SCHOOL EDUCATORS' ACCESS TO FIREARMS
I think often, they have only gone on a journey,
The day is bright! Fear not; the've only gone a long, long way.
They've only gone on a journey,
They've gone ahead of us and will never return home again.
Friedrich Rueckert, "Kindertotenlieder," set by Gustave Mahler, 1902.
In the wake of the tragic massacre at Newtown, Connecticut, vocal apologists for gun proliferation have advocated that teachers and other school personnel carry and have access to sophisticated firearms. Indulging their fantasies, they assert that if the principal and the school psychologist who confronted Mr. Lanza (the killer) had been in possession of countervailing weapons, such as similar assault rifles or automatic handguns, they could have terminated the ensuing events. The problem with this view is that assailants in such cases are purposive killers. Mentally ill or not they have premeditated their acts. Considerable training, and indeed, professionalization are required to turn law enforcement officers and combat troops into trained killers. Some have even suggested that veterans returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, who are teachers, could play such a role.
However, few vets are teachers; those who are probably held instructor positions in the service; moreover, return to civilian life requires very significant adjustments. Should there really be an equation between return to civilian life with another tour of duty, after four or five such stints in Asia?
Civilization is a social invention, where the weak, who teach math and science and philosophy and history (etc.) and their pupils can be protected from the predators who can be only as strong as society allows them to become. Gun-owner fantasies of heroism are still trumped by the reality that ordinary citizens, no matter how well-trained, are not purposive killers, whereas the perpetrators' goal, whether they be domestic or foreign terrorists, is to take civilian lives.
Remember, one of the keys to bringing domestic tranquility to Northern Ireland was to DISARM both sides.
One also misses the voices of so-called "right-to-lifers" on the subject of gun control. They would be proud to reassert their view that those 20 precious little children should never have been subject to the idea of abortion or even birth control. On the other hand, once those infants reach the age of five, they are to become subject to post partum annihilation because America lacks the collective will to disarm their would-be assailants?
Moreover, with certain forms of mental illness the conduct is the symptom, which vitiates the potency of background checks. Too, process schizophrenia often deprives the mentally ill of most or all of their abstracting ability; thus, they cannot fully distinguish between firing at diagrams and cut-outs on a firing range and turning their guns on human victims. Killing often requires depersonalizing the victim as non-human. Where this happens, the only insurance against wanton, lunatic and deadly assaults is universal civilian disarmament.
Further, where the Supreme Court found a personal right to keep and bear arms in the Second Amendment, that ruling subsumed the acceptance of a foreseeable increase in violence. Of greatest concern is the growing number of normal interactions between law enforcement officers and ordinary civilians or individuals who must be contacted where crimes need to be detected or averted. There can be no civil liberties unless the precondition of law and order is met. Where attacks on the police acting in the line of duty become predictable, both law and order and civil liberties are imperiled.
Instead of seeking to arm more citizens, who are law abiding until they stop being law abiding and commit crimes with guns, funding for law enforcement should be restored, and where needed, increased, and serious consideration should be given to outright repeal of the Second Amendment -- replacing it with a provision guaranteeing state-of-the-art health, mental health and preventive care; thus replacing a cult of death with a reaffirmation of life.
Harvard Hollenberg is a writer and an appellate lawyer in New York City. He has served pro bono as Special Counsel to Family Support Systems Unlimited, Inc., a foster children's rights and placement agency in the Bronx, and as General Counsel to the New York City Department of Mental Hygiene.