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Guns in schools

Published December 28, 2012 6:35 pm

No more decisions made in a panic
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

No school district in the country would allow a person to teach your children the difference between an isosceles triangle and a quadratic equation without first earning a four-year college degree and getting some real-world student teaching experience under her belt. Yet, here we are, considering the possibility that your children would be safer if their teachers, principals, bus drivers and lunch ladies started packing concealed weapons after an afternoon in a classroom.

Yes. It's insane. But it is also what people do when they are frightened, not only for themselves but for their children. Which many people are after what happened in Newtown.

It is not unlike many of the decisions we made after the terrorist attacks of 9/11: Torture. Kidnapping. Secret prisons. Widespread wiretapping programs that shred the Constitution. And a couple of wars.

But, hey, at least we didn't just stand there and do nothing.

A rapid drive to arm teachers fits in that category. As one would discover by listening to the real experts in the field.

Even Utah's newest congressman, Chris Stewart, a conservative Republican if ever there was one, draws from his experience as an Air Force officer — handling weapons capable of destroying entire cities — to point out that the personality and experience necessary to be of any use in a firefight, no matter how well armed one may be, is not widespread.

It certainly is not conveyed with any kind of training program as puny as the one required to obtain a concealed carry permit in Utah. A few hours in a classroom, no psychological evaluation, not even a moment actually firing a weapon, even to get used to the feel and the sound of the thing, is not training. It is a sick, sick joke.

The ability to keep one's head when all those about are, quite understandably, losing theirs may be a little more common among teachers than the general population. But simply adding a gun to a pocket or a desk drawer does not turn Mr. Kotter into Mr. Bond.

Someday, an armed teacher might well bring down a would-be mass murderer after the death of one or two, instead of 10 or 20, innocents. It is just a matter of how many more single deaths — accidents, suicides, adolescent rages — we are willing to tolerate as the inevitable side-effect of preparing in that way for an event that, still, is one in a million.

Security in public places, especially those as sensitive as public schools, is and will always be a complicated matter, requiring us to weigh many factors. More guns in the hands of people who are not fully — fully — qualified in their use is not the answer. It is another problem.