Posts Tagged ‘Guns in School’

Sandy Hook’s Fruits: More Good Guys With Guns… But Certified Good Guys With Guns

December 11, 2017 Leave a comment

AP reporter Michael Melia writes:

In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting five years ago, districts have moved to bolster security, especially at elementary schools, which traditionally have not had police assigned to them like many high schools and middle schools. Many have hired retired officers, firefighters and other responsible adults — an approach that’s less expensive and potentially less intrusive than assigning sworn police, but one that also has raised questions about the consistency of training and standards.

It is sad but not surprising that the ultimate reaction to the shootings that took place five years ago at Sandy Hook is more security guards. And also sad BUT surprising that parents and community members are fearful that any hiring and privatization of these guard services needs to be tightly regulated. Surprising because those same groups are silent about the ongoing deregulation and privatization of every other individual hired by the schools. In the case of school districts, it seems that taxpayers will do anything they can to lower costs, especially if the unions push back against it. That effort has led to the widespread hiring of non-certified and inexperienced teachers (i.e. TFA “graduates”) and the use of computer technology to increase class size and thereby diminish the need for teachers. But when it comes to protecting children at the door of the schoolhouse, the lack of certification standards raises questions:

The rise in the number of districts turning to private security has led to calls elsewhere to impose standards for school guards, particularly in cases where school boards allow for them to be armed.

In New Jersey, a law passed last year establishes a special class of law enforcement officers providing school security. The measure was sought by the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police to encourage minimum training standards, according to the associat ion’s president, North Plainfield Police Chief William Parenti. Chiefs, he said, noticed fewer police officers were being assigned to schools because of budget cuts and districts were replacing them with private security, including armed guards.

In an ideal world, we would not dream of allowing armed guards is schools… and civic leaders like Chief Parenti would be as outspoken about the replacement of experienced, certified teachers with untrained recruits and robots. But such an ideal world would require an openness to higher taxes, to focussing on the care and nurturance of children instead of their safety, and value compassion as much as it values protection.



Revisiting Predictions on President Trump’s Impact on Public Education IV: Guns and Net Neutrality

December 2, 2017 Leave a comment

A year ago I wrote several posts on Donald Trump’s forthcoming presidency. Today I take a look at how Mr. Trump’s stand on two issues is playing out as compared to predictions I offered in 2016… and I am not happy to report that my predictions are coming true.

Last November 15 I wrote a post with the title  “My First Day There’s No More Gun-Free Zones”, a title derived from a pledge Mr. Trump repeatedly made on the campaign trail. To date, Mr. Trump has not kept this pledge, in large measure because he cannot undo legislation by executive order. But, as Politifact’s Gabrielle Healy reported in April, that does not mean the issue is dead:

There has been some interest on the congressional level.

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., introduced a bill, the Safe Students Act, in the House to repeal the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990, on Jan. 3.

On Jan. 12, the House referred the bill to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations, and there’s been no further developments on the bill since then.

Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., also introduced a bill, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, that would allow gun owners to conceal and carry weapons in any public spaces that allow guns, regardless of their state residency.

A provision of that bill could undo part of the current law that creates gun-free zones in schools because it would exempt concealed carry permit holders from that law, according to The Trace.

And while one would hope that recent slaughters by gunmen and school shootings might compel the legislature to rethink these ideas, I would not be surprised to find something like this embedded as a rider in, say, a budget bill. Neither Mr. Trump nor the NRA is likely to forget this pledge, which Politifact deemed to be “In The Works” in April.

As for Net Neutrality, in a November 24, 2016 post titled “Trump Just Put Net Neutrality on Death Row” I endorsed the prediction made by open internet advocates that the two appointments he made to the FCC would doom net neutrality. As we learned a few days before Thanksgiving of this year, that prediction has come true. The only hope now is for the courts to intervene.

So we now have lots of guns for everyone and fast internet for those who can afford it. I don’t see either of these as making our country great again… but I might be wrong.

