Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I changed my mind

I guess I lied.  I said I wasn't going to use my blog as a place to talk about the terrible tragedy in Connecticut.  But this morning I heard something on the radio that has irked me all day, and I feel the need to speak my mind.  As you know, I do not have trouble expressing my opinions.  Because of the radio show, I want to talk about guns.  I'll explain about exactly what I heard on the radio after I give you a bit of background.

So - here's the background:
 I was listening to a talk call-in show on NPR, and they were discussing guns.  I've already expressed my opinion, in my prior post, that I don't think citizens should own or have access to assault weapons.  But I think I've been a realist about other guns.  I live in a part of NY state where guns are prevalent, primarily for hunting.  My former neighbor, after a successful hunt, used to hang his deer outside where I could see the carcass from my porch.  I found it very disturbing.  The truth is, I will still cry every time I watch Bambi, and even the mention of that scene, with the snow falling, where Bambi finds out that his mother is not returning, will bring tears to my eyes.
 Most of my former students, even the youngest, and not just the boys, have been hunting with a parent or uncle.  I found it very unnerving, but I usually kept my opinions to myself, knowing I couldn't change the culture of the region on my own.  Anyhow, I am not a vegetarian, so I cannot criticize anyone who hunts to put food on their family's plates.

Once, many years ago, I had an opportunity to be a guest reader in a second grade classroom.  They let me choose my own book to read, and I picked this one, which was a favorite of my son's at the time:
 Below is the author's dedication inside the book:
 It is a charmingly written story about the animals in the forest, who decide to defend themselves at the start of hunting season.  The gnats end up swarming the hunters who, in a panic, run out of the woods. I adore the book.  The kids at school didn't 'get' it; too many of them lived in households filled with hunters to understand the animals' viewpoint.  I never tried to read it at school again.  (By the way, author/illustrator Bill Peet was one of my son's all-time favorites as a child, and I concur.  The stories are rich and wonderful, and Mr. Peet's illustrations are fabulous.  If you've never read a book by Bill Peet, check them out. (If you like trains, try Smokey or The Caboose Who Got Loose; or perhaps you will enjoy Cyrus the Unsinkable Sea Serpent, or many of the other stories about animals real or imaginary; or maybe you'll read Wump World, which may remind you of Dr. Seuss' The Lorax.)

Anyhow, back to my background re: guns - I grew up in a home where my dad was a marksman.  He spent time as a pistol instructor for the local Sheriff's Association, and he frequented the rifle range.  He received many awards and honors for his marksmanship.  However as far as I know, he never shot anything other than a target.  He wanted me to learn to shoot but I refused.  I don't remember disagreeing with my dad about anything much other than the easy accessibility of guns. He was so honest, and gentle, and cautious, that he couldn't fathom that anyone would misuse a gun.

Today's conversation on the radio was sincere; a really good discussion. Callers expressed many opinions, but everyone was being respectful and caring.  Then one caller, who was also being sincere, said something like this:  He said that  'all teachers should be armed; then things like this wouldn't happen.'

I thought back to a time in my life when someone had said something similar to me.  After college, and before I began teaching, I had lived through a harrowing personal incident.  I'd rather not share the details, but for the purpose of this post, I can tell you that I was home alone during a violent break-in.  My coworkers at the time (I was living in Albuquerque, waitressing in a supper club) told me that I should get a gun.  They all had them.  I replied "But when he broke in, I was at the kitchen sink, washing dishes.  Are you saying I should be packing a pistol when I'm doing the dishes?!  Or should I say to the intruder 'can you wait a minute please while I go to the bedroom to fetch my gun?'".

So, then, does today's caller think that I should be doing a demonstration of papier-mache with a pistol in my apron pocket? He has GOT to be kidding.  Or maybe he thought the gun should be ready and available in my desk drawer?  In that case, do I say to the armed intruder to "please wait, I need to get something from my desk before you begin shooting!"?  Yeah, that's going to work just fine...

Please tell me, what possible kind of solution is it to arm every teacher?  I know he meant well, but what was this caller thinking?!  I can understand increased security; I can understand practicing lock-down drills; I can understand being as prepared as you are able.  I do not understand the benefit to arming everyone.  To me it sounds like a recipe for disaster.  Is there something I am missing?

Guns are not the answer.  We need to make societal and cultural changes so that grabbing for a gun is never perceived as an adequate or appropriate solution to a problem.  

OK, I've gotten it off my chest.  Please forgive me.  My next post will be something nice and different, I promise.  (I can say this because I already know what it will be.)  Thanks for listening.

18 comments:

  1. Going back today, I am not going to lie I will busy myself with unloading the kiln and talking to children every moment because I will not think about this today, at least it won't be to the front of my mind. I am having a very hard time as everyone I'm sure is in their own way. Until I read some ignorant posts about how people spend a lot of money on their guns ($1000's) and how they are an investment to them and how they would sell them on the black market if there was a government buy back. I am so deeply disturbed by hearing people who I know talk about guns. I can't understand their position. I can't understand how money and power is their god. And then I too have heard that teachers should be armed from my own family? This was probably just a fleeting thought but still a chilling one.

