Friday, August 29, 2008

Arming the Teachers, That's the Answer (part II)

Today the New York Times reports on the situation in Harrold Texas. As we discussed before, teachers in the north-Texas town are encouraged to carry concealed weapons to class at the local high school. The driving force behind the program is David Thweatt, school superintendent.

The school board in this impoverished rural hamlet in North Texas has drawn national attention with its decision to let some teachers carry concealed weapons, a track no other school in the country has followed. The idea is to ward off a massacre along the lines of what happened at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999.

Even in Texas, with its tradition of lenient gun laws and frontier justice, the idea of teachers’ taking guns to class has rattled some people and sparked a fiery debate.

“I’m not exactly paranoid,” Mr. Thweatt said. “I like to consider myself prepared.”

Some residents and parents, however, think Mr. Thweatt may be overstating the threat. Many say they rarely lock their doors, much less worry about random drifters with pistols running amok at the school. Longtime residents were hard-pressed to recall a single violent incident there.

The title of this post is slightly facetious. "Arming the teachers" is not what the school board is doing. (Thanks Nomen for pointing that out.) What they're doing is giving teachers who are already licensed to carry weapons permission to do so. There are even additional requirements placed upon them, special anti-ricocheting ammunition, special training by a private security company.

The point is that permitting the teachers to be armed, regardless of the probability of an attack, is sending the wrong message. It may work in the short run, but long term it will move us backwards to a time in our history when violence and lawlessness was the order of the day. It brings to mind visions of the old West in cowboy movies we all grew up with. Wasn't the answer to that chaotic period to introduce laws and law enforcement? Wasn't it to encourage education and cooperation? Wasn't it to move away from this very thing, everybody being armed and at the ready for a gunfight? Why would we want to move backwards towards the type of society we struggled to outgrow 150 years ago?

I'm wondering if it really is a macho thing. Anyone who's ever handled a gun, and liked it, can understand that there's a tremendously exhilarating sense of power involved. I say it's wrong to play with that power, to bring it into our daily lives. That's what we have law enforcement people for. We should keep the guns for hunting and target shooting and collecting, if that's what you like. But, bringing them into our everyday lives is only going to exacerbate the crime problem in the long run.

What do you think?


  1. "It may work in the short run, but long term it will move us backwards to a time in our history when violence and lawlessness was the order of the day. It brings to mind visions of the old West in cowboy movies we all grew up with."

    Totally wrong. BIG #1 the whole point of this is CONCEALING the guns (and open carry is currently illegal in Texas) Its always good to not let potential attackers know who might be armed and who might not be. Currently there may be NO teachers armed in that school for whatever reason, but somebody could just as easily assume they're ALL armed. Concealed weapons not only protect the armed, but the unarmed in that sense.

    #2: That "Old West" talk is the favorite straw-man of the anti-gun groups. First up, read a book on the Old West, overall murders were low, gunfighters were rare and most only had a handful of shootouts. Even outlaw gangs were rare given the vast area that the "Old West" Entailed.

    If it wasn't for modern medicine and plumbing, I'd take Tombstone Arizona in the late 19th Century over South Central Chicago today.

    Also finally to go back on the "Wild West" argument, can you show me any example of allowing conceal weapons holders MORE freedom has resulted in More violence or "Lawlessness"?

    And of course to repeat a statement from earlier, why is it so many of these massacres happen in places where guns are banned? (I'll spare you the list I produced I'm sure you remember it)

  2. Oh, and Mike, since you definitely prefer emotional appeal over number-crunching stats, have you seen this site?

    This one is especially topical.

  3. Mike,

    Here is something that I though of early this morning. 1 response was not posted this morning...I hate insomnia but it got me to thinking about civic duty.

    You like theoretical situations, so here is one for you.

    You and 4 male friends are walking along the street one evening. Up ahead you see a male beating a female...ripping her clothes off. She's yelling for help, yelling he wants to kill me.

    Do you have a civic responsibility to try to stop a crime in progress?

    Does your civic responsibility change if you are by yourself?

    There are two areas to explore, your duty to the state and your duty to society. The duty to the state carries, in my opinion, a lesser burden. Most governments require a person to stop a crime if they can do so safely , would you agree?

    On the other hand, your duty to society, again in my opinion, says you should put the responsibility to the people at a whole above your own safety. Thus even if it endangers a person, for the good of everyone, especially those unable physically to fight back, action would be required.

