I am a father, a husband, an educated, law-abiding American. I used to hunt and I own a gun... I also work in a school.
I am what the NRA might call a "good guy with a gun."
But as someone who has worked in K-12 schools and colleges for a quarter century, let me suggest a few reasons why bringing my gun to school is not the answer to gun violence in America.
First, as microcosms of society, schools will always have some students, parents, and teachers with anger problems, mental illness, or poor self-control. As educators, we regularly try to model peaceful conflict-resolution, 99.9 percent of which we successfully deescalate despite significant volatility. And when we don't succeed, weapons are not needed. Introducing guns in those scenarios, in fact, invites other kinds of nightmares. And tragedies.
Second, most school shooters -- from Columbine to Virginia Tech -- are themselves students at the school with full access to campus. Anyone with violent intentions (students or non-students who can easily obtain a visitors pass) could walk right past an armed guard and, on the other side of the school, unload 3 or 4 high-capacity magazines before the guard knows what's happening.
Third, most rampage shooters are suicidal. They often intend their attack to be their final act. The threat, therefore, of being shot by a school-based police officer, security guard, or armed teacher is unlikely to be a major deterrent since shooters often intend to shoot themselves.
Fourth, I am a decent shot, but I am not -- nor will most educators ever be -- like Dirty Harry, capable of picking off a moving target amidst the chaos of innocent children and adults scrambling for cover. And let's recall that Columbine, in fact, had a 15-year police veteran who was on site as a security guard. He and a second police officer both shot off a few rounds at Eric Harris, but missed and were unable to prevent that tragedy.
As a therapist and a school social worker, I've seen first hand that mental illness is indeed a major societal challenge, especially given the stigma, lack of awareness, and profound deficit of adequate services for severe mental illness. We have a lot of work to do for the mentally ill in America if we are to call ourselves a truly compassionate society. But most lethal violence by mentally ill Americans is directed at themselves, not at others.
What makes violence in America more lethal than other advanced industrialized countries, why violence is so frequently fatal in the U.S. is easy access to guns regardless of mental health status. What allowed shooters at Virginia Tech, Tucson, Aurora and Newtown to commit mass murder, were easily and legally acquired rapid-fire, high capacity firearms and military-style assault weapons. You simply can't kill 26 people in a matter of minutes with bare hands, a knife or a club.
Every day, 85 Americans die from a bullet. Every day, one of those gun deaths is a child, 14 or younger. Current trends suggest that by 2015, gun deaths will rise to nearly 33,000 a year, exceeding auto-related deaths. This is a public health crisis that demands our attention. With an estimated 300 million guns already in circulation in America, we will never be a gun-free society. And few Americans -- even after Newtown -- are advocating taking guns away from law-abiding citizens. But neither are more guns the solution.
Still, we have got to do something. Common sense seems a reasonable place to start.
· Let's improve safety checks for those with criminal or psychiatric backgrounds. Most rampage shooters are withdrawn loners who lack the street savvy to navigate the black market in illegal guns.
· Let's limit or ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines for semi-automatic weapons -- firearms that sportsmen don't need to hunt -- yet have been used time after time in mass killings in America.
· And let's mandate that gun-owners safely secure their weapons. Nancy Lanza made a tragic mistake keeping weapons of mass destruction unsecured despite a son she knew was mentally ill. Let's learn from that tragedy.
These measures won't stop all gun-violence. But they would be worth it if they could stop just one prospective shooter from getting his hands on a gun... If they could save one life... If one parent could be spared that most unspeakable of losses, the death of a child.
As a father, as an American citizen, as a "good guy," that makes more sense to me than bringing my gun to school.