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Gaze upon the face of evil.

Phillip Chism

Phillip Chism

In any debate related to gun control, there is one question that will quickly strip away all pretense and evasion and illustrate the true feelings and intentions of anyone answering it: do Americans have an unalienable right to self-defense?  Anything other than a prompt “yes” or “no” speaks volumes in itself.

Those answering “yes” are clearly on the side not only of history’s most influential political theorists, including Jesus Christ, but on the side of America’s Founders, the Constitution, and the Supreme Court–for at least the time being.  Those answering no, or in any way evading or qualifying the question, do so because they understand that to acknowledge an unalienable individual right to self-defense erects a near-absolute bar to gun control schemes, to unlimited federal government growth, and ultimately, to tyranny, three things they want very much.

Last week provided two tragic glimpses into the consequences of those anti-liberty desires.  Fox News reports:  

Coleen Ritzer

Coleen Ritzer

A 24-year-old Massachusetts high school math teacher who authorities believe was murdered by a 14-year-old student was remembered across the state Wednesday night. Hundreds turned out for a candlelight vigil in the parking lot of Danvers [Massachusetts] High School, where Colleen Ritzer worked. At nearby Fenway Park in Boston, a moment of silence was held in Ritzer’s memory prior to the first pitch of Game 1 of the World Series.

Meanwhile, Phillip Chism was being held without bail after he was charged by the Essex County district attorney as an adult Wednesday during his arraignment at Salem District Court.

Chism pleaded not guilty. His defense attorney argued for the proceedings to be closed and her client to be allowed to stay hidden because of his age. The judge denied the request. The judge approved a motion for a mental evaluation, The Boston Herald reported.

The Daily Mail provides considerably more detail:  

WFXT-TV quotes a police source as saying that Chism allegedly followed Ritzer to a bathroom on the second floor of the school and punched her in the face. He then slashed her throat and hacked her to death with a box cutter.’

‘Sources told MailOnline that Chism got the box cutter from an art class.

After the brutal killing, Chism allegedly stuffed Ritzer’s body into a recycling bin. He is seen on school surveillance cameras dragging the bin through the halls and out the door, according to ABC News.

The Daily Mail also reports:

Authorities say they are investigating whether that behavior change could have been a result of Chism’s romantic feelings for his teacher.

A police source told the MailOnline: ‘One of the theories going around is that this boy had a major crush on Colleen.

‘She was a very friendly, approachable teacher and it is possible he completely misread her affable nature and made some kind of advance towards her.

‘Whether that happened on Tuesday night, or some time before is unclear. Being the professional she was, she would obviously have told him how inappropriate that was. That may have angered him enough to act as some kind of motivation for the attack.

Were I investigating this crime, I would be certain to follow up on one very likely and obvious possibility: rape.  In crimes of this kind, rape is often a primary factor, if not as the ultimate motivation, then as a secondary, opportunistic humiliation of the victim.  The suggestion that Chism was infatuated with Ritzer makes that possibility more likely.

Why wouldn’t the press follow up on this, and why wouldn’t the police release this information?  It’s no secret that the press is, for the most part, very reluctant to even report on crimes where the suspect is black and the victim is white.  After more than a year of blatantly thumping the Trayvon Martin narrative of a supposed–and false–epidemic of white people preying on black teenagers, the media is hardly anxious to do anything to advertise their fecklessness in pushing that narrative.  Add the possible rape of a well-loved, attractive, young white teacher, and it’s even less likely that the media would publish an implied mea culpa.

The police are probably waiting for forensic testing and other evidence, and the local prosecutor would want to keep such things quiet, at least temporarily, until a mental health evaluation were done.  Then they would know what cards they could play.  There is no real value in showing their cards before they can attain their maximum worth.

Keep in mind, gentle readers, that beyond providing a bit of insight into the way the police investigate such crimes, I’m speculating.  Other than the suggestive clues provided by the media, I have no direct evidence to state that this is anything more than a possibility.

And for those who suggest that I am being hyperbolic in labeling Chism as evil, consider that evil has no age limits.  The child that murdered former Marine and middle school math teacher Michael Landsberry and wounded two students on October 21 in Sparks, Nevada was only 12 years old.  At the very least, one would hope that anyone could reasonably label the actions of these killers evil.

As I recently wrote in response to Landsberry’s murder, there is only one policy that can not only deter, but stop school shootings, potentially before anyone is injured or killed: allowing willing teachers and other staff members to be armed with concealed handguns.  What I have not addressed–until now–is a second compelling reason for arming teachers: school crime, particularly crime against teachers.