Another School Shooting in California, Another Predictable Reaction, Another Reason to Control Weapons Sales

November 16, 2017 Leave a comment

I read several reports on the most recent case of a gunman opening fire on innocent children who were attending school, including this one in USA Today describing the heroism of the head custodian at the school under fire and the prompt action taken by teachers to shelter their students and this NYTimes article detailing the man who did the shooting. Here’s a description of how the shooting at the school happened:

Just before 8 a.m., the gunman, who was armed with at least a semiautomatic rifle and two handguns, first shot a woman near his home with whom he had a continuing dispute. But the remaining victims were shot at random, the authorities said, as he fired at people walking on the streets, driving in their cars and sitting in their homes.

This individual shooter was bent on engaging and killing people at random,” Mr. Johnston said.

Coy Ferreira said he was one of a group of terrified people who took shelter inside Rancho Tehama School, the elementary school, where bullets crashed through the window of the classroom he was in, wounding a boy. “There was gunshots going for a good 25 minutes,” he told KRCR, a television station.

This shooting incident has changed my thinking on school safety to a degree. It has convinced me that every school in the nation should be required to develop plans for sheltering students in the case of an active shooter and to have at least annual drills on the implementation of those plans. Rancho Tehama, where this shooting took place, is a rural and geographically isolated small town in California. It is the kind of place where a school shooting seems like a remote possibility. The kind of community where training small children children to learn how to react to a school shooting seems like an over-reaction. But every report on the Rancho Tehama shooting made the same point: if not for the prompt and effective response of the teachers and school staff many more lives would have been lost. And while the articles did not say so explicitly, I know from my experience as a school administrator that the staff’s response was the result of training on emergency protocols developed by the staff with assistance from local law enforcement officials and emergency responders and the State Department of Education.

Developing protocols to deal with emergencies is a time consuming process and implementing them requires teamwork within the school and between the school and local law enforcement and emergency responders. The financial cost of developing these protocols is minimal. In our region the individuals responsible for their development and implementation often write the plans and review them during their work time. School districts can use frameworks developed at their respective State Departments and draw on the expertise of consultants who can offer workshops for administrators and teachers. In many communities in our region the police and fire departments will convene weekend sessions involving school administrators to conduct exercises on how they might respond to emergencies like train or truck accidents that involve chemical spills, dire weather emergencies, and, nowadays, school shootings.

While the financial cost for developing these protocols is relatively minimal, the emotional costs are high. When school children and teachers conduct drills that require them to lock down a school because a shooter is potentially lurking outside, it makes children fearful. Indeed, inculcating a fear of random shooters is an implicit part of these sheltering drills in the same way that inculcating a fear of fire is an implicit part of fire drills.

The Rancho Tehama shootings make it clear to me that we need to accept the trade off that this incident teaches: as long as we are unwilling to restrict the access to weapons in this country we need to inculcate a fear of gunmen in our children and temper that fear by assuring them that we have a means of keeping them safe should a shooter select their school as a target.

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In Virginia, Fear Generates Funds for Schools

October 20, 2017 Leave a comment

I read with a degree of dismay that the Virginia legislature will be giving several Central Virginia districts over $200,000 to beef up their security. As described in an article by Sydney Shadael in yesterday’s Lynchburg News and Advance several districts in that region will get anywhere from $22,000 to $80,000+ to install new safety devices like devices that automatically alert police and parents when a school is under a lockdown and  ID badges, cameras, and door locks. The article indicated that this was the fourth year such grants were offered, with the state earmarking roughly $6 million per year. I wish that the desire for equity was as strong and passionate as the desire for safety.

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August 17, 2017 Comments off

Given Texas’ open carry on campus legislation and the armaments displayed by the Neo-Nazis, KKK, and White Supremacists in Charlottesville this decision seems well-advised. 

