abiding citizens is the answer. I also feel that legislation is not necessarily going to solve the problem. When you examine the issue, the first thing you notice is that there is already legislation or laws that, if enforced would stop most of the violence in our schools. If we enact the laws we already in place, change our culture a bit, and take threats to our safety seriously, we will find that gun violence in school can be nearly eliminated as it is in most civilized countries. There are no easy fix solutions, but it’s time to roll up our sleeves and work together to solve this.
I have heard for quite a while about background checks to keep the guns out of the hands of people who are mentally disturbed. Having worked with people who suffered from chronic and persistent mental illness for nearly a decade, I can tell you first hand the harm that would be caused if they were allowed access to firearms while answering to a psychosis inside their heads. President McKinely was shot in Buffalo, NY, by a man who was hearing the voice of Theodore Roosevelt telling him McKinley was a threat to the country and needed to be assassinated. Acting on the disembodied voice of Roosevelt the vice president, despite conspiracy theorists, we find Uncle Teddy nothing to do with this when Leon Czolgosz shot McKinley in the chest at the Pan-American Exhibition. A known anarchist, Czolgosz should have been stopped by those in charge of security of the president at the time, but back then most did not see a terrorist as a threat. Times have changed.
So has the number of school shootings in the past two decades following the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers. Since then, Americans have become aware of the threat and consider the constrictions placed on the public to prevent these threats from becoming reality as a part of life in these times. So in the spirit of caution, why can’t we see the terrorist from within our own society from people who are finding gun violence as a solution to their disenfranchisement. While there is no definitive profile of a school shooter, it is becoming increasingly obvious that people with motive are the ones who have experienced this disenfranchisement and are angry enough to sacrifice their own lives for the purpose of gaining notoriety before going out in a blaze of glory. A former student who flunked out of school in Linda, CA, came back a couple years later and killed students and teachers as he walked through the high school he had flunked out of two years before. Sitting there in negotiation with police, the shooter asked for a pizza because he was hungry and when delivered, he was taken into custody and now sits on death row. People angry enough to carry out this sort of violence do not do so in complete silence. Someone knows, because the person has told a friend about their plans and thus the person who is told becomes an accessory. The problem is there are so many times when the accessory does not feel his or her friend will really carry out his or her threats. Maybe it’s time to reach out and actually listen, taking seriously these threats. If an enemy made a similar threat, do you think someone would report it? I would hope so since two decades have passed since the Twin Towers fell to a terrorist act.
So when someone threatens to carry out an act of violence and posts a manifesto of hate on social media, we ought to pay closer attention. I know that nearly 90 percent of the time, these threats are nothing more than bravado from a person who wants to feel the power of acceptance for his threats in a forum that thrives on anonymity. It’s the ten percent when we find out that the threat was serious enough for a person to act on. Awareness of threats is just the start.
Most classrooms are vulnerable since they were not designed for defensive purposes. Teachers were trained to lock down their classrooms during Code Red, but as recent events have shown, lockdowns are not always successful in saving lives and new ALICE training where instructors are taught to use evasive maneuvers and last resort measures in order to escape an active shooter situation. A commercial depicts students running from an active shooter (you can hear gunfire in the background) grateful for the items they have that will give them a chance to survive. This is a hard commercial for most people to watch, but this is the new reality we live in. Solving this problem is going to take a united effort. We can no longer ignore or be grateful that it did not happen in our school. Sandy Hook taught us that no school is immune from tragedy. We must change our culture instead of arming teachers as suggested. In putting more guns in the classroom will increase the chances that guns will be used by someone who in a moment of passion will use what is available. More guns in the classroom means there is a greater chance of a gun being used as recent events have demonstrated. So what do we do to solve this dilemma?
We change the culture. Simple. Don’t kid yourself, this is about as easy as stopping a train, but in doing so we may create an atmosphere in our classrooms that were meant to be there; a nurturing environment that is optimum for learning to take place. You can not expect students to learn if they are in an environment where there is a possibility of violence. This means that we must change our ambivalence toward guns. Our culture was built on the violent culture of guns as the late Chris Kyle explained in his book American Gun: A History of US in Ten Guns. Americans love their guns as our history proves, but at the turn of the last century our capacity for technology in our weapons out distanced our understanding of the capacity of the potential to kill. In other words our weapons can kill at a rate unimaginable to our forefathers who authored the U.S. Constitution. Besides the thrill of firing an automatic weapon, we must acknowledge that the only purpose for such a weapon is to kill people as rapidly as possible. What good is an automatic weapon with such a high killability? These are the weapons that are used in most of the random shootings over the past twenty years. Most responsible gun owners have no use for these weapons. While many argue that if we give up our Second Amendment rights, criminals will be the only ones having access these weapons creating a logical fallacy. We need to see that the harm done by automatic weapons far outweighs the benefits that could possibly be gained. I am also aware of the appeal of forbidden fruit from Genesis.
Finally and perhaps most important is the fact that most shooters do not act on impulse alone and in almost every recorded case have forecasted their intentions to someone else. In interviews after the fact one of these people will be interviewed on television proclaiming that they did not take the threat seriously. It is time to take the threat seriously. In changing our culture, we should also consider the snitch stigma we create for our whistleblowers and those who speak out when someone is considering such actions. Don’t look, don’t tell was good for the times, but in these times of gun violence, we need to put credence on people who proclaim their intentions on social media of violence that is to come. Instead we are conditioned to keep our eyes in front of us and not to squeal on other people. As a teacher, the classroom had not place for a tattler, but what if the tattler is tattling about someone planning to do something to harm his or her fellow students? I believe it is my duty as a classroom teacher to pass on information that contains possible intention or planned actions that will be harmful to the school or community. And yes, I have done just that when the safety of the school I was teaching in received such a threat.
I am no savior or messiah, just a professional educator who has a vested interest in keeping our schools safe from potential gun violence. Taking the guns out of the hands of responsible gun owners will not solve the problem since this is not where the problem usually originates from. We need to enforce the laws we already have that were designed to protect vulnerable places from violence. In enforcing these laws, we also must consider our gun culture that encourages and promotes the use of guns and become aware of the threats before they become a reality like Sandy Hook Elementary. Instead of sending prayers to those suffering the consequences, maybe it’s time we send our elected representatives a message that we have had enough. A nation that espouses freedom can not be so under the slavery of gun violence.
If we don't do something soon, the classroom will become a hunting ground. A look at the issue of gun control...