Friday, December 28, 2012

Firearms, violence, and sound bites

There are times I just turn it all off. The social networks, the news, all those places where instant notification of the world's worst spreads fear and sorrow and hate.

Sadly I have employed this defensive strategy often lately.

Eventually I will come back to my social networks, and sometimes the residual conversations are ongoing.

I use the word conversations as loosely as possible.

So far I have seen the good, the bad, and the down right dumb responses to the shootings, and I use the plural intentionally. I think we should include in the overarching discussion Sandy Hook, Aurora and the other shootings that have played out the last four or five years. The Sandy Hook incident was the most recent and the one everyone is still talking about, so I will stick with that tragedy.

The best responses I have seen include Mayor Cory Booker's pragmatic stance on prevention.
I urge you to go read it. Please.

Not all responses have been as well thought out.

Some people, when presented with anything in the "wedge issue" category retreat to party sound bites and rhetoric, and if they can throw in some non sequiturs that add nothing, but evoke emotions, well, all the better!

I have seen those posts that make the (false) analogy of cars not being blamed for drunk drivers so why blame guns for gun violence?

Please, if this is something you have said, stop and think what is required to operate a car. I got my license in Florida- not the most stringent state in the nation. I had to take a three hour class. I had to have a certain amount of time driving with a licensed driver. I had to pass a written test, and of course a driving test complete with stern looking evaluator taking notes while I navigated the course. Plus I had to pay for insurance.

States rights being what they are, some states require much more just to be able to take the test. Some states the test is more complicated (I thankfully didn't have to parallel park). Point is, driving might not require a three day wait or a background check, but actually, a lot more is put into getting a license.

Also, keep in mind the purpose of cars. While I would be the first to tell you cars should be treated as though they were more dangerous, their main purpose is as a means of conveyance. What is the main purpose of guns?

I am not anti gun- I can almost see those thoughts in your head. I had a great time with my step mom shooting at targets out in the sticks. I hate the M9 and pull to the right when I pull the trigger. But before I even pulled a trigger I had to sit through a detailed, hours long safety course. I don't think this is the norm- my course was at basic training. How many states require the equivalent for gun owners?

If after all that, the argument you want to use is the drunk driver analogy, you are missing some critical step in the logic loop.

I have seen some great community based responses. I particularly like the random acts of kindness memes I have seen. One act of kindness for each person killed. That is a productive way to move forward, though it does not of course, deal with the issue of violence prevention.

Some of the sillier responses have included initiating new rules at schools; insisting you close a door completely even if some one is right behind you, so that they have to enter their code or get buzzed in. Never mind that you might know the person, and have been chatting with them while waiting for your children. At my aunt's community center, all adult classes, including the senior swim class, have been canceled because there are children in the building during those classes and every adult is immediately suspected of being homicidal. Bloggers I follow have written about stricter rules with regards to entering or leaving a school or engaging with children.

Instead of strengthening communities by encouraging more interaction, more concern for others, these security measures are causing people to run around in circles getting each other into higher and higher states of fear and paranoia.

And then there is the idea of having armed personnel inside schools. Let's assume this is a potential solution beyond what is already done (some schools have police or armed guards).

So lets assume this is the solution.
Now, my high schools (I went to two different ones) and my middle/elementary schools were made up of different buildings. How fast do you think an armed guard could get from one building to another? From the parking lot (looking for delinquents like the guard at my high school did)?

Assuming the guard ran at top speed, do you think there would be a chance he or she would be exhausted from the sprint? Don't say no. I have run this test as the intruder and as the tester. Even the fittest people were often yacking up their last meal - but they made it in two and a half minutes! Timing only helps if you can do something when you get there. How many guards would you need? One for every hall?

I once had a student "accidentally" slam a locker door on another student's finger. The hall was being monitored as was protocol, but in that split second kid one made the decision to slam the locker door of kid two. The result was blood, broken bone, a kid who nearly went into shock and my having to knock the "I'm going to die" thoughts from that kid while keeping kid one from leaving the classroom. The whole thing happened in less than a minute. The nurse was there in less than five and took over tending to the bleeding child.

Where I am going with this anecdote is, even with an adult standing there not twenty feet from the lockers, harm was done. Do you think a loaded gun would take all that much more time to pull out than slamming a locker door? This school had several buildings, the main ones across the street from mine. How long would it have taken for an armed guard to arrive?

The answer to that is arm the teachers! Yeah, that's a great idea. {Sarcasm.

The school I taught at was a school specifically for children with learning disorders. I have an education degree, but I am not, nor have I ever been certified for Special Ed. The school got away with it for a while, hiring people without the certification, by saying their population was mostly "high intelligence low social" and so subject matter experts were better than Special Ed teachers.

I knew next to nothing about IEPs. Before a state inspection of the IEP binders, the teachers rushed to fill in dates for reviews that didn't happen.

What I am saying is- not every teacher is as qualified to do his or her job as is required. Even when the teachers are top notch, not every school is as above board as is expected. Teachers are underpaid, often under appreciated, and deal with a lot of stresses to include often over full classrooms. Do you really want to add one more requirement (I assume teachers would be required to have a safety course on guns)? Do you want firearms in the hands of every teacher, really?

Look, there is no easy answer here. We have to walk a fine line between protecting lives and protecting rights. And getting stuck in the political quagmire will solve exactly nothing. Ideas that skirt the polarized politics- if we actually focused on actions that are pragmatic- we have a better chance of making a real, lasting difference.

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