After consultation with law enforcement and considerable study, Texas A&M is cancelling the event scheduled by Preston Wiginton at Rudder Plaza on camp


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Will the Public Support Brutality in the Name of Safety?

July 30, 2017 Leave a comment

Common Dreams posted an article by their staff writer Jake Johnson that provided a synopsis of President Trump’s chilling speech before a group of Long Island police officers. In his speech, which was intended to focus on the gang MS-13, a transnational gang whose roots are on the west coast, the President called the gang members “animals” and “…encouraged the police to be “rough” with those they detain”. The police response to this line was reported as “wild applause”.

What will the national response be? It is unlikely to be wild applause… but it is also unlikely to be revulsion. My fear is that the response will be acceptance. Law abiding citizens are likely to accept “rough treatment” to those who might be gang members in exchange for their safety the same way that we’ve accepted body scans at airports in exchange for safe travel, supported the idea of fences to “protect us” from dangerous illegal immigrants, supported the billions of dollars we are spending in armaments to “protect us” from the global war on terror, and supported laws that permit the unrestricted acquisition of weaponry to “protect” our homes. I will not be surprised to read that our Google searches, emails, and social media postings should be available to read (if they aren’t being read already) in the name of “safety”. We already seem willing to allow this in schools.

At some juncture we might push back against “safety measures”…. or we might accept ever tightening restrictions on our freedom. We’ve now “trained” a generation of students to accept body scans as they enter a public facility, to accept surveillance during the day, and to expect their every move on the internet to be examined by authorities— all in the name of “safety”. That generation never experienced an unobstructed walk to the gate of an airplane, the opportunity to enter their courts or legislative buildings without being scanned… or the chance to engage in pick-up games without close adult supervision. Will a generation raised with close supervision in the name of safety be willing to become more free?

Here’s the Solution to Lagging Gun Sales: More Concealed Carry and More Guns in Schools

July 1, 2017 Leave a comment

George Zornick of the Nation writes about the National Rifle Association’s proposed solution to lagging gun sales: pass legislation to make concealed carry the de facto law of the land and, while you’re at it, pass laws to arm teachers! Mr. Zornick writes that while some NRA members were cool to Donald Trump’s candidacy, Wayne LaPiere, their President, recognized that Mr. Trump was a kindred spirit:

LaPierre understands the gun-rights movement as a culture war first and a battle over gun laws second. Before Trump spoke at the annual meeting, LaPierre declared: “It’s up to us to speak up against the three most dangerous voices in America: academic elites, political elites, and media elites. These are America’s greatest domestic threats.”

Based on Mr. LaPierre’s definition, I am now one of “America’s greatest domestic threats” based on my educational background, political leanings, and daily writings… despite the fact that I own no weapons apart from my books, ideas, and laptop. To bolster the preposterous claim that people like me are a “threat”, NRA promotes the need for those threatened by presumably seditious ideas like sanctuary cities, to arm themselves. Here’s a description of a presentation offered at the NRA convention:

Steve Tarani is giving a presentation—“Current and Emerging Threats: How It Affects You!”—sponsored by the outdoor-supply store Cabela’s. Tarani presents himself as a former CIA employee who worked briefly on Trump’s security detail, and he wants the members of the assembled crowd to understand the “active threats” in their daily lives.

“The Department of Homeland Security defines an ‘active threat’ as any bad thing, basically, that can happen to good people,” Tarani says, clicking through PowerPoint slides of terror attacks, protesters clashing violently with police, and a map of “migrant streams” from Mexico with cartoonish red arrows crossing every inch of the southern US border. He tells his audience that “Al Shabab, Al Qaeda, ISIS members, etc., in addition to these capos” from Mexican drug gangs, are traveling along the bright-red routes into “sanctuary cities” across the country. “Let me ask you: Do sanctuary cities contribute to the safety of our communities?” Tarani asks, as people throughout the room shake their heads in response. “Not in any way,” he intones. “Not in any way.”

