“Those who would give up essential liberty in exchange for a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
The murders in Newtown, CT, Parkland, FL and elsewhere have reignited the contrived controversy over school shootings. I say contrived because, thankfully, and despite what the media and anti-liberty/gun cracktivists—I know: one-in-the-same–would have us believe, mass shootings are not increasing in frequency; their numbers remain minute. Leftists, despite incontrovertible evidence their simplistic and freedom-destroying solutions—gun bans, “universal background checks,” closing the nonexistent “gun show loophole,” and “gun free” school zones—do not work, they can’t possibly work, never cease pushing them. They patiently wait and renew their demands whenever a mass murder occurs, hoping to push over-reaching and ineffective legislation through the Congress while people are not thinking clearly.
“What will it take,” they angrily and emotionally demand, “for us to pass common sense gun legislation?” Fortunately, it will take a nation willing to disregard fact and logic, and willing to abandon their fundamental rights in exchange for ephemeral promises of safety. We’re not there yet.
On second thought, such legislation is ineffective only in that it will do nothing at all to prevent school shootings, and even less to stop the killers motivated to murder future innocents. Such legislation is effective only in limiting and hampering American’s right to self-defense, and in putting even more power in the hands of Federal politicians and bureaucrats protected by armed security, but desperate to deny the same protection to those they believe they rule.
The first two installments of this series (enter “School Attacks: Saving Lives” into the SMM search bar) outlined an unprecedented, dangerous and very real issue facing American schools today: attacks by active shooters, whether disaffected or deranged citizens—student or adult–or Islamic terrorists, foreign or domestic. Such attacks are rare, but there is nothing stopping them–anywhere. This article and the next will deal primarily with truly effective solutions, and with commonly raised objections to the only truly effective way to protect children when a school attack occurs.
In the first two articles, I only mentioned the primary solution at the heart of this series in the hope that even those who might reflexively oppose it would give it—and related points—a fair hearing. There is only one simple update in school policy that can change American schools, as has been the case in Israel, from soft to hard–or at the very least harder–targets: allow willing teachers and other school staff to carry concealed handguns.
This policy can be implemented at little or no cost to taxpayers, and mechanisms, both legal and practical, for its implementation are already in place.
Circa 2018, every state allows its citizens–at least on paper–some degree of concealed carry. Most are “shall issue” states; qualified citizens must be issued a license.Some states, such as California and Illinois, and cities such as Chicago and Washington DC make obtaining a concealed carry license all but impossible. Licenses are reserved for the politically connected, celebrities or the wealthy. The rest allow it subject to various records check, testing and licensing schemes.
However, thirteen states–Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Hew Hampshire, North Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming–allow any law abiding citizen not otherwise disqualified by mental illness or past criminal status––to carry a concealed handgun with no state testing or licensing. This is known as “constitutional carry.” Many of the residents of those states do obtain a license so they can enjoy reciprocity with neighboring states. By various reports, as many as nine additional states are in some part of the process of introducing or passing constitutional carry.
These laws have been a uniform success in that every state that has passed a shall-issue concealed carry law has seen reductions in violent crime, mass shootings, and no corresponding increase in shooting incidents. The kinds of wild-west shootouts anti-liberty activists predicted would break out at the slightest provocation have universally failed to materialize. Firearm accidents of all kinds have been dramatically declining for a century, due to the efforts of the NRA and gun owners.
And in a logical progression from the Supreme Court’s 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller decision (which affirmed the Second Amendment does speak to a fundamental, unalienable, individual right to keep and bear arms), and its 2010 McDonald v. Chicago decision (which incorporated that right to the states), Maryland Federal Judge Benson Everett Legg, in 2012, ruled in the case of Woollard v. Sheridan that the right to keep and bear arms is not as restrictive as many would prefer. Judge Legg wrote:
The Court finds that the right to bear arms is not limited to the home.