It is little known–and little considered–that every kind of crime occurring in the world in general also occurs in schools, which are essentially communities unto themselves.  In my teaching career I’ve been threatened, my vehicle has been vandalized, I’ve been the victim of thefts, and I’ve seen other teachers assaulted–I once stopped an assault in progress on a fellow teacher–and victimized in just about every way one can imagine.  My experience is not unusual.

The National Center For Education Statistics publishes yearly reports on school crime.  It’s 2012 report–the most recent I could find–is revealing:  

During the 2007–08 school year, a smaller percentage of teachers (7 percent) were threatened with injury by a student from their school than in 1993–94 (12 percent) and 1999–2000 (9 percent), though this percentage was not measurably different from the percentage in 2003–04 (7 percent). The percentage of teachers reporting that they had been physically attacked by a student from their school (4 percent) was not measurably different in 2007–08 than in any previous survey year.’

‘From July 1, 2010, through June 30, 2011, there were 31 school-associated violent deaths in elementary and secondary schools in the United States. Of the 31 student, staff, and nonstudent school-associated violent deaths occurring between July 1, 2010, and June 30, 2011, there were 25 homicides and 6 suicides.

An American Psychological Association report dating to 2010 is equally revealing:  

A recent APA Classroom Violence Directed Against Teachers Task Force Report (2010) suggests teacher victimization is a major issue that deserves urgent attention, yet there is a dearth of research on violence directed against K-12 teachers…

Much of what is known nationally about teacher victimization is reported in the annual School Crime and Safety Report (National Center For Education Statistics) which included data from a variety of national surveys of students, teachers, and principals.  According to the most recent release of this report, 11% of public school principals reported students engaging in acts of disrespect on a daily or weekly basis, and 6% reported students engaging in verbal abuse directed toward their teachers (Robers et al., 2010).  During 2007-2008, 7% of teacher reported being threatened with injury by a student at their school and 4% reported being physically attacked; reports of threat and injury are highest in urban school, public schools, and among male teachers (Robers et al., 2010).  Further Elliot, Hamburg and Williams (1998) indicated that 56% of teacher report not feeling safe at school, and 33% report being less eager to go to school due to threat of violence (Elliot, Hamburg, & Williams, 1998).  Overall, these data suggest that a significant number of teachers experience victimization, and perceptions of safety suggest that rates of victimization may be higher than previously reported.

I have no doubt that the rates of victimization listed in these reports, while startling, are not accurately representative of reality: they are far too low.  I am fortunate to work for a principal that sees his first duty as maintaining an orderly school environment.  In our school, there is no question that adults are in charge, and students are disciplined for so much as swearing.  Any student that threatens a teacher is immediately suspended.  Any student that assaults a teacher is immediately suspended, quickly expelled–virtually always for a year–and is prosecuted.  Most disciplinary issues are handled in-house, but crimes of any seriousness are handled as crimes, and there is no reluctance to report crimes.

Even so, I have little doubt that many threats to teachers are never reported to any outside agency, not for nefarious reasons, but because a mere threat is not normally a crime, and there are no universal reporting mechanisms.  There is no equivalent of the FBI Uniform Crime Report filled out each year by every American law enforcement agency.

A great many teachers work for principals that do not see maintaining order as their first, or even their second priority.  In such schools, students lashing teachers with the vilest imaginable obscenities are commonplace.  Threats, assaults, and crimes of all kinds are also common.  Principals that don’t see such matters as worth the effort are surely not going to be reporting them to the police or anyone else, for that matter.

Many school principals and administrators are also far more interested in maintaining a pristine public image than in maintaining order.  In those districts and schools, there are unwritten policies absolutely preventing the reporting of crimes against teachers, and most of the crimes taking place on campus.  If the public doesn’t know about it, it isn’t happening, and administrators can maintain the fiction that their attitudes and policies are producing brilliant educational results.

Imagine being a teacher in one of those schools.  Imagine knowing that reporting a threat or even an assault will not only result in no discipline for the students involved, but will possibly put you in greater danger, and might even result in being disciplined by your school district, perhaps even being fired.

Do you now, gentle readers, see why available statistics are almost certainly not representative of the true threats teachers face?

Teachers need to be armed not only to protect their students against stereotypical school shooters, but to protect themselves. 

Lest anyone get the wrong idea, I’m not proposing turning teachers into police officers responsible for dealing with every crime–or possible crime–that comes to their attention.  I merely suggest that they be allowed to exercise their inalienable right to self-defense, nothing more and nothing less.

