Saturday, January 19, 2013

Another musing on the Sandy Hook tragedy

Like many people, I keep thinking about the massacre of the students at Sandy Hook last December. I'm not saying it occupies every waking moment of my life, but it would be accurate to say that not a day has gone by since the event that I have not pondered some aspect of it.

Of course, there are currently many prompts for these musings -- it's hard to run on the radio, pick up a newspaper, or go online without seeing or hearing something about the massacre. Probably the most wretched thing I've encountered of late are the conspiracy theorists who are claiming that the whole thing was contrived by anti-gun activists to allow them to successfully pursue their agenda of taking our guns away.

Yeah, that sounds sane.

But what I wanted to talk about was something specific, something in part inspired by the controversial suggestion by the NRA that the solution to events like the massacre at Sandy Hook is not to have better controls on who is able to buy what kinds of guns, but to have at least one armed guard in every school in the country, using their somewhat tenuous logic that "what stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun". Under certain circumstances, I guess that's true -- IF, for example, the "good guy" is right there on the spot, not taking a cigarette or bathroom break, and the "good guy" is a great shot and always hits his target instead of what's AROUND his target, and if the "good guy" isn't the first target of the "bad guy", who can then add the "good guy"'s gun to his own arsenal… or if, as in the case of the Columbine school shootings, there is more than one "bad guy". And so on.

There are all kinds of potential problems with this idea, not the least is that it is the classic "slippery slope" conundrum -- where would you stop? Schools like Sandy Hook are not the only potential targets for scum with guns -- what about libraries, town halls, theaters, and so on? And what about colleges, like my alma mater UMass over in Amherst? There have to be several dozen buildings on that campus, each one a potential killing zone for a demented shooter. Do we put an armed guard in each and every one of those buildings as well? Some of those buildings are huge -- do we need more than one guard for those? How many? And who pays for all of this?

And ultimately, is this the kind of world we want to live in?

However, I see a small nugget of possibility in the idea put forth by the NRA, but it doesn't involve installing guards armed with guns at every school. And in part, this idea was also inspired by my trying to imagine what it must have been like for the adults in the Sandy Hook school who tried to deal with the shooter. I believe the principal -- who had no weapon or body armor herself -- tried to get the gun away from him, and was shot dead. That kind of courage is hard to comprehend, but what is fairly easy to imagine are some thoughts which might have gone through her mind, such as "If I only had something with which I could stop this lunatic!" -- other than her vulnerable, unshielded body, which succumbed to his bullets.

So that got me thinking. What if, instead of adding MORE guns and guards to all the schools in the country, we instead supplied them with what is widely considered to be the easiest to use non-lethal defensive weapon available today -- the Taser*. Each classroom and office could have a Taser, mounted in a secure locked box which would be easily accessible by a person with the proper key (the teachers and administrators). Each teacher would receive training in the use of the device.

I'm not saying it's a perfect solution, and there are probably problematic angles I'm not considering, but it has significant appeal in this sense -- it would give those in the situation another option, something other than running, hiding, or confronting, unarmed, bare-handed, a killer with a gun and the proven willingness and intent to use it. -- PL

*Yes, I know that there have been some fatalities associated with Taser use, but from what I have been able to ascertain, those instances represent a very small percentage of total uses. 


Mark H said...

I don’t like the NRA’s call for a “Good guy with a gun” in every school. As much as I appreciate the VP of the NRA joining the conversation, I think his idea of posting armed guards at every school is a bad idea that has been proven to fail. There where armed security at Columbine and Virginia Tech. That did not stop the violence from happening. He blamed movies and video games never once mentioning that guns where a factor. Turning our schools into part of the Military Industrial Complex is not the answer. They are places of learning not prisons. Not to mention it would cost roughly 7 billion to put an armed guard at every school in the country. Who will pay for that? Would members of the NRA be willing to have their guns and ammo taxed more? Or would that be another fight about gun rights? I don’t think bringing any guns into a school is a great idea. Not to mention schools seem to be moving towards more of a prison environment for the students. What my kids have to deal with in school saddens me. It is not like the open learning environment I enjoyed as a kid. At my high school we could freely walk around the campus between classes. Now that same school has metal detectors and, the kids have to stay crammed in the building all day. They are not allowed to walk outside between classes. I often wonder what the effects will be of creating this prison environment for our children will be in the future. Imagine being treated like you are a potential criminal during your school career. How would that have made you feel growing up knowing you where treated in a suspect manner for “you protection”. I don’t know? I just think it is all wrong. My son got in trouble for saying “die” to one of his buddies while they played a game. It felt wrong to lecture him about not saying that while playing a game with his friends. I felt like a hypocrite telling him he is not allowed to say a word that I said many times playing with my friends on the playground. I know the word “die” can sound bad. I also know that my son is a gentle kid who would never mean something so serious. Especially when said to his best friend who he would never want to harm. I had to discipline him though. The school has a policy and, rules must be obeyed. I just felt wrong doing it. We where all boys once. We all used language that sounds potentially violent when playing our games. I remember playing swords with my friends. You would pretend to cut your friend down. Then if he was still standing you would say “I killed you. You’re dead.” I know that taking those words out of context sounds horrible. That’s just the things boys say sometimes when they are playing. Am I wrong to think we might be going a little too far? I don’t know? I just remember how heartbroken he was to get in trouble. He is a straight A student. He tries very hard to do good. It just makes me think. How many good kids out there are we making feel like bad kids because of our own fears? At what point are we crossing a line here? I think it is a fair question.
I think what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary is beyond tragic. I am not one to cry. It is just not in my nature to be emotional. When I think about this tragedy or, see pictures of those innocents little faces, I can’t help but to tear up. My heart aches for those poor parents, children, and teachers. I still can’t wrap my mind around it. Who can be so out of touch with reality that they could do this? What makes a boy or a man loose his compassion and empathy for his fellow beings? It breaks my heart. Sometimes humanity can be so hard to have faith in.

