School days, gun days…..

Back to School

It’s back to school in most of the country. I really do love the photos on Facebook of kids of various ages in various outfits and displaying various facial expressions. Some are obviously not so happy with their parents’ photos. But they are obligatory and I still have the photos of my kids on their first days of school. Now they are taking photos of their own kids.

There will be lots of things on the minds of our kids. My grandson just wrote two papers for Advanced English and Advanced Biology classes in his high school.He loved both of the books he read and his papers reflected his own opinions after reading the books. One was A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. 

The reading of this book led our family to having a serious and interesting discussion about the origins of the universe as we sat on the deck of our cabin looking at the stars and even some shooting stars.

I loved this discussion and watched his mind as it was literally expanding before us.

What I don’t love is the thought that his school could be the subject of a school shooting. And it could based on all evidence and our history with school shootings. This is also on the mind of our students. Or maybe, as this article suggests, it is more on the mind of parents and kids pick up on the anxiety displayed by their parents:

Schools have active shooter drills to get everyone used to their safety plan. “The more you practice something, the more you rehearse it, you lay the mental tracks so that you decrease the tendency to freeze in the case of a real emergency and you can go quickly into action,” explains Dr. Howard. “In the military you do realistic drills because you really will be in combat, but this is a low-probability event. You just need to lay the tracks so you decrease those few seconds of reaction time.”

Who can blame parents all things considered.

The thing is, schools are not the military and should not have to be “hardened” against school shootings. The article talks little about gun violence prevention and actually working to keep school shooters from getting guns in the first place. Kids should be able to study English and Biology without fear of being shot and not getting home to be with their families. Families should not have to be anxious that sending their child off to school in the morning could be the last time they see or hug their child.

A recent article article from the Star Tribune focused on school safety as well. 

It’s all about what schools around Minnesota are doing to keep students safe from shootings. A lot of money has been spent to construct secure entrances, metal screening devices, security lights and cameras and other things that will only alert those in the building to a shooting already happening. It all makes a lot of common sense.

Again, no mention of guns or how to keep school shooters from accessing guns. We just can’t talk about school shootings without talking about the role of guns in shootings. It’s that simple. What about prevention?

It’s the guns.

As proof, a San Francisco area school year got off to a bang when a student brought a gun to school and was “playing with it” in the back of the room when it discharged:

A 14-year-old girl student told NBC Bay Area that the gun went off in her class in the auditorium. She explained that she witnessed one student saying to another, in a joking way, “do you want me to shoot you?”

The other student said “yeah OK,” not taking the other student seriously, according to the witness. Then, the student with the gun started fumbling with his backpack and the firearm went off, the witness said.

Authorities said one person sustained a non-life threatening injury during the incident. One student sustained non-life threatening injuries unrelated to the firearm discharge and was evaluated and released to parents at the scene, police said. No other students were injured in this incident.

First of all, how did that gun get into his backpack? Second, why did he take it out of the backpack and play with it? Third, it was loaded. Adults are responsible for that. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult.

These are serious concerns. Guns are lethal weapons designed to kill others. They should be safely stored, unloaded, away from the hands of small children and teens. This will also protect them from being stolen. It is not a small thing or to be shrugged off when something like this happens in our schools. These incidents are not isolated. They happen often enough for us to be very concerned. Luckily no one was killed- this time.

So it was gratifying to see that a major American corporation was persuaded by the student survivors of the Parkland shooting to change the policies regarding guns in their stores. And they are going to put their money where there mouths are:

That’s why Levi Strauss & Co. is stepping up our support for gun violence prevention. You may wonder why a company that doesn’t manufacture or sell guns is wading into this issue, but for us, it’s simple. Americans shouldn’t have to live in fear of gun violence. It’s an issue that affects all of us—all generations and all walks of life.

The stakes could not be higher. On an average day, 96 Americans are killed by guns, and hundreds more are wounded. Most are suicides or unintentional shootings. Our nation’s gun homicide rate is more than 25 times the average rate of other high-income countries. Some shootings make the headlines; some you never hear of; but each one is a tragedy.

So today, on top of our previous actions, Levi Strauss & Co. is lending its support for gun violence prevention in three new areas.

First, we have established the Safer Tomorrow Fund, which will direct more than $1 million in philanthropic grants from Levi Strauss & Co. over the next four years to fuel the work of nonprofits and youth activists who are working to end gun violence in America.

This is only the beginning of what is going to happen after the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Texas and the aftermath of the shooting as students did not remain quiet but raised their voices loudly and clearly.

