Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018 | 2 a.m.
Let’s assume for a moment that the way to stop gun violence at schools is to require teachers to be armed, as President Donald Trump and Wayne LaPierre and a host of NRA drones are suggesting.
Well, then, why stop there? Don’t people in other public settings deserve similar protection? Shouldn’t people who go to parks, beaches, shopping districts and the like be required to carry guns to protect their fellow citizens? Shouldn’t convenience store clerks, bartenders and restaurant staffs be mandated to be armed in order to guard their patrons? How about casino staff? Shouldn’t blackjack dealers be required to have a gun to protect the people at their tables, just like teachers and their students?
This could go on and on. Putting more guns in the hands of private citizens — a solution that would result in “Far more assets at much less cost than guards,” as Trump tweeted — would harden concerts and festivals, airliners, theaters, amusement parks and really any place where Americans gather.
After all, police officers and security staffers can’t be everywhere all the time. If the airlines gave every third or fourth passenger a gun as they boarded their flights, would-be terrorists would certainly think twice before causing any trouble, right? If bad guys knew that the kids in the Mickey Mouse and Goofy costumes had Glocks, they’d mind their P’s and Q’s, wouldn’t they?
OK, now let’s get back to the real world, where the idea of solving school shootings by flooding the public zone with more weapons as opposed to adopting reasonable gun safety policy is patently insane.
Think about the possible consequences. Despite best intentions, guns can be misplaced or taken from their owners. What might happen if one were to somehow get into a student’s hands, or if an angry student were to grab one out of a teacher’s holster?
Let’s say you’re a law enforcement officer responding to a report of shots fired at a school. You arrive, look down a hallway and see five adults pointing guns. Which one is the bad guy?
Finally, put yourself in a teacher’s shoes. You hear shots and run out of your classroom, where you see an unfamiliar adult running around in the chaos. Is that person the shooter? Or a substitute teacher in his first day at your school? Or a parent? You have a split second to decide. Make the wrong choice, and innocent people could die. That’s an awful lot to ask of someone who doesn’t work in law enforcement. Plus, let’s not forget that most shots fired in officer-involved shootings miss their target, and those are coming from highly trained and experienced law enforcement officials.
This is all so misdirected. The real solutions lie in increasing gun safety through adoption of universal background checks, a ban on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, increasing the legal age to purchase firearms and passage of red-flag measures that would make it easier for officials to seize guns from people who have exhibited signs of being a danger to themselves or others.
If the answer were more guns, America would surely be safe now. After all, the number of guns owned by private citizens has been estimated at more than 300 million, and years of relentless attacks on gun safety laws by the NRA has resulted in those firearms being carried in public places by an ever-growing number of people.
Yet the tragic drumbeat of gun violence keeps pounding away. Glutting the country with guns has yielded the predictable result of making the U.S. one of the world’s most dangerous places in terms of gun violence. Our rate of homicides by firearm is 25 times higher than that of other high-income nations.
And let’s be clear, the gun safety measures like universal background checks and bans on assault weapons aren’t going to leave law-abiding Americans without firearms. They’re merely designed to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, and impose some sensible limitations on weapons and ammunition based on military versions that were designed solely to kill people.
Will they end gun violence? No, but they could save lives without trampling the Second Amendment.
Meanwhile, the NRA’s Wild West approach of arming teachers and is yet another example of the gymnastics the organization is willing to perform to block any legislation that might reduce gun sales and hurt the firearms industry. A more extreme — and completely loony — proposal came from a local media commentator who suggested that drones operated out of Nellis Air Force Base be flown over every school in the U.S. to provide security.
Let’s put the focus where it should be — on limiting firepower and keeping the wrong people from obtaining guns.