Mark H said...

Tasers in the school is a logical solution with thought behind it. It is far better than some of the ideas that are floating out there like; let’s arm the teachers with guns. I can’t agree with your idea though. If we absolutely had to arm the schools faculty then I would go with your idea. I would rather it be with non lethal weaponry like a Taser. I just don’t think weaponizing the schools in any way is the solution to the problem. If there was someone armed with a Taser at Sandy Hook, who’s to say, it might have saved lives. I just don’t like thinking in hypotheticals. There are a lot of what ifs but, what’s done has been done. A Taser would not be very effective against most conventional fire arms at long range. A Taser has a range of 15 to 35 feet compared to a rifle which can have a 100 yard to 500 yard range. I suppose if you snuck up on the aggressor and managed to hit them at a short range you would have a fighting chance. I do agree that a Taser is better than trying to defend yourself empty handed. I just can't agree with bringing any weapons into schools. Schools are learning environments. Not battlefields or, the mean streets of Chicago. I don't believe more weapons, lethal or not, can be a great long term solution.
I think the real problem with gun violence in America is us. Our society, the way we view guns. We love our guns. We have turned them into status symbols. We have glorified them into something that is to be worshipped. We view them like they are a badge. That is just wrong. We have made guns cool. You’re a bad ass if you have a gun. It is the wrong way to think about guns in my opinion. We don’t truly respect our firearms. We don’t view them as a tool created with the sole purpose of killing. We have music videos with MC Ass Clown showing off his diamond incrusted golden gat because he is such a bad ass. Tell me is that normal or responsible? Is it right to glamorize something made specifically for ending life? An idea I have been thinking about is let’s move towards changing the way society looks a guns. We can do what we did with cigarettes. We can run ads that show the results of not using a gun properly. The ad campaign we ran in the 90’s against tobacco was affective. Those ads helped to create a shift in the way people view smoking. At one time it was considered glamorous and acceptable behavior. Now we look at smoking as disgusting and unacceptable. We need to make up our minds that this gun violence is unacceptable. Only then can we make a change in the way our society views guns.

Mark H said...

When these tragedies happen we act like guns are not the issue. I have had countless argument where I had to point out that GUNS ARE THE ISSUE! I've read people posting stupid crap on the internet like “Rocks can kill people, why don’t we don’t ban them.”, “If god was in the schools this would not have happened.” ”Let’s arm the teachers.” Are these people kidding me? I have to wonder if people think before they post garbage like that on the internet. For one, if someone attacks me with a rock I feel pretty confident that I can defend myself. If someone attacks me with a gun I’m pretty sure my chances of survival are slim to none. Second, there are really people out there that think if they said a prayer at Sandy Hook that day it would have stopped this awful thing from happening? I guarantee there where people praying in that school that day. It did not stop a damn thing! Third, arming teachers is just ridiculous! That’s what we need a school full of guns. When I was in high school I was a big boy and I could have overpowered most of my teachers. What would happen if a kid got his hands on a teacher’s gun? A teacher’s job is to educate our children. Not to be trained with a firearm. Not to protect and serve. They are educators not police.
My favorite argument of all "guns don't kill people, people kill people". The people who say that are idiots who probably should not be carrying a firearm. If they can’t figure out the "people with guns kill people" equation then, they probably are not intelligent enough to be carrying a tool that was designed specifically for the purpose of killing.
We need to admit it. Guns in our society are the problem. We are like a bunch of alcoholics that won’t admit booze is the issue. We need to admit the real issue before we can fix it. America’s deep infatuation with our guns is our problem.
One last thing while I’m on a tangent. To the conspiracy theorists who say Sandy Hook was staged so the government has a catalyst for taking your guns. SHAME ON YOU! You are the lowest form of unintelligent life on this planet. Thinking the way you do makes me believe you are too stupid to own your guns and, someone should take them away from you for your own safety. Idiots like you make it hard to defend the Second Amendment.
Sorry for the long rant Pete. This is a big subject. It is something I have strong feelings about. Thanks for sharing. Have a good one.

PS: Are you still having fun with your archery?

Anonymous said...

You got to be kidding me. Do you really think an armed gunman would let a teacher unlock the taser and get close enough to use it? Do you honestly think a teacher with a taser would have a better chance of stopping a gunman than a police officer with a gun?

PL said...

"‪Anonymous‬ said...
You got to be kidding me. Do you really think an armed gunman would let a teacher unlock the taser and get close enough to use it?"

Please read what I wrote again -- I said that in the scenario I was positing, EACH classroom and office would have a Taser. In the average grammar school, with Kindergarten through sixth grades, plus principal's office, possibly a library and custodial office, that could be up to nine Tasers. If a shooter broke in and started shooting, one or more of those people MIGHT be able to get their Taser out in time to stop the shooter from continuing to shoot.

"Do you honestly think a teacher with a taser would have a better chance of stopping a gunman than a police officer with a gun?"

Your "straw man"-type argument is specious, because nowhere in my blog post did I claim such a thing. As I pointed out, it's not a perfect solution, but "it would give those in the situation another option, something other than running, hiding, or confronting, unarmed, bare-handed, a killer with a gun and the proven willingness and intent to use it." -- PL