When the Tennessee General Assembly opens its 2013-14 session in Nashville tomorrow, there will be a knee-jerk round of bills hurriedly introduced in the Legislature that will very soon allow our teachers to carry firearms in our schools. The advocates will point to the devastating tragedy that happened on Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., while those opposed will argue that no teacher ever took a job to return gunfire in a classroom.
Both sides are absolutely right, but missing from the argument will be the fact that evil – persistent evil --continues to creep into our society and that none of us really know what to do about it. Ironically, the greatest hope we have is through education and the role of our teachers has never been as crucial.
They are hired to teach math and English, but today we are pressing them to include morals, values and decency in the daily curriculum.
The obvious answer to the Legislature’s big question is that yes, we should allow any teacher who so desires to properly and safely carry a firearm while at school. Factory workers, doctors, electrical linemen and any other citizen should have the same right. At the same time, nobody should ever be required or forced to carry a weapon, much less use it. But the stark fact remains -- when evil comes with a gun, all of the experts agree that return fire is the only viable solution to a madman’s attack.
I once mourned that “school resource officers” were even necessary – where did yesterday’s discipline and respect go? – but today a policeman at every school is a dire necessity. Each should be well-trained, adequately equipped and able to instantly access our law enforcement authorities. But it is naive to believe one SRO can patrol the whole school at all times so now the task falls to understandably concerned teachers to become legally qualified as well.
This week you can expect to hear the most outlandish and ridiculous arguments, both for and against guns in schools, you ever heard but the truth is that “legal guns” are the quietest in the United States. There isn’t going to be any “Wild, Wild West” for two reasons. First, school attacks are very rare and if a crazy psychopath knows there will be return fire, you can say what you will but that becomes a valid deterrent.
The problem comes from the illegal guns. After the Brainerd-Howard basketball game last Friday night, a juvenile allegedly fired a gun several times and the bullets hit some vehicles that were parked nearby. The gun itself had nothing to do with the incident, but I’ll bet a steak dinner an illegal firearm was used by an irresponsible kid who made a very stupid decision that may easily affect his future. The key is to educate other children that being stupid with a firearm has severe consequences.
In 1990 the federal Gun-Free School Zones Act made it illegal to carry a gun within 1,000 feet of a school. A 1994 ruling by the Supreme Court ruled the Act was unconstitutional, but Tennessee state law can imprison anyone who brings a weapon onto school grounds for up to six years. Everybody with any sense at all knows you never take a gun to a school, but it is happening with more and more regularity. Once again, education is the key if we are going to stop it.
Two trade groups for teachers, the National Education Association and the Professional Educators of Tennessee, are solidly against the proposed legislation. Both groups are known to be quite liberal (read “beard strokers”) and appear oblivious to the fact that more “legal guns” were just registered to Americans in December than in any other month in the country’s history. So many permits in one month is disturbing but it is also quite an indicator – this is where we are as a society.
In Mount Juliet, Tn., the mayor wants handgun safety costs waived for any teacher in Wilson County and other municipalities across the state and the entire country are considering similar measures. Top education officials are urging politicians to allocate more money for resource officers, counselors and security issues but offer no good answers about what to do with a blazing gunman.
Following the Columbine tragedy in 1999, a no-negotiation policy has been adopted by state and federal authorities regarding any shooter or other persons who would ever terrorize a school. All of law enforcement knows to immediately return fire and ask questions later – the goal in any gun fight since the beginning of time.
Tennessee is hardly alone in the quest to quickly arm its teachers. Virtually every state legislature in the country will be discussing the same thing this week and it will be a heated topic everywhere. Unfortunately, the only good solution is to shoot back and, when children’s lives are in danger, the more “good” guns the better.