So as the school year begins, we can only hope that we won’t see more tragedies. Unfortunately we will. It’s just a matter of time before another teen who may be troubled or bullied or fascinated with guns or has some mental difficulties accesses a gun he cannot own and takes it to school to shoot at random kids or friends or those he perceives have slighted him or bullied him.

Much can be done to solve the problem of school gun violence. But if we refuse to talk about the guns and where they come from, we will be failing our kids and our country.

Please join the students in their fierce efforts to make changes to the conversation and changes to our gun laws to prevent shootings. It’s not rocket science. It’s about saving lives and stopping the carnage.

We can do this. Support a local, state or national group working to end gun violence and to pass gun safety reform measures. That, too, is simple. If you are anxious about school shootings, stand up and speak out. Lives depend on it.

The absurd idea of arming teachers

lion roaringThe majority of Americans can agree that our children ought to be safe in their schools from shootings. What we can’t agree on is how to make that happen. In recent days since the Parkland, Florida school shooting that took the lives of 17 innocent high school kids, the rhetoric has been noisier and more insistent than ever before. What is happening now is a movement such as we have not seen before. It has a life of its’ own. It’s the teens who are speaking out without worry of push-back from the adults. It’s the adults who are following- or not- what the teens are saying and demanding.

Some adults have tried their usual conspiracy theory ideas out on the teens but it’s not working. They are fighting back. It’s hard for me to imagine the frame of mind of an adult attacking a teen who has just experienced one of the worst school shootings in America. But then again, there a lot of extreme and mean people in the world who have become so radicalized that they literally cannot stop themselves from acting like total idiots.

What the teens, teachers, general public and most politicians are NOT clamoring for is arming teachers. But President Trump has been way out there with the absurd notion that kids would be safer with armed teachers. And in his ramblings as he starts talking and tweeting with no facts or common sense, he has said the most absurd things I have heard on this topic.

The President is mouthing the propaganda of the NRA. For decades, that organization, run by lobbyists, extremists and gun manufacturers, have been trying to get guns into our schools. It would be, of course, yet another market for the sale of guns and possible training classes sponsored by the NRA. Follow the money.

This stupid and dangerous idea is not even supported by most veterans, who understand what it’s like to face down an “armed enemy” and kill another human being. From the article:

Critics seized on Peterson’s failure to act. The left held it up as evidence that armed guards won’t prevent shootings, while people on the right—including President Trump—used Peterson as a scapegoat, the exception that proves the rule. Peterson, according to Trump, either “didn’t react properly under pressure or [was] a coward.”

It’s a simple, if reductive explanation, and an easy one for those who’ve never experienced the mental and physical toll of a firefight scenario. But as some with combat experience, like retired General Mark Hertling, the one time commander of the United States Army in Europe, pointed out on Twitter, freezing up in a potential combat scenario, or failing to perform your duty, is not unusual.

“While soldiers/security are trained to run to the sound of the guns…not all do for a variety of psychological reasons. It happens more often than most would think, and it’s part of human nature,” he said.

Human nature? Let’s ignore that and pretend all teachers have nerves of steel and would defy logic and human nature. Because then we can continue with our fantasy about armed teachers.

Even law enforcement officers only hit their marks about 18% of the time.:

Yet, even with all of their training, it’s hard for police officers to hit a target and harder still in chaotic conditions.

The New York Police Department is the nation’s largest police force and among the best trained, yet its own study showed between 1998 and 2006, the average hit rate was 18 percent for officers in a gunfight.

So what makes the President think that teachers would do better given the panic of a school shooter, kids shouting, running, trying to escape or find cover? Here are all the reasons why this is a terrible, absurd idea:

I could go on but these are just common sense reasons why arming teachers is absurd. I am a retired educator and went through many lock-down drills while working. I knew that my job was to get the kids out of the halls, into a room, lock the door, turn off the lights, hide in a closet ( which I didn’t have) or behind furniture and stay with the kids to keep them from running or panicking. Had I stepped away from this responsibility I would have left the kids on their own and would have caused more problems for all.

Officers don’t know who the “good guy” with a gun is in these situations and will shoot anyone they see with a weapon. No one knows who the good guy is. Kids and others may run and in a split second a mistake could be made. I could shoot and kill a child or someone else by mistake. That happens in these situations and even with trained officers.

I would be absurd to arm teachers.

But let me talk about more absurdities. The President seems to have cornered the market on absurdity when it comes to this issue. And that is saying it kindly. Cynicism is another word for all of this. If we just deflect the conversation from actually doing something about keeping guns away from those who shouldn’t have them in the first place, we wouldn’t need to have this conversation in the first place. But that is not what the NRA and corporate gun lobby wants and so the President is doing their bidding and talking about what they want him to talk about.