    To continue, if you decide to involve yourself in the situation, do you have a right to pick up a stick, a bat, a screwdriver to increase your chances of success?

    To wrap up, do our school teachers have a civic responsibility to protect the children in their care?
    Do they have a civic responsibility to do it as effectively as they can?
    If your child, niece, nephew, etc was sitting in a class room waiting for a murderer to walk through the door; what would you rather have in the teacher's hand, a dictionary or a firearm?
    (Concealed means no one knows it's there until trouble, just like you walking down the street)

  4. I've never felt a "tremendously exhilarating sense of power" handling and shooting firearms anymore than I've felt a "tremendously and exhilarating sense of power" operating a framing hammer building on to my house. Guns are tools and sometimes toys but they don't make me feel like superman.

    To rehash from my last post:

    Interesting thing to remember on this topic from John Lott:

    Consider a fact hardly mentioned during the massive news coverage of the October 1997 shooting spree at a high school in Pearl, Miss.: An assistant principal retrieved a gun from his car and physically immobilized the gunman for a full 41/2 minutes while waiting for the police to arrive. The gunman had already fatally shot two students (after earlier stabbing his mother to death). Who knows how many lives the assistant principal saved by his prompt response?

    Appalachian School of Law shooting was stopped by two students that retrieved firearms from their vehicles and would have been stopped faster if they hadn't had to go to their vehicles to fetch them.

    At Virginia Tech, the LEOs, instead of saving anybody, seemed to be mostly hiding behind trees and unsure of what to do. The videos from various angles are easily available on the web.

    The PLO stopped attacking Israeli schools when they armed all the teachers and you might note that in the recent Palestinian lunatic bulldozer attack on cars and city buses it was an armed citizen, not a policeman, that stopped the murderer with a bullet to the brain.

    If somebody is going to cull the gene pool do you want it to be criminals vs unarmed victims or not have readily available victims and once in a while a criminal gets culled from the herd?

    As for the "wild west" BS...I've been part of a number of drunken shindigs and piss-ups both in the US and Africa where everybody had firearms, lots of whiskey was drank, politics were heatedly argued to near the point of fisticuffs, and NOT ONCE did a firearm come out to settle who was right and who was wrong. When's the last time you heard of a gunfight at a gun club or on a hunt/safari?

    Spree killers, crackheads, sociopaths, those are not the norm as far as humans go.

    If you can't be trusted in a free society you should either be in the prison or booby hatch of your choice or executed to prevent further poisoning of the cultural and gene pools.

    I believe in abortion up to and including the ten thousandth trimester, if need be.

    Teachers that have proven themselves able to maintain a concealed permit are well within their rights to use that permit everywhere they go.

  5. Points to ponder regarding arms and civic responsibility, Dr. Robert H. Churchill:

    On April 19, 1775, the town of Concord, Massachusetts was the scene of an interesting confrontation. After the militia of Concord and the surrounding towns had driven the British back from the North Bridge, some of the militiamen began to disperse. The wife of Nathan Barrett, captain of one of Concord's militia companies, spotted one of her husband's men skedaddling home. She went out of her house to confront him, and when he explained that he was feeling ill, she responded that he must not take his gun with him. When he replied simply, "Yes, I shall," she exclaimed, "No, stop, I must have it." The militiaman refused and began to walk off. Mrs. Barrett gave chase, but her quarry was too quick.

    The confrontation between Mrs. Barrett, speaking for the community of Concord, and the militiaman captures the clash of community obligation, public safety, private interests, and individual rights that lies at the heart of the legal and historical debate over the meaning of the Second Amendment. For Mrs. Barrett, the militiaman's gun represented his duty to join with his neighbors and bear arms in the collective defense of the community. The militiaman did not dispute that obligation: he had turned out with his neighbors to defend the town and headed home only after his company had dispersed. But in his eyes the right to retain possession of the gun transcended its importance in allowing him to meet his communal obligation. The gun was his, and he believed he had a right to keep it. 2
    The confrontation highlights many of the questions central to discerning the meaning of the right to keep and bear arms in early America: Who had the right? What was the relationship between the right to keep and bear arms and the obligation to serve in the militia? How might the state regulate the right? Under what circumstances might an individual be disarmed? Did Americans understand this right differently from their British counterparts?

