The other day an old friend asked me to drive him to the airport, and I agreed but said he had to do something in return. I told him that in my next blog post I was going to make the case for allowing guns in schools and his job was to talk me out of it. He’s an attorney, a liberal and no friend of the 2nd Amendment, so he was eager to oblige. So on the way to the airport he threw out all the arguments he could muster on why guns in schools was a bad idea, and each one was perfectly valid, but even so he was unable to convince me – or even himself as it turned out – that there was no merit to the idea. So here I am.
Let me state up front that I’m no friend of the 2nd Amendment either. I believe that it was a mistake for the founding fathers to have included it, at least as written, and that the country would be better off if it had been left out. At the same time I am a realist, and I recognize that it’s there and it’s not going away, so we need to deal with it.
Ever since the Sandy Hook shooting I, along with many others have pleaded for an adult conversation about guns in America. I even laid out some rules that I felt were critical to having such a discussion. In particular I said that we must acknowledge legitimate arguments that come from the other side and that we must recognize that there is no perfect solution.
With that in mind let me make a case for having some kind of approach that allows school personnel access to weapons at school. Let me begin by walking through the events of that sad day in Connecticut, at least as I understand them to be at this time. Early in the morning after classes had started and the building locked down, Adam Lanza walked up to the school building and simply shot his way through the locked front doors. The principal, hearing the gun shots, the breaking glass, and the security alarms, got up from a meeting she was having, walked into the hallway to investigate, confronted the shooter and was quickly shot dead.
Now let’s imagine a slightly different scenario. The principal, upon hearing the gun shots, breaking glass and alarms, grabs the keys to her desk, unlocks the drawer where a gun is kept, walks into the hallway, and confronts the shooter just as before as before, but she is now armed with a handgun. What happens in the next one or two seconds is anybody’s guess but it is critical to the outcome. If we had the ability to set up some kind of virtual reality in which we ran through that scenario a dozen or more times, we would probably see many different outcomes. In some cases the shooter would kill the principal before she had time to react and would go about his grisly task just as it happened in reality. In some cases the principal would get off a couple of wild shots perhaps killing or injuring even more students before being killed herself. But in some cases the principal would be able to kill or injure the shooter or otherwise stop or limit the carnage.
No matter what side of the debate you are on you have to acknowledge that each of those outcomes will occur some percent of the time. Just what those percentages are is unknown. Even if you could calculate the odds in that limited scenario you still have to consider the broader issues. If we run our virtual reality experiment not just for those few critical minutes but for many years, how often will the principal become unstable and become the shooter herself? That will happen. How often will a student break into the desk drawer, pull out the gun and start shooting? That will happen, also. Any scenario that can happen will happen over enough trials, and the very real likelihood of all of these possible outcomes has to be taken into consideration.
Taken one at a time, none of the objections that my friend made to my “more guns at school” argument was convincing. It was only when taken at the aggregate that his opposition gained traction. This is how adult conversations work. You listen to the other side, acknowledge those point that are valid, challenge those that aren’t, and in the end at least you’ll both understand the issue better.
Let me be clear, I’m not suggesting that we arm all of our principals, neither am I suggesting that we don’t. I’m hardly suggesting anything other than we need to be open minded about how we address the problem of mass shootings in America. Really, you’d think that that wouldn’t be important enough to spend this much time on, but apparently it needs to be said. Take a look at this video in which Piers Morgan interviews Larry Pratt, the Executive Director of Gun Owners of America. Before it’s all over each man has become intransigent in his own position, and Morgan, normally a reasonable guy, ends the interview by calling Pratt an idiot. This is not the kind of conversation I was hoping for.
Still, I understand Morgan’s frustration. The NRA and Larry Pratts of the world have for decades refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of any opposition to their cause. But really, after decades of trying to have an adult conversation with these people, what do you expect?
Between the time of the ride out to the airport and the first draft of this post, the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre made his press conference to address the Sandy Hook shootings. This was one of the most catastrophic public relations events in memory, and has been universally panned. The New York Post headline read, “Gun nut! NRA loon in bizarre rant over Newtown” and the New York Daily News simply called him the “Craziest Man on Earth”. Ouch! This is not the kind of reaction you want from your friends.
In the aftermath of that disaster, I was a bit reluctant to even post this in fear of being associated with this kind of mindset, but ultimately it seemed to be to make my own views even more important. So here it is.
As always, I want to know what you think. Comments are welcome.