Why not have self-defense weapons in schools?
The fact that the media and the anti-gun lobby is treating this suggestion by the NRA president, Wayne LaPierre, as ridiculous on its face is an indication of their paranoid ideology and not fact. Michael Moore opined that Americans buy guns because “we’re a very frightened people“. Somehow, I’ve never felt frightened with a shotgun in my hand – but what is certain – the American political left is absolutely paralyzed with a fear of guns and those of us who bitterly cling to them.
Guns have become personified as inherently evil, so any practical or logical thought or debate is apparently impossible.
Let’s look at some rational facts about general safety around campuses, both in public and private K-12 schools and in colleges and universities in the US.
According to this ABC report, the total “mass” school shooting fatalities over the past 15 years, including the Sandy Hook tragedy, stands at 91 victims. This number does not count fatalities outside the schools but does include school employees and teachers. For example, in the case of Sandy Hook, it does not include the suicide of Adam Lanza or his murder of his mother, Nancy. See the table below:
|School Shootings (1997-2012)|
|Heath High School, West Paducah, KY||1997||3|
|West Side Middle School, Jonesboro, AR||1998||5|
|Thurtson High School, Springfield, OR||1998||2|
|Columbine High School, CO||1999||12|
|Red Lake Indian Reservation, MN||2005||7|
|Amish Schoolhouse, Lancaster County, PA||2006||3|
|Chardon High School, Ohio||2012||3|
|Total Years/Fatalities/Fatalities per year||15||91||6.1|
Pursuing the calculations further to generate a relatable statistic, we looked at total K-12 public and private enrollment (from data at the National Center for Education Statistics) and the total students enrolled in public and private colleges and universities (also from the NCES but found in condensed form here) and discovered that there are an estimated 72.2 million students that are attending classes in one of these academic settings each day in America.
We then went to the National Fire Protection Association to determine the fatality rates for fires in school or dorm settings and found that based on their data:
In 2005-2009, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 3,840 structure fires in dormitories, fraternities, sororities, and barracks. These fires caused an annual average of 3 civilian deaths, 38 civilian fire injuries, and $20.9 million in direct property damage. Note: Dormitories include school, college and university dormitories; fraternity and sorority houses; monasteries; bunk houses; barracks; and nurses’ quarters.
The statistical table below shows that the average fatalities over the past 15 years in so called “mass school shootings” is 6.6 fatalities a year or 0.00126 fatalities per 1000 students.
|Total US Students/Shooting Fatality Rates/Campus Fire Fatalities|
|K-12 Enrollment (Public)||49,300,000|
|K-12 Enrollment (Private)||5,400,000|
|College and University||17,500,000|
|15 year Fatality Rate/1000 students||0.00126|
|2012 Fatality Rate/1000 students||0.00037|
|Campus and Dormitory Fires (2005-2009)||3840|
|Occurrence rate per year (2005-2009)||768|
|Mass School Shootings (1997 – 2012)||9|
|Occurrence rate per year (1997-2012)||0.6|
One might say that 6.6 per year is twice the rate of fire fatalities – and it is – but consider this: fires also happen at an annual rate of over 1,200 times higher than shootings. Why are there so few fatalities? Because in every dorm, building and classroom there are several layers of fire protection – including alarms, sprinkler systems and fire extinguishers.
And yet with all these layers of protection, we still had an average of 3 students killed per year.
In our schools the protection against the next Adam Lanza, Eric Harris or Dylan Klebold amounts to a sign that says “This Is A Gun Free Zone”.
We shouldn’t be so ignorant or afraid to entertain the possibility that there will be another attempt to attack a school where a shooter knows that they will be met with token opposition at best. What would stop a terrorist attack in the mode of the Beslan School Massacre that occurred in North Ossetia (Russian Federation) in 2004 that left 380 people dead? Why is that so unthinkable in the US?
To my thinking – it isn’t. I am actually surprised that some insane terrorist group hasn’t tried to hit a “soft” target like a school or a shopping center yet.
We don’t need an arsenal at our schools. We don’t need a cadre of trained marksmen who can shoot a 2 inch group at a thousand yards. What we do need and can have are a few trained personnel with access to close order, defensive weapons like a couple of simple twelve gauge pump action or semi-automatic tactical shotguns and a will to use them.
While I am humbled and proud of the teachers in Newtown who shielded those innocent children with their own bodies, I am just a angry that they had absolutely no chance of survival without some way to fight back. Why would we ever want to place that kind of responsibility for human life into a person’s hands without at least assuring them that they can be something more than a sacrificial lamb?
Yet we place every teacher, administrator and school employee in that position every school day.
Tactical shotguns are not complicated. These are very simple weapons to use. You don’t need extensive training or expert marksmanship skills. If you have the skills to point and click on your computer, you have the skills to fire these weapons. You just point the open end at the target and pull the trigger.
These weapons are also very easy to secure while giving quick access to them. A lockable wall rack (no different than a wall case for a fire extinguisher), a biometric trigger lock and a chamber safety plug would allow three layers of security with the weapon in and out of the rack…and it would allow the weapons to be stored with rounds in the magazines to be chambered immediately with a quick rack or the push of a button to chamber a round and ready the weapon for firing. Once a round is chambered, then the integral safety built into every modern weapon provides protection against accidental discharge until the target is acquired.
Worried about leathality? Load the magazine with a round of rubber bullets or #9 shot before going to 00 buckshot. Give them one round to get their attitude adjusted and if they don’t pay attention, the next round will stop them altogether. I can tell you from my own experience with getting stung with #9 shot while dove hunting, even at about 40 yards out, it gets your attention pretty quickly.
Having a system like this installed in or near a school’s central office would also mean that public knowledge of the existence of the weapons would likely either 1) deter a shooter from attacking a school at all or 2) cause him to attempt to neutralize these weapons first and thereby focus the initial attack on the office instead of the classroom.
But this common sense and sensible approach does not conjure up the image of a reckless saloon of the 1800’s, complete with the mythical random gunplay and teachers strapped with Colt Dragoon’s, so we are left with the hyperbolic rantings of the handwringing, “oh, dear” political class and their knowing use of a paralyzing fear on the left of what they do not know or understand to achieve a political goal.
This is by no means an attempt to depersonalize these past school shooting tragedies, but if we are to have the debate about guns and schools, let’s at least be rational about it. This post is an attempt to cut through the banshee like screaming of the institutional and and reflexive “progressives” and their fear of guns – and people with knowledge of them. The true shame is that there is nothing but pure ignorance and stupidity that stops us from protecting our kids. We do so for fire protection, so why are we so willing to try to abrogate the rights of 312 million American citizens when the answer is self-evident?
Don’t kid yourself, it isn’t about Sandy Hook, Columbine or West End Middle School in Jonesboro, Arkansas – it is about a leftist paranoia over a Constitutional right that they simply don’t understand, used to protect against a threat that most of them do not comprehend.