Every teacher carrying a concealed weapon must have the absolute obligation to keep their weapon concealed and secure–no one should ever know they are carrying a handgun–and must expose it only if their life, or the life of another, is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death.  They will not draw down on students engaging in a wrestling match, yelling at others, or merely misbehaving.  They will not act as police officers.  But if they find themselves in danger of being crippled, mutilated or killed, they may protect themselves.  Absent these extreme–but always possible–circumstances, no one would ever know a teacher was armed.

Why would anyone want deny a teacher the ability and right to protect themselves against being maimed, crippled or killed?  Why would anyone want to deny anyone that unalienable right?  What kind of person thinks that moral?

In its 2008 Heller decision, the US Supreme Court held that the right to keep and bear arms expressed in the Second Amendment is a fundamental, unalienable right, and specifically ruled that the kinds of weapons commonly and usually employed for self-defense–specifically handguns–were thereby constitutionally protected.  In its 2010 McDonald decision, the court incorporated the Second Amendment, applying it to the states.  However, the court left some issues, most notably the exact boundaries on the right to keep and bear arms, ambiguous.

There is no question that citizens not prohibited gun ownership by law can keep and bear arms on their own property.  However, anti-freedom forces argue that this does not apply to concealed carry, and that concealed weapons may be prohibited virtually everywhere other than one’s own property.  In practice, some gun-phobic jurisdictions continue to try to deny Americans their fundamental rights even on their own property.  Of course, such people see schools as a primary example of “gun-free” zones.

None of us know the exact sequence of Coleen Ritzer’s death.  Was she rendered unconsciousness and slashed to death as she lay, helpless, on a bathroom floor, or would she have had the opportunity to save her life if armed?  Without question, she was denied the opportunity, denied the one, unalienable right important above all others to God and man: life, and the right to defend it.  It’s possible that if Massachusetts recognized her right to self-defense, she might have chosen not to avail herself of its benefits, but that would have been her choice, not the choice of anti-gun politicians who profess to care deeply about Coleen–and every other citizen–but only in the abstract.  When it comes down to citizens protecting their lives against criminal assault, such politicians will choose the rights of criminals every time.

The Seventh Circuit, in it’s Madigan decision, has already ruled that citizens have a right to carry concealed weapons outside their home, thus dragging Illinois into the 21st century.  This is only rational.  A right to self-defense that begins and ends at one’s property line is no right at all, but a state-regulated privilege akin to driving.  If politicians can carve out entire portions of any community or state where citizens have no right to protect their lives and the lives of those they love against the murderous assaults of the evil, a right to self-defense cannot truly be said to exist.

This is the current state of affairs in America.  By establishing gun-free zones, politicians uphold the Orwellian idea that all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.  Politicians–even Republicans–routinely make their places of business gun-free zones while hiring many armed guards to protect them.  They make schools gun-free zones, but appropriate not a penny to protect children and teachers.

In Massachusetts, it is highly unlikely that Coleen Ritzer could have obtained a concealed carry license as Massachusetts is a “may issue” state where the police and state routinely deny citizens a concealed carry license for any or no reason.  However, in 38 “shall issue” states, she could have had a license, and could have had the ability to protect her life virtually everywhere except her school, where as it turned out, she needed it most.

Is a teacher’s life of immense value on their own property, but worth nothing when they cross that property border?  Does a teacher have an unalienable right to self-defense at home, but nowhere else?  How does that magic work?  Should all teachers lose the right and ability to protect their very lives at work?  What compelling governmental interest justifies it?

Maintaining victim disarmament zones at schools, in fact, directly endangers teachers beyond the danger they face in public in general.  Criminals, whether students or adults, can rest assured that teachers are unarmed, and particularly if female, unable to protect themselves.  Phillip Chism could have had no doubt that he, at 6’2″, was larger and stronger than Ritzer, and armed with a razor knife, he could have his way with her.  And he did.

Coleen Ritzer did leave a Twitter post that speaks to her character and our loss:

No matter what happens in life, be good to people. Being good to people is a wonderful legacy to leave behind.

Coleen Ritzer deserved better.  Every teacher, female or male, deserves better.  They deserve the chance for life that a concealed weapon gives them, a chance most have virtually everywhere but school grounds.  They deserve the right to make that choice, unencumbered by the political whims of those that do not have their interests–or their lives–at heart.

Ave atque vale, Coleen.  Requiscat in pacem.