Schools and Culture: The NRA Wants Guns in the Schoolhouse — Say What?

Gotta hand it to the NRA. Back to the Newtown wall, they come out guns blazing, as though there is not insanity in the wash of weapons in our culture, but for sure the solution is in further armament. We are advised that teachers should be allowed to carry weapons, or at least armed guards need to be stationed in all schools.

Ballsy. Ignore reality, assume an alternate reality, and then proceed as though we are still in touch with the world as it exists. So far, Mr. LaPierre and associates seem to be getting away with it.

But, Good God – you expect me to be safer in my class room with gun toting (even if safety minded gun toting) colleagues up and down my hall? In a culture where 30,000 die yearly by handguns, these are not all bad guys, but victims caught in accidental gunfire or in a passion of the moment combined with firearm access. And you tell me you are making me safer?

I suspect that the 30,000 deaths are far disproportionately people of color, death within a community isolated from the lives of the largely white membership of the NRA. So, in echo of Ralph Ellison, these deaths are invisible to NRA consciousness, and perhaps in the larger American Caucasian consciousness. Would the NRA be quite so coated with Teflon if a higher percentage of those deaths were spread more equably around white communities?

A variety of studies over the last ten years have found that just owning a gun makes it more likely an individual will be shot. With such danger in the classroom next to me, do I not reasonably fear that my own vulnerability goes up as well, not to mention if I happen to be ensconced in a hallway of such vigilantes?

Even assuming all such colleagues maintain maximum security on their firearms, and students cannot somehow gain access, do we not thereby give permission to the more impressionable among them that a carry will be winked at by the authorities?

A story circulates of a teacher who went to his truck to retrieve a rifle in order to subdue an individual bent on destruction in his school. All well and good, and thank God he was able to act with restraint. But one story does not alter statistics, which are impassive to individual circumstance, and which tell me I am placed in danger, if placed next to a colleague with a gun.

Note the Australians. Apparently determined to avoid the consequences of guns we face, they have greatly restricted gun ownership in recent years, and death and injury by handgun have plummeted.

We have here on our continent, or certainly within our borders, what amounts to a mass hypnosis, and what seems to me a cultural insanity.

The constitutionality of gun ownership is a fact of life, though I would prefer it otherwise. From a visit to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., I am reminded that Hitler came to power initially by legal means. If it is fear of just such an event that legitimately gave birth in the 18th century to the second amendment and envigorates its passionate defense even today, then I can live with that, even if paranoia lurks in the wings.

The mobilization of the public and the tenacity of law enforcement in the recent Boston Marathon bombing evoked the spirit of militia and opposition to tyranny of whatever sort, and provided a proud moment in the spirit of the second amendment, even if our own government was on the side of the good guys.

But to claim that any regulation of gun ownership abridges constitutional rights is sheer lunacy, and is part of the hypnotic web the NRA weaves. They’ve managed to define the discussion to such extent that a significant minority cowers indignantly and votes that fear, and more moderate folks fail to understand that the picture presented by the NRA is a bald distortion of our country’s best interest.

Give the National Rifle Association its due. The organization has been clever enough to push the national discussion about guns far to the right of center, some would say by mischaracterization of reality and the manipulation of fear, and perhaps those voices are not only honorable but correct. Again from the US Holocaust exhibit, the irony is that these characteristics of the NRA’s campaign seem to echo those of Hitler’s regime, the very totalitarian presence the NRA claims to guard against by invoking the second amendment.

They also have been politically astute, for example lobbying into law provisions that prevent the National Institutes of Health from studying the epidemia of gun violence, because (I suspect) if guns were determined to be an official health hazard (remember 30,000 deaths a year), then the weight of government law and political scrutiny would require intervention. We study traffic fatalities, which cause about the same number of deaths as firearms (down to about 36,000 in 2012) and which are on the decline due to federal legislative attention, extensive research into the safety of automobiles, and the expectations of an informed driving public.

The NRA makes the extreme claim that unregulated access to guns is sacrosanct on the strength of the second amendment. Yet all manner of rights are modified in practice, beginning with the fundamental right to free speech. It is well known, for example, that I cannot slander, “shout fire in a crowded room,” and so forth.

The regulation of guns merits the same moderation, including back ground checks, mental health checks, likely a ban on true killing machines (though hand guns kill far more), and though anathema to the paranoid for whom totalitarian takeover of government is just around the corner, registry of firearms as a critical link in restricting their ownership by criminals and the mentally ill. The fact that one gun bill recently voted down appeased the gun crowd by outlawing registry only demonstrates how far we are in our national conversation from what an objective dialogue should be.

Guns kill people, 30,000 a year, in the United States of America. The solution is more guns in schools, which will make us safer. We arm ourselves because others are armed, and so make more intense the likelihood that weapons are part of conflict. Help me here, how does this make sense, other than in the most immediate and exigent circumstances? Maybe, maybe, well trained guards are tolerable in some schools, but still we enshrine a gun as the solution, when such an immersion in guns clearly cycles into our many violent deaths.

Though in reason we must acknowledge the Second Amendment right to bear arms, do we not enter the absurd when we allow 30,000 of our citizens to die each year by gun, in the name of liberty on the altar of a misapplied constitutional right? We kill our own species, massively, gratuitously, our countrymen, and still choose to do little substantial about it. Somehow, is not, could not, should not this be a definition of cultural insanity?

So, yes, I am apoplectic about opening the door and inviting the disease inside the school house, which is still my house, though I am retired. I fear for myself, I fear for my colleagues, I fear for my students.

Do not tread on me.


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