Victoria Soto, 27, was buried Thursday under a cold winter sky. Soto, as you may know, was the teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary who stood in front of students in a vain attempt to save their lives.
Jack Pinto, 6, another victim, was buried on Monday. Tragically, that promising young man will never know if his favorite football team made the playoffs. He was laid to rest in his New York Giants football jersey: Number 80, Victor Cruz. (For Jack’s sake, lets hope God hates the Dallas Cowboys.)
And now, with twenty-six fresh graves filled or to fill, what do the most strident gun-rights advocates want to discuss? What do Second Amendment absolutists (those who say the right to bear arms cannot be infringed) suggest that we do to protect innocence like Jack Pinto?
Of course! We arm people like Ms. Soto. We arm schools
Why is this idea stupid, you ask? As a former US Army Special Forces NCO , allow me to explain: first and foremost, it won’t work. It won’t guarantee the kind of safety our children deserve. And we, as a nation, can no longer afford the luxury of wishful thinking where these kind of attacks are concerned. We owe the victims of this horrendous attack better. We owe it to all of our children, both living and dead, to face reality and craft sensible national policies. Here are a few reasons why arming teachers is an absurd place to start:
1. If we place a gun in the office, ready to a principal’s hand (or to the hand of some other school defender), as some absolutists are now suggesting, what happens if the heavily armed intruder shoots his way in through a different doorway?
2. What if two maniacal killers are involved? Then one defender isn’t enough (See: Columbine, 1999).
3. If the psychopath has a semi-automatic weapon clearly the defender will require (at minimum) a semi-automatic weapon. How exactly does this gun vs. gun strategy play out if the attack occurs at the start of the school day, or during a class change, when halls are crowded with children? How many bullets do the absolutists want to see flying around our schools?
4. How do we protect kids on a playground during recess if a psycho shows up and starts spraying fire? (That’s already been done. See: Stockton, 1989)
AND LET’S NOT FORGET PSYCHO PLAN B: What if the killer can’t get into the school. What if he heads for a college campus, a theater, a Sikh temple or mall in frustration? (We do know that’s been done, do we not?)
If the idea of arming teachers is dumb, what about doubling down on the dumb? After all, the Second Amendment is scared, according to absolutists, and all gun-control is wrong. What choice, then, do we have other than to arm everyone in schools? Every teacher and, yes, the nurse too. Drop that mop, Mr. Janitor.
From now on you’re patrolling the halls with an Uzi.
Is that really the sad state our nation is in? Are we too cowardly and too blind to face hard American-made facts? Can’t we at least be honest about where we stand? If we have 300 million guns in private hands and those aren’t enough, then guns for all educators is but a first tiny step. Next we need to issue every public school employee body armor. And there’s the whole idea of child-size bullet-proof vests for kids to consider.
If we can’t pass reasonable legislation, hell, let’s just give up and armor the buses! Place guards on board, riding shotgun beside drivers, like stagecoaches of yore. Seal those first floor windows. Cancel outdoor school activities (maybe forever). Come on, we want kids to be safe. So let’s create schools that resemble bunkers. Screw it. Let’s add 12-foot high walls. Let’s require our teachers (when they’re not preparing for standardized tests) to take turns guarding the perimeter like the Walking Dead instead of wasting time grading and creating lesson plans.
Maybe we need moats.
A conservative friend of mine suggested recently that I should stop “prattling on” about gun control. Maybe I am prattling on. I don’t think so. I think I’m just pissed because Jesse Lewis, on the day he was murdered, told his father in an excited voice before heading to school, “Dad, this is going to be the best Christmas ever.” I’m pissed because that little boy believed what he said and we as a nation allowed a killer to prove him wrong. I’m pissed because Ms. Soto, possessed of “captivating blue eyes,” is dead. I’m pissed because Grace McDonnell is no longer with us and can never follow her dreams. I’m pissed to know that Anne Marie Murphy, another teacher at Sandy Hook, died cradling Dylan Hockley, 6, in her arms.
I’m pissed because all of them died in a “firestorm of bullets.”
In the wake of great tragedy, is hard to imagine that gun-toting absolutists refuse to admit that it’s an indictment of a gun-loving culture if teachers and children are swept away in a “firestorms of bullets.” Like mechanical men, they keep repeating a single refrain: “My Second Amendment rights cannot be infringed. My. Rights. Cannot. Be. Infringed.”
So let’s follow their logic and end with a look at the amendment in question:
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Clearly, the rights of gun owners are sacred. Clearly, they cannot be infringed. Clearly, to protect our freedoms the Founding Fathers understood that what was needed was a well-regulated militia. Got all that? We need armed citizens to repel foreign invasions. Check. And to shoot back at government oppressors. (There’s a strong element of anti-Obama paranoia at play.) Sure. There are already 300 million guns; but that’s not enough, even though it’s pretty much one for every adult in America.
In other words, we need to man up. A modern militia–even though the militia no longer exists–would logically require firepower. (You can argue, and should, that the National Guard is now our militia; but then you get stuck, because they already have their own guns.) Ergo: a private citizen, following absolutist logic, who thinks he’s part of an imaginary militia, and thinks he’s getting ready to repulse imaginary invaders (because, frankly, the U. S. Army can’t do it) or boogie man oppressors (Muslim Obama), has a god-given right to purchase any kind of weapon his heart might desire. And come to think about it that should include a .50 caliber machine gun, an M1A1 tank and an F-16 fighter jet if they want one.
SEE HOW EASY IT IS? The Second Amendment is sacrosanct.
Let’s just build schools inside military bases and have the national guard pat down and scan everyone (including children) before they enter school for the day and then let’s electrify the fence surrounding the school and lock down the entire campus until school is out. Parents can pick up their children outside the gate after they have put on their kevlar backpacks and protective helmets for the trip from their classrooms to the front of the base. Sounds like a real kid-friendly atmosphere, right?
So we try the next best thing. We become the first advanced nation in the world to brag to foreign visitors (of the non-invading type), “Look, we build schools that double as forts!”
in every country, some people lose their jobs and become enraged. Some suffer mental illness and seize on fantastical notions. They are spurned and hatch crackpot schemes and seek revenge. In every country, some people are disturbed, broken-hearted or angry enough to murder. What is special about this country is the extent of the damage that such people are able to inflict when the urge comes.
But the underlying tragedy of this latest American catastrophe is how familiar this sort of spectacle has become. The television coverage and the reactions of prominent people all seem to unfold along the lines of a preconceived script: shock and heartbreak, then biographical inquiry, before we stick the story on the guy who pulled the trigger and move on
As we inevitably speculate and sift through biographical facts in this process of seeking reassurance, there is one fact above all others that needs to be altered: We have to make it harder for people to get their hands on guns.