    I consider armed teachers part of the Constitutional Militia serving to protect the children of the nation from predation the same as early settlers thought of the need for all to be armed to defend their village or town from outside attack.

  6. One other thing. The nearest LEO office, related to the location of this particular North Texas High School is thirty minutes away and the town does not maintain a police force, not unlike many of the towns near my rural acreage.

    The distance from the sheriff's department to my local Texas high school (in a town with no police force of it's own) is 60 miles or so of two lane twisty roads so you might consider police response times in your "ideal world" where citizens have no need to defend themselves because that's what police are for....

    Police are janitors that mop up after the fact and type up what happened, more often than not. They are under no legal obligation to save anybody and this has been ruled over and over again in lawsuits against the police regarding injuries and deaths the police didn't prevent.

    For what it's worth, how safe is it having a sheriff or sheriffs driving like bats out of hell to get to my local high school on twisty roads that are highly favored in the national sportbiking press for being roads that are challenging race courses? Fatal accident on the way to stop a school shooter, anyone?

  7. Mike,

    Another point that I wanted to make about the civic duty.

    What if the situation was a little different?

    Let's say you are walking along at night when out of no where 2 ex NFL linebackers tackle you and commence to beating on you?
    (I stipulate the conditions because we all know there is no way strong alert ninja skilled guys like us would not be able to fight off the bad guys unless taken by surprise -grin-)

    Walking along the street is Susie School teacher (tying threads together), walking home from a long a day at school grading papers.

    Does she have a civic responsibility to try to stop the crime?

    And how could she do that effectively?

    I just checked my cities stated goals for 911 emergency dispatch; their goal is to have an emergency call dispatched in 2 minutes

    So Susie Schoolteacher has in her purse, a ruler, a cell phone or a handgun. Which do you want her pulling out?

  8. Weer'd, I agree with you right down the line. But, at the risk of continuing to be too vague, in the short run this'll work, but long range, I think it's moving us in the wrong direction.

    Anybody else agree with Thomas that firing guns is no more exhilirating than operating other "tools"? Dear Thomas, I say the same to you that I said to Weer'd. Where do you see this going? Do you really think the good guys, if enough of them would carry guns, will eventually overpower the bad guys and the world will turn safe again? Or would you admit that my concerns about the direction we're moving in could have dire consequences like never-ending escalation of violence?

    Bob, Thanks for those scenarios. In those cases I vote for the handguns, but, at what price? Where are we heading with all this?

  9. Mike,

    We've talked a lot about the "rights" involved with the 2nd amendment but we seldom talk about the responsibility.

    We not only have a right to protect ourselves, our friends and neighbors but in order to remove criminals from the streets we also have a responsibility to be ready to do what it takes, wouldn't you agree?

    If the people in the scenarios have a responsibility to act, don't teachers at school have a responsibility to act to stop a school shooting? You or I couldn't stand by and let a friend or neighbor be assaulted without getting involved. So, shouldn't we allow our teachers the same freedom to act, to act as effectively as they can?
    Firearms are the best equalizer, the most effective tool to do that.

    What I've noticed about most anti gun folks is they want everyone to sit back and let others take responsibility. They want to see the world's population divided into 3 categories; cops, crooks and victims. There is another possibility; armed citizens.
    Just as the teacher walking home could stop someone from whaling on you so she could be ready to stop a shooting at school. Wouldn't that type of active, involved, responsible citizenry go a long way to reducing crime again?

    The statistics, the results, the lives saved all point to one unmistakable conclusion: Any time the right to keep and bear arms is expanded - crime goes down.

    I don't know about you, but I'm tired of hearing stories of people robbed, murdered, raped while the neighbors, people on the street heard the crime and did nothing. Isn't it about time we said "yes, with firearms there is a risk but the rewards outweigh them".
    The dangers of cars, drinking and driving is well known; killing more then firearms yearly. Do you want to ban cars, ban alcohol to save those lives or do the rewards out weigh the risks?

    Since in no world, theoretical or otherwise will we ever get rid of crime; shouldn't we live up to the responsibilities we have to our society to make it a better place?

  10. First up, Thomas is right, guns aren't any more exhilarating than any other tool. That being said, tools are exhilarating! I remember my uncle setting up a board and some nails for my (then) young cousin to hammer them into the wood...eventually he was so good you'd just let him go to town and just check on him from time to time...every few day's he'd need a new block of wood.