Just watch the video from an article about comedian John Oliver’s attack on the President’s idea (some offensive language) :

He, Trump that is, met with the ridiculous NRA VP Wayne LaPierre and other NRA leaders a few days ago. I can imagine the conversation.

“Don’t worry about a thing. I’ll make statements about arming teachers to distract from the things you guys don’t want. It will be fine. I’ll talk about doing something about gun violence- like raising the age of purchase for assault rifles to 21 but I won’t really mean it and I won’t push it. I’ll talk about requiring background checks on all gun sales but in a few weeks, people will forget about it and it won’t happen. I’ll mention the Fix NICS bill that has been languishing in Congress for a long time but don’t worry, I’ll make sure that doesn’t happen either. I know you guys will support me and my lapdogs when I run again so I’ll just lie. I do it all the time and about 38% of Americans believe me. My base will be happy when none of this happens and we’ll all move on. O.K.? Believe me. ”

Other absurdities from the President include:

  • Making up some cockemamy idea that 20% of teachers should be armed.
  • Talking about only people who can handle guns well should have them in schools.
  • Talking about arming teachers who are former or current military because there are so many of them teaching in our schools.
  • Claiming that the real problem is the lack of courage of the armed officers who didn’t go into the school to challenge the shooter.
  • Saying( from link above):  “”I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon, and I think most of the people in this room would have done that, too,” He was sure of that. ( I mean, he alone can take care of everything.) Just leave it to him. All will be fine. He will be around for every school or mass shooting and run into the building to save the day.
  • We just need to “harden” our schools and all will be fine. Let’s surround them all with the fencing used at our prisons and have no windows or bullet-proof windows. That should make the learning atmosphere pleasant and inviting for students and the public.

And I do love the idea of the Oath Keepers stationing armed “volunteers” outside of every school to protect the buildings. Good grief. Who are these guys?

All of this nonsense is cynical and intended to deceive us into complacency once again. It’s to get us to shut up and go away. They don’t want to see the faces or hear the words of the students, who are a lot brighter and more articulate than most of their elected leaders. I just read this piece from Emma Gonzáles, one of the Parkland students, whose wisdom is beyond her years.:

What matters is that the majority of American people have become complacent in a senseless injustice that occurs all around them. What matters is that most American politicians have become more easily swayed by money than by the people who voted them into office. What matters is that my friends are dead, along with hundreds upon hundreds of others all over the United States. (…) “If you have ever lost someone very important to you, then you already know how it feels, and if you haven’t, then you cannot possibly imagine it,” wrote Lemony Snicket in The Bad Beginning: A Series of Unfortunate Events. There are people who do not know, and will never know, what it feels like to go through this. For that I am eternally thankful. But to the people out there who disagree with us: if you have ever felt what it’s like to deal with all of this, you would know we aren’t doing this for attention. If these funerals were for your friends, you would know this grief is real, not paid for. We are children who are being expected to act like adults, while the adults are proving themselves to behave like children.

Where are the adults? Where is common sense? You cannot possibly imagine it. But I can.

The NRA is meeting its’ match at long last. Right now they have a mouth piece in the White House and they have Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell- cowards in the face of tragedy- calling the shots ( excuse the pun). From the linked article:

Ryan also emphasized that sentiment: “There was a colossal breakdown in the system locally… and we need to get to the bottom of this to [find out] how these breakdowns occurred, from … the armed officer who was in the school at that time, to the FBI who failed to follow up on a glaring tip that this young man wanted to shoot up a school.”

Thank you Paul Ryan. More deceptions and deflections and cynicism. More putting it off for another day until another dozen or more students are shot in a school or a gunman enters a mall or church and mows down innocent citizens. The thing is, we know where the “colossal breakdown” is- it’s you and your cynical colleagues in Congress.

But that is not going to last for long. If candidates for election or re-election think they can get away with silence or lying or mimicking gun lobby talking points, they are mistaken. We have seen the man behind the curtain and he is evil and he is weak. He lacks the courage of the cowardly lion. He is corrupt with money and influence of the NRA. And maybe even the Russians. He is scared of the wrong things. He has scared a minority of Americans into thinking the wrong things for the wrong reasons.

“We’ve met the enemy and he is us”. He is a minority of us as it turns out. But he is still in power and in control of our government. We need to throw him out. We need to keep the curtain drawn. We need to see him naked without the emperor’s clothing that has been fooling us.

We are not fooled. We are marching and we are calling and we are writing and we are talking and chanting and lobbying and traveling to DC and rallying and sending lots of emails to legislators and Congress.

And we will vote in November.

Hear our voices.

Hear us roar.