In addition to self-defense, the (Second Amendment) right was also understood to allow for militia membership and hunting. To secure these rights, the Second Amendment’s protections must extend beyond the home: neither hunting nor militia training is a household activity, and ‘self-defense has to take place wherever [a] person happens to be.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, in 2012, took the same approach in ordering Illinois–one of the last unconstitutional hold-outs–to respect the rights of its citizens. This is a logical progression in that the Supreme Court in Heller noted that the basis for the Second Amendment was the natural, unalienable right of self-defense. If self-defense applies only within the home or on one’s property, then only there does their life have value. They have no right—only a state defined, granted and rescinded privilege–to protect it elsewhere. They are, in essence, subjects, not free men. At the same time, the Court noted that states retain a compelling governmental interest in prohibiting weapons to convicted felons, the mentally ill, and in certain places, though the exact limits of this interest remain unclear.
For reasons having little to do with rational thought, and less to do with protecting the lives of children, schools have traditionally been thought to be such places.
Those licensed to carry concealed weapons are uncommonly law abiding, and only a tiny percentage (much less than a single percent) have had their licenses suspended. Such suspensions are almost always for technical violations of the law such as unintentionally carrying a handgun into a prohibited area. Concealed carry has been so universally successful and beneficial no repeal legislation has been seriously considered, let alone passed, in any adopting state.
Citizens, including teachers, may carry concealed weapons on school grounds in at least 18 states, subject to various restrictions.
In Utah, more or less unrestricted carry has been the rule for many years, and as everywhere else, the horrors predicted for such carry just haven’t happened. Texas, for example, allows carry in schools with the written permission of school authorities, though relatively few Texas schools have been so fortunate. Those schools, have not failed to publicize such a useful deterrent. On September 1 of 2017, a new law allowed all Texas teachers to keep firearms locked in their vehicles on school property, a good step, but still far from what is safe and necessary.
Since 2016, students and teachers have been able to carry concealed weapons on the campuses of Texas colleges. As always, all manner of horrors were predicted, and one professor retired as a protest of the new law, but he was already in the process of retiring, rendering his sacrifice something less than sacrificial. Protests at the University of Texas in Austin have become, in the best Austin tradition, weird, as students have begun to dangle dildos from their backpacks as a reminder some students might be carrying concealed weapons. I remain unsure of the connection. Perhaps they think if too many people carry dildos, one of them is bound to go off? Or carrying visible dildos is a symbolic protest, a leftist narrative of the mythical phallic symbolism of male privileged gun ownership, sort of a double secret phallic symbolism?
Universal experience with concealed carry on school grounds reveals no one is endangered by the law-abiding, and the incidence of violent crime on campus decreases. It should be remembered, however, that public schools, and particularly colleges, are notoriously reluctant to admit violent crime occurs at all, such admissions tending to shatter certain progressive articles of faith and notions of “safety” based on progressive narratives and feelings rather than rational planning and policy.
Q: SCHOOLS ARE GUN-FREE ZONES. WON’T GUNS MAKE SCHOOLS MORE DANGEROUS?
Gun free zones? Only for those that obey the law, and are, as a consequence, no threat. “Gun free zones” did not stop the Columbine killers, the Newtown killer, the Parkland or Santa Fe killers, or any other maniac intent on harming students, nor will it stop those intent on harm in the future. Such laws ensure only that schools are easy targets, victim disarmament zones, special preserves where shooters can be assured they will have ample time to kill before the police can possibly arrive. A gun-free zone sign in front of a school provides for some a false sense of security of the cruelest kind. That kind of illusory security is comforting to killers who may be certain their victims will be unarmed and unable to resist them.
As I noted in the first article of this series, the state of the art in contemporary school “safety” consists primarily of running, hiding, and as a last resort, making a mass, suicidal charge at armed gunmen. Sadly, most policies don’t encompass the final option, which, if all that remains is hiding and waiting to be murdered, is a practically and morally superior option.
But what happens if a killer attacks school children in a sports stadium, while they are waiting outdoors for a bus, or on a playground? Behind which doors will children hide then? Where will they run?
What rational parent would prefer their child engage in a last-ditch rush against an armed, murderous gunman? Few are comfortable with the idea of prominently posting a sign in front of their home advertising the fact they are unarmed.Yet the same people are somehow comforted to see essentially the same sign in front of their children’s school.
Signs and laws confer no protection. They suggest and provide for only the possibility of punishment after a violation of the law restricting guns on school property, after the maimed and the bodies of the dead have been removed. For people planning the mass murder of children and death by suicide—by their own hand or the hand of the police–no sign, no pitiful law, can possibly be a deterrent.