    I remember felling my first tree clearing brush in my parent's back yard. I used a bright orange bow saw, and I was THRILLED how fast that blade went through the wood.

    I remember first splitting wood with a maul...same thing.

    of course now, I LIKE tools for the work they do, and I admire a fine tool, and I enjoy using them...but that THRILL is just a glimmer because its old hat. Same with guns, old hat. Lots of fun, but I'm not exactly hooting a whooping on the line.

    "Where do you see this going? Do you really think the good guys, if enough of them would carry guns, will eventually overpower the bad guys and the world will turn safe again? Or would you admit that my concerns about the direction we're moving in could have dire consequences like never-ending escalation of violence?"

    Did you actually just say "The world will turn safe again"??!!!??!

    That's your problem right there! The world has NEVER been safe, and guns don't make the WORLD safer, or solve a long-term problem that they may be put away...just like how I've been wairing a safety belt in the car since I was born...I'll never be able to STOP wearing it because cars are inherently dangerous. I know people who DON'T wear the belt...but I see them as foolish.

    The guns just provide protection, they do nothing to the world. They may act as a deterrent, but if the guns are put away, so does that benefit.

    Do I see it as an escalation in force? Nope...let's put it this way, that Kahr pistol you were talking about is a 9mm pistol ( Cartridge invented in 1902) On a polymer frame (invented in 1970...but they also make guns on an all-metal frame, which has been around for over 100 years, but based on the Browning design of 1908) and uses a Browning short-recoil action (invented around 1920)

    Now the pistol itself was fist patented in the early 90s (depending on the model) but the technology hasn't really "escalated" they made the gun smaller and lighter so you could conceal it better, and so you wouldn't have to lug around a 3 pound hogs-leg revolver all day.

    ...or my 2 pound .25 ACP pocket pistol I own, Invented in 1908, mine was made in 1917.

    There is no escalation of a matter of fact Tomas points out the EXACT opposite. Used to be, not very long ago, schools would have rifle teams. Boys would bring shotguns and stash them in their lockers so they could shoot some birds for the table on the way home, Dad's would pull up in school parking lots with guns in their car for a long-weekend at hunting camp...teachers kept guns in their desk for protection.

    Its only in the last 30 years that guns have been taken OUT of the schools.

    So I'd say there is ZERO evidence of your theory of "Wrong Direction" a matter of fact, school shootings were VERY rare (and very bizarre, if you google Charles Whitman) back when guns weren't restricted from campuses.

    Maybe I'd say the ban on guns did just the opposite.

    Also another point is the escalation of force from the police post 60-70s gun control ideals, that you seem to espouse, Mike. Back then a cop had a revolver, and maybe a shotgun. Today most cop cars have a high-capacity semi-auto pistol, an AR-15 (in some cases an M-16 with full-auto capability) possibly a shotgun....and then they're supported by a SWAT team with machine guns, SMGs, Grenade launchers and other military-weapons.

    And you're concerned about escalation of force....

  11. As a resident of the rural areas west of Austin and friendly with many who were there at the time, both civilian and LEO, I would like to point out that it was primarily private citizens that went home and got their deer rifles, some even going up in their own private aircraft with arms circling the tower and firing on him. That kept Whitman pinned down so the LEOs could get into the building and get to him and send him to meet his maker.

    A disorganized Citizen's Militia of people that mostly didn't know each other nor have any kind of real command and control spontaneously forming in response to a threat to their town and their children. Just as it should be.

    The private citizens had a lot better counter-sniping tools (deer rifles with optics) than the LEOs did. .357Mag Smith revolvers and shotguns aren't much use against a man barricaded on the roof of the tallest building in town with essentially parapets (I've been up there and it's open for visitors again now, they'd closed access to it over jumper suicides, not Whitman), but deer rifles sure made him keep his head down for most of the time. He made most of his shots in the initial short period of time of a class period change and considering the length of time he was up on the tower he spent most of the rest of his living time on earth dodging deer and varmint rifle bullets launched at him by civilians.

    There was also NO COLLATERAL DAMAGE caused by the local hunters helping to take out a sniper. Only rounds that killed anybody or wounded anybody were Whitman's and the LEOs that got to the roof. So that kills your "dangerous wild west free for all" theory of general civilian gun ownership, Mike.

