( – promoted by Rex Banner)
My MA thesis was an analysis of attempts to reduce dependence on foreign oil by increasing fuel economy. My final conclusion is that the idea doesn’t work because there is a huge disconnect between a car driving down the highway and the country of origin for the oil used to make the gasoline in its tank. While it isn’t a bad idea to have more efficient vehicles, more efficient vehicles don’t change where our refineries get their oil.
Put in those terms, it doesn’t even sound like a reasonable idea. But there are dozens of areas where we do this. For example, some people observe that the standard of living for someone on welfare is better than the standard of living for someone working a minimum wage job – and decide that we should cut back on welfare instead of boosting minimum wage.
So far, the response to Sandy Hook has been the same.
The short story of Sandy Hook is that a guy with a clinical diagnosis took weapons from a family member and committed an act that is beyond the furthest description of evil. One response has been to call for better mental health care – and I agree that it is sorely needed. Another has been to call for gun bans or regulations – and I agree that there are common sense measures that should be taken. But both measures – even taken together – fall short of meaningfully addressing the central issue.
Even if the shooter (I refuse to glorify his name) had the best mental health care; there is no assurance that it would have changed the outcome. Mental health is tricky. Better access to mental health professionals and treatment would surely reduce the chances of such actions. But it doesn’t provide assurance. All things being held equal – a reduction of the possibility of violent outbursts is a good thing, and it is worth the cost to address.
Banning the future sales of guns of any type won’t solve the problem, either. There are already enough guns out there to cause wave after wave of tragedy. Bringing guns out of the hands of private citizens is especially problematic because as long as the 2nd Amendment exists unamended – and the federal courts exist in their current Conservative thrall – any measure to forcibly remove guns from the hands of citizens is going to be struck down. The restriction of ammunition will face the same issues. As with mental health, it is still worth pursuing the limitations that we can enact. But it won’t stop the next person who already has a gun and has stockpiled ammo.
I’ve spent the last decade working in more than a handful of educational institutions. Each time a shooting happened, I discussed it with my students – and each time I reached the same conclusion. Namely that schools are built to contain and containerize groups of people. They are not built to facilitate a speedy evacuation, which means that they are built to become death traps as soon as the lever is tripped.
This is where I bring up the counter-argument that armed personnel inside schools would make things safer, or at least give students a “fighting chance.” My belief is that it would simply lead to more deaths. More bullets flying in an enclosed space with walls that can cause ricochets and soft human bodies spread through the room is not a recipe for greater safety. The argument for armed personnel predicates its effectiveness on the school personnel responding almost before the incident starts – that they can shoot straight and true while avoiding bullets flying in their way and carnage all about. It’s an argument that no one I’ve ever spoken to who has seen combat thinks is workable.
There has been a lot of well-deserved praise for Victoria Soto, the teacher at Sandy Hook who died after hiding her kids in closets. What hasn’t been said is that she HAD to take that action. If her classroom was like most of them I have had; then there was one way in and one way out. With a homicidal maniac standing in the hallway, all she could do is hide and hope.
What if there had been a door leading to an adjoining room? The students – and their teacher – could have stepped through the door, locked it, and perhaps evacuated before the shooter found anything other than an empty room. What if there had been a hammer to break open a window with an escape ladder that could be used to move children directly to the outside?
It isn’t just shooters that are a problem for school personnel. Tornadic storms, fire, flash floods…any threat of harm generally results in the same action from school personnel – hunker down and hope for the best. But hoping for the best is not a policy, it is the last desperate hope for the dying.