Once Mr. Trump was elected, though, gun sales plummeted because owners assume that there is no need to stockpile weapons any longer since there is no threat of confiscation by the federal government— a non-existent but persistent threat that persisted throughout the Obama presidency. But the NRA, who are a lobbying arm of the armaments industry, have the solution: legislation!

As it always does, however, the gun industry has a plan to revive sales. The modern-day gun capitalists have been designing pocket-size concealed-carry weapons that are being marketed as sensible self-defense tools. Annual statements and earnings calls from the major gun manufacturers make it clear that they see small handguns as the innovation that will turn their numbers around. Remington, for example, introduced the RM380 Micro Pistol in 2015 and last year added the “newly enhanced” R51 concealed-carry pistol. A promotional video for the R51 boasts that it has “snag-free sights for an easy draw from concealment.” Most other manufacturers are bringing similar products to market.

Seen in this light, the NRA’s aggressive campaign for concealed-carry laws—even as it pushes liability insurance for concealed-carry users—reveals it, at heart, to be a trade group whose sole mission is to boost sales for the industry that largely funds it. The same is true of the Trump administration’s immediate moves to increase hunting spaces on public lands and to allow the use of lead ammunition there.

And Mr. Zornick offers several examples of other executive actions Mr. Trump has taken to expand the availability of weapons to people who formerly were unable to acquire guns:

The Department of Justice issued a memo changing how the FBI defines a “fugitive” for the purpose of placing someone on a no-buy list for federal gun-owner background checks. Until now, the FBI prohibited anyone with an open warrant from buying a gun, but the new DOJ memo defines “fugitive” only as someone who has fled the state where the warrant was issued—so a lot more people with open warrants will be getting their gun purchases approved. Prior to this, from 1998 to 2017, the FBI denied over 175,000 gun sales because of an open warrant.

President Trump also signed legislation that would prevent the Department of Justice from using Social Security records to identify mentally ill people and prevent them from purchasing guns. Obama had added these background checks in 2016, but Congress passed a repeal under the Congressional Review Act…

And on his first day as Trump’s secretary of the interior, Ryan Zinke canceled a ban on the use of lead ammunition by hunters on federal lands, which environmentalists worried would damage their ecosystems. Zinke also directed any agency managing federal land to identify areas where hunting could be expanded….

But these moves are mere appetizers for the NRA. Its top priority now is to get Congress to pass—and President Trump to sign—concealed-carry reciprocity legislation, which would require every state to recognize a concealed-carry permit issued by any other state. In other words, California—a state with a strict permitting process, in which a person must demonstrate the need for a concealed weapon—would have to allow anyone with a permit from, say, South Dakota to carry a weapon around. (In South Dakota, you can get a concealed-carry permit with a half-page application and a $10 fee; there’s no training required, and you’re not even fingerprinted.) Under the proposed legislation, if you live in one of the 11 states that don’t even require a permit, you’d be able to carry a concealed weapon anywhere you travel…

Gun-rights advocates are also pushing legislation that would make the ownership of gun silencers commonplace. Right now, you have to spend $200 in fees and undertake months of registration to buy a silencer, but the so-called Hearing Protection Act would eliminate all that and make silencers as easy to buy as guns or bullets.

And at least one state, Pennsylvania, passed legislation allowing teachers to carry guns in school. As blogger Steve Singer wrote in Common Dreams, this bill was passed at the same time as the legislature has short-changes schools in that state and faced countless incidents where school guards engaged in physical clashes with students.

If all of these measures loosening the requirements to acquire weapons and providing teachers and school personnel with access to guns increase the threats to citizens, there is no need to worry because any citizen, including “domestic threats” like me, will be able to acquire weapons… unless… the NRA decides that they would support gun control in some cases by banning sales to potential “domestic threats” like academic, political, and media elites. Maybe it’s time to erase all my blog entries, Facebook comments, and op ed articles….