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    1. Scary. The truth is, arming teachers would only result in more violence, not less. Guns do not belong in school. Being armed won't project us; fixing our damaged society and culture will.

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  2. I shutter to think of what could happen if a child or older student got a hold of a "teachers gun". I really don't think people think things through sometimes before they speak out.
    Most days we all feel safe and don't worry about the possibilities of anything bad happening in our schools/work place. I know there have been many other work places that shooters have invaded and taken lives. Did they go out and buy guns to protect themselves? Most likely not. It is a gut reaction when you feel threatened. But not necessarily an idea that will solve this problem.

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  3. I agree completely. In fact I would quit teaching if the teachers started carrying guns. Terrible idea.

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  4. I heard very similar comments on television and read them online in the last few days. I love how all of those people think that arming teachers is the solution. I mean, if we're going to go with that, all bank tellers, shop keepers, restaurant staff, crossing guards, sports coaches, vehicle operators (cars, trains, planes, etc.), doctors, dentists, hair dressers- should be locked and loaded at all times! I mean really, how else could we protect ourselves? After all, aren't they all trying to make an honest living? Aren't they all potential targets for these psychopaths? Adding more guns to the situation is clearly the way to go!

    In the aftermath of the CT tragedy I read about a similar incident that occurred in Dublane, Scotland in 1996. Immediately afterward, the UK made HUGE changes on gun control, and from 2010-2011, there were something like 300+ homicides in the UK, only 60 of which involved any type of gun, much less a semi-automatic weapon.

    If they can figure it out, we can too. We owe it to our children.

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    1. Similar to the changes made in Australia, it sounds.

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  5. I completely agree, I am glad to hear I'm not alone in my opinion.

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  6. Sad to say, but these tragedies make me very glad that I don't live in the US. An amazing place in so many respects, but I have never understood its gun laws. A number of years ago our Prime Minister in Australia introduced very strict gun control measures and thousands of guns were handed in. While it hasn't eliminated awful crimes involving guns from happening, it has greatly reduced the ease in which someone could access those type of weapons. Surely as a species we need to do better by our kids

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    1. Australia has done the right thing. We are so busy defending our 'freedoms' here in the USA that we forget there some rules and boundaries make life better and safer. I hope we learn by Australia's example.

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  7. While I don't share your views on hunting, I totally agree about arming teachers. It's flat out a bad idea and one that I don't think would ever actually happen. For guns to be safely stored, they need to be locked in a cabinet, preferably away from ammo (thanks, Hunter's Safety!) So in the middle of a crisis, the teacher's supposed to have time to secure the door, get the students out of sight, and retrieve their firearm while keeping the students from freaking out? Also, expecting someone who is not comfortable with firearms to use a gun would probably make the situation even more dangerous.

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    1. Katie, you've said it beautifully.

      And by the way, I have no problem with hunters, even though I don't hunt, as long as they behave responsibly. Sadly, that is not always the case. Recently, two former students, nice kids, very much outdoorsmen, both now adults, were hunting with their dad. They were not wearing any blaze orange, and the sad end result was the accidental killing of the father by one of his boys. Heartbreaking, all the more so because it was preventable.

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    2. I should note that the wearing of blaze orange is NOT the law in NY state, though it is in many others; still, it is good common sense.

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    3. Oh, definitely! I get so upset when people don't take precautions. Most hunters are very responsible but just like with any group of people, there are unfortunate exceptions. There was a case in my area about 5 years ago when a teenager was killed because a man illegally shot at decoys from his vehicle and struck the boy in his blind. So sad.

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  8. I don't even want to think about EVER having a gun in my classroom. I love my kids, but the moment they catch wind there's a gun in the room, they'll go looking for it when my back is turned. I don't want weapons anywhere near my kids.

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  9. Since I wrote this post, there's been so much more talk about this topic nationally, and sales of assault weapons have INCREASED astronomically. There have been lockdowns in area schools, and then yesterday the NRA's inane statement that the only way to protect against gun violence is with...drumroll please... More guns. Yeesh. And armed police in every school. Boo to the NRA. You are so busy protecting yourself, you refuse to see the reality. I think, if I were still teaching, I'd quit my job and become a waitress like in my younger days, if there was going to be an armed guard in the school. We spend so much time teaching kids to solve problems with words and positive actions, and this gun thing seems like we are sending the message that GUNS are the solution. Guns are NOT the solution.

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  10. How about a lockdown on Hollywood. Let's ban ALL violent movies and TV shows, get rid of all of the violent video games...make anyone who wants to see anything violent prove they are over 21...and then let's see how many kids there are that will perpetrate horrible killings

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  11. I understand that Australia's crime rate has increased dramatically because criminals know that all homes are no longer protected by homeowners with guns. They now have free access to all homes without worry. Criminals in the US don't know which homes have guns and which homes do not, so they have to be much more cautious about breaking and entering. I personally like it better that way. But I'm also a teacher and agree that teachers should never have guns at school. The likelihood that a gun would wind up in the hands of a child is much higher than the chance that it would ever help in the case of an armed intruder.

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