Gone are the days when the biggest worry a school kid had was getting beat up by a big, bad school bully. Today’s kids face worse than a black eye or sucker punch; they face death at the hands of a school shooter.
Attackers, usually students themselves, are the ultimate school bully. And it’s not like school leaders haven’t been trying to figure out a way to stop the madness. Answers up to now have included beefing up security protocols, making sure entry doors are locked and assigning police officers to patrol schools.
Now we’re hearing students pose some solutions. Banning assault rifles, an oldie but goodie from the anti-gun lobby, seems to be their answer. I’m not so sure it’ll work.
Banning guns, even so-called assault rifles, sounds similar to the effort to ban alcohol in 1920s America. Teetotalers blamed the nation’s social ills on alcohol, so Prohibition became law. We all know how that ended. The black market flourished because people couldn’t be separated from their beloved beverages.
Same with guns. They’re blamed for many social ills. But folks, especially criminals, will find a way to get guns. Just as the government couldn’t rid the country of speakeasies and home brew during Prohibition, today’s law enforcers will never get rid of guns.
So if banning guns isn’t a practical answer to deterring school shooters, what is?
While I think the popular culture and lack of discipline in schools is more the culprit, I agree with President Trump when he says arming teachers will help. Although I hate the idea of living in a country where teachers have guns, the amount of school terror leaves no other choice.
Arming teachers will work. When I was in school, we had some pretty tough teachers who would respond to fistfights, which was the biggest disruption back in those relatively innocent days. No matter where they were in the school building, the same few teachers would always respond.
The threats have evolved since then, but I’m sure schools still have select staff members – teachers, janitors or administrators – who act as first responders when fights break out. If trained properly, these brave staff members could also respond to a school shooter.
Arming staff members (willing and able ones, of course) would not only be cheaper, but also better than hiring additional school resource officers, because a school shooter can easily target an officer. Not so with unidentifiable, plainclothes, pistol-packing teachers who would also far outnumber an intruder.
I used to think adding police officers to each school could discourage shooters, but the recent case of the Vermont teen, who plotted to shoot up a mid-coast Maine school, shows the folly of believing uniformed officers are the best defense.
Jack Sawyer, who briefly attended York County Community College, was arrested before he pulled off the shooting, thanks to a tip from an online chat room administrator who recorded Sawyer’s plans. The teen’s aim was to kill 30 individuals, starting with the school resource officer. Get rid of the guy with the gun, and the gun-free zone would be his.
America, which is relatively new to this attacker phenomenon, can look to Israel for lessons in using average citizens as a first line of defense. I spent a semester in Jerusalem during the era of rampant bus bombings and other terror perpetrated by Palestinians and had my eyes opened to the effectiveness of citizens carrying concealed firearms.
One of my school friends, in fact, witnessed a shooting at an outdoor cafe in Jerusalem. He just happened to be dining there when a Palestinian armed with an AK-47 walked by and started shooting at patrons. Within seconds, however, the attacker was dead because several patrons pulled out their concealed weapons and returned fire.
And just as the ubiquity of guns in Israel acts as a deterrent to terrorists who know they’ll be outnumbered and outgunned if they try anything, would-be American school shooters might decide to stay in their mother’s basement playing video games because they know they’ll quickly be shot dead.
Sure, an elderly, feeble teacher wouldn’t want and shouldn’t have a gun. But I’m sure each school has able-bodied, willing staffers who would gladly stand up to the ultimate school bully.
American school teachers need to stop running and start shooting back when shooters take aim at them and their students. It’s sad to say but that’s the only way to deal with a bully. Speak his language. Answer fire with fire.
John Balentine, a former managing editor for Sun Media Group, lives in Windham.