The monsters threatening our children don’t play by American criminal justice system rules. Boldly standing ready to prosecute school murderers, who commonly kill themselves during their attacks, for gun law violations is an exercise in futility and will be no comfort to surviving family members. Only the affirmative acts of those prepared to effectively defend themselves and innocent school children when and where attacks occur offer real protection
Gun Free zones are dangerous, but only to those forced to be disarmed within their boundaries.
It’s true that police officers love to catch really bad guys, however, post-Ferguson and Baltimore, there is significant evidence the police are becoming very, very cautious and reluctant to engage in potentially dangerous confrontations. The “Ferguson Effect” is operative across the nation, forcing officers to avoid confrontation whenever possible. Even courageous and diligent officers have no duty to protect any individual citizen.
On June 27, 2005 the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision in Castle Rock v. Gonzalez. In this case, the estranged husband of Gonzales defied a restraining order and kidnapped their three daughters, ages 7-10. Over many hours, the police were repeatedly called, even begged to act. Mrs. Gonzales eventually went to the police station and pled with them, but they did nothing. Not long after her last, in-person appeal for their help, Gonzales’ husband committed suicide by cop by firing on the police station. Shortly thereafter, his three daughters were found, dead, in his nearby pickup. He murdered them before attacking the police station.
The court affirmed decades of lower court precedence in holding that the police have a duty only to deter and investigate crime for the public at large, but not for any individual; the police could not be held liable even though they did nothing to assist Gonzales despite her repeated, obviously valid and pitiful pleas for help.
This might seem outrageous, but it is rational and necessary. Most people would be amazed, even shocked, to learn how few officers are patrolling their community at any time of the night or day. It is impossible for the police to guarantee protection to any individual, and if they could be successfully sued for failing to provide such protection, what city could possibly afford a police force? Who would become a police officer knowing they’d spend every day and every dime fending off lawsuits?
Police agencies are always understaffed. As a consequence, they staff their shifts with the most officers when most are required: evenings in general and Friday and Saturday nights in particular. Police agencies virtually always have the fewest officers working during weekday shifts when school is in session.
Indeed, the police–pre-Ferguson Effect–loved to catch bad guys in the act, and would love nothing more than to stop school shooters, but the police are primarily reactive rather than proactive. There aren’t many of them, and they’re not well prepared to deal, in terms of weapons, training or procedure, with actual terrorism, which employs military methods, weapons, tactics and objectives. By the time a police officer is notified of a school shooting, students and staff will already be wounded and dead, and more will die as the police rush to the school. It is true that more police agencies are changing their response models and training regarding school shootings, but such things take many years to fully implement, if a given local law enforcement agency is implementing them at all, and training and policy can’t warp time or shorten distances.
In the Parkland shooting, multiple officers were present, but they did not enter the building where the shooting was occurring. To be fair, there is some evidence this was due to police radio equipment issues and confusion over where the shooting was happening—the campus had at least twelve separate buildings. By the time officers arrived, the shooting may have already been over, and the suspect escaping or escaped. Of three unarmed coach/security officers in the involved building, one tried to attack the shooter and was killed. Two followed the contemporary rules of school safety and hid. They survived, but were later fired. One somehow doubts the family of the dead coach is glad he was forcibly unarmed. He is lauded a hero. One suspects his family would rather have him back.
We are solely responsible for our safety and that of our families. We always have been; we always will be.
No matter how well trained and prepared responding police officers might be, the immutable issues that matter are time and distance. The police in Newtown, Connecticut took only about nine minutes from the beginning of the attack to arrive at the school, but much longer to enter the building. By the time they did, the killer had been long dead by his own hand and everyone he chose to kill was dying or dead. Unless officers are present–-within handgun range of the shooters–-when an attack begins, many children and teachers will die before they can arrive and more will die before they can find the shooter(s). In the history of American school shootings, police officers have rarely had the slightest effect on the outcome.
if a school attack occurs, the answer to one question will always determine the number of teachers and students wounded and killed: what are school personnel prepared and able to do when and where an attack occurs?
The next installment of this series, to be posted next Tuesday, will pose and answer additional pertinent questions. I hope to see you then, gentle readers.