  12. I mentioned Whitman for that reason, Thomas. The cops had to ask STUDENTS for help with firepower, and they certainly helped as they bought time for the cops to storm the tower.

    I'll note that it was a shotgun blast that took down Whitman, close-quarters building siege shotguns are king!

  13. Weer'd. If it ever came to us being in such a situation together, I'll take my Grendel entry rifle and you're welcome to be beside me with a shottie. Just in case he's wearing body armor and all. =]

  14. 6.5mm Grendel is a nice round. How long's the barrel on it if you call it an "Entry Rifle"

    The bayonet I have for my Mossberg 590 makes it VERY nice for coming around corners. For something like that I think I'd be willing to go back to the 3" Buckshot shells!

  15. 16.25" if you count the permanently affixed, non-removable flash suppressor to make it legal. Always best to have a barrel a 1/4" longer than legal minimum and your Overall Length too for safeties sake in case you end up in a hassle with law enforcement who doesn't like you.

    I've got a Les Baer 20" flat top upper for it too for prairie dogging. But it generally lives in entry format by the bedstand when not at the range or doing pest control. Nice thing about Stoner rifles. 30 second swap and sights are still dialed in.

  16. I really want me one of Springer's shorty M-14s. Now that's my idea of a SHTF gun...that and my Mossy for closer work, and the 1911s...well 1911s all the time : ]

  17. on exhilaration... the last time i actually pulled a trigger on a live round was over fifteen years ago now; in the conscripted army of my native country, firing an AK-47. it wasn't exhilarating, it was challenging, because of trying to hit the target well --- i really enjoyed shooting the 300 meter slow fire course, but it was hard!

    "exhilarating" was doing my part in a "mad minute" - style artillery barrage, manning the aiming station of a Russian-made 152mm howitzer, the whole crew firing as fast as we possibly could. i had time to check and fix the elevation or the windage between shots, but not both, so i had to alternate... and the eight-metric-ton piece would recoil over half a meter straight back at me every time the lanyard was pulled, just about closing the distance i'd jumped back before... it'd take a lot for any small arms experience to match that, i think.

  18. This is the thread where I wanted to say what started out as an anti-gun discussion has turned into something quite different.

    Nomen, that's a real gun. I see what you mean after firing that cannon small arms don't provide much of a thrill.

  19. I'd also say conscripeted arms can't be seen the same as picking a gun and choosing to take it to the range, or drop it in a holster.

    Somthing we don't much discuss or think about here.

    Still on a similar vein, this is likely why many cops are horrible shots. Its rare that a police officer chose to take that challenging career path just to pack an issued sidearm. There are DEFINITE gunnies in every police department (I shoot with several of them) but the majority joined the force out of Duty or history, or to help people amoung other things. The gun, like the flashlight, like the multi-tool, like the knife, like the handcuffs, like the ballistic vest, like the radieo, like the baton ect ect ect are all just tools of the trade, and you can't expect every cop to be gung-ho over their sidearm or ammo loading (The type of ammo is a HUGE deal to me) as much as you'd expect them to be crazy about their handcuff brand or use, or the type of baton they carry, or the pen they use to write citations.

    So with all that many do what they're told with the gun, they load it and carry it every day, they clean it whenever they're required to, and they qualify once or twice a year in the prescribed fasion. Most won't shoot any more than that, or undertake any more advanced training than is required....and why would you expect them to?

    My old job I was required to know CPR, I took the perscribed class once a year (I even let my card lapse a few times) I never took a more advanced EMT course, nor did I take an unneeded refresher, and when I left that job my card expired and went into the trash.

    It would be BETTER if I had my CPR currernt, or even knew some more advanced training....but let's face it, I don't want to commit the time to it.

  20. In the final reckoning, and back to your initial quesioning, Mike:

    Nothing will ever turn the world "safe".

    It never has been or will be a safe place.

    But one can make one self safer and more prepared to deal with predation.

    Humans are the only species arrogant enough to think they deserve the right to die of old age. But it's wishful thinking. Impossible for that to become the norm.

  21. Balanced, IMHO, article from the Houston paper on the actual issue at hand with details as to the school and it's relation to possible law enforcement response abilities.

  22. A point for Mike to ponder, perhaps?

  23. More grist for the brain mills.