Schools need better security, but not gun-toting teachers
December 21, 2006
A six-pack of cheers for Bob Beers! Well, I wish I could say that. The Nevada state senator’s proposal for the Legislature to bite the bullet and allow teachers to carry handguns in classrooms doesn’t even command a 20-gun salute from water pistols. I do not believe Beers’ proposal will be approved, and I certainly do not think it will work, even if it is passed.
The effect of the Legislature actually passing the proposed bill will be, