January 12, 2013

Issac Bailey | Armed teachers? Not for my kids

My kids are in the 5th and 3rd grades.

My kids are in the 5th and 3rd grades.

Their teachers should not carry guns to school.

And though I didn’t ask, I suspect they wouldn’t want to anyway. It’s hard enough to teach, let alone be asked to simulate Rambo in case of emergency.

It doesn’t matter if the guns are concealed or high-powered pistols or .223 caliber assault rifles.

It doesn’t matter if they are being carried by former Marines or National Guardsmen.

Short of the U.S. becoming a war zone, guns don’t belong in classrooms.

It’s not worth it.

The problem isn’t too few guns; the problem is that our rate of gun violence is too high, and that includes the kinds of accidental shootings that take the lives of 2-year-olds, as happened Christmas Day in Conway, drive-by-shootings, and suicides, which seem to be more successful when guns are present in the home.

School board members in Horry and Georgetown counties and beyond are considering what to do about safety in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre, which took the lives of 20 children and six adults, as well as those of the gunman and his mother.

There will be passionate debate about the need to provide better security. And for many of the loudest debaters, adding more guns seems the perfect solution. That we have the No. 1 rate of gun violence in the world among like countries doesn’t move them much.

Maybe adding security guards or school resource officers into elementary schools is a sensible step, at least one that should be given a full, fair hearing.

But no matter which side we come down on that debate, more armed guards is not the sole solution for what ails us. What we face is much bigger than that.

Columbine High School had a security guard protecting its property in 1999 when two teenage gunmen unleashed the massacre that put the risk of gruesome school violence on everyone’s radar.

Virginia Tech University had an armed force on campus when a young man perpetrated what was, and still is, the worst school shooting in our country’s history.

Closer to home, there are two ways to look at what could have been an attack at Socastee High School. The resource officer there subdued a student who showed up in the officer’s campus office with a gun and bad intentions. But had that student simply gone to the cafeteria – where dozens if not hundreds of students were – and skipped the direct confrontation with the officer, he could have gotten off several shots before that officer would have been able to respond. That indicates the student perhaps didn’t mean to commit mass murder, given he had the opportunity and means by which to do it. Had he done that, Socastee would be spoken in the same sentence as Sandy Hook and Columbine, and the gun control and safety debate along the Grand Strand today would be much different.

I suspect had the worst happened here, wed be more willing to discuss our full range of options. We’d listen to law enforcement officials more about how best to balance the rights embedded in the Second Amendment with the need to curb gun violence, and to retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who reminded us recently that assault weapons were meant for the battlefield, not for our streets.

I suspect we’d be more willing to listen to one another, that we’d demand that more than a national gun appreciation day should take place on Jan. 19, that we’d care more about the power inherent in a collective effort to deal with this issue than the power of our individual guns.

We were fortunate that an armed resource officer helped prevent a bigger tragedy.

But we shouldn’t allow that good fortune to shield us from the hard work it will take to rid ourselves of the American scourge that is gun violence.

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