Give schools a choice to be tougher target
Sunday SEPTEMBER 23, 2007
At issue: A state bill to allow trained adults the choice to carry a concealed firearm at school.
Our view: Such adults have excellent safety records, while "gun-free zones" offer only the illusion of safety.
What did the past year's Virginia Tech killings, the massacre in an Amish schoolhouse and the school murder in Bailey, Colo., all have in common?
Each was committed by an armed adult, and each might have been halted or discouraged if a teacher had access to a firearm, or at least the choice.
But most American schools are easy targets for psychopaths. Giving Michigan school staffs a chance to defend their students and themselves - a choice they'd be free to ignore - is the purpose of a House bill introduced last week. We understand Michigan residents' feelings about the issue of guns in schools, but facts indicate the proposal by State Rep. David Agema, R-Grandville, is not only safe but overdue.
Utah passed a similar law in 1996 (upheld in 2003), and has seen zero accidents - and zero shootings. The few teachers who are armed keep their guns concealed, and don't advertise the fact. "If it came to protecting myself and protecting my kids, it would stop in my classroom," Natalie Aposhian, a Brighton, Utah, math teacher who is armed, said of any attack. "It wouldn't be going from class to class to class and randomly shooting children."
The view is not one typically expressed in stories. One headline ("Reading, writing, arithmetic - and revolvers?") falsely implied that guns would become a classroom fixture. ABC News' headline, "Mich. Lawmaker Wants to Arm Educators," gave the incorrect impression that teachers would have no say. Grand Rapids Superintendent Bernard Taylor ignored school massacres committed by adults when he said: "It hurts to hear we've come to this, that we're so afraid of children that we think we need to be armed to work with them."
But feelings don't match facts. House Bill 5162 would not "arm educators." It would give school staff who pass permit training and background checks the option to carry a concealed weapon, and only if their superintendent approved. Most teachers would not choose that option and, in many districts, superintendents such as Taylor would never allow any staff member to possess a firearm.
Yet in a 1997 shooting in Pearl, Miss., assistant principal Joel Myrick used his .45-caliber pistol to stop a 16-year-old who had shot nine students, two fatally. Sadly, some were shot while Myrick had to run to his car parked 1,000 feet from the school to retrieve his gun before he could run back and use it. In 2002 at the Appalachian School of Law, an adult killed a professor and a student and wounded three classmates before two college students retrieved their firearms and stopped the killer.
These cases disprove the argument that, in a school, civilians are incapable of making good decisions. Far from it, we're not aware of any cases anywhere in the U.S. in which a concealed carry permit holder's gun was misfired inside a school.
Another faulty objection is that a student might take away a teacherÃs gun and begin a rampage. This ignores the fact that, right now, rampaging students could more easily obtain and sneak guns into schools on their own. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold didn't need a teacherÃs gun at Columbine, Colo. Nor did Cho Seung-hui at Virginia Tech, Michael Carneal at West Paducah, Ky.; Jeff Weise at Red Lake, Minn.; Kip Kinkel at Springfield, Ore.; Robert Steinhaeuser in Erfurt, Germany; Evan Ramsey in Bethel, Alaska; Kenneth Bartley Jr. in Jacksboro, Tenn.; or any of the literally dozens of other school shootings.
Gun-free zones create an illusion of safety. They actually guarantee that nobody can fight back. That is why attacks occur at schools, not at gun shows. Michigan should allow trained, law-abiding adults a chance to protect themselves and our children. Rep. Agema offers teachers who want that a chance. Critics should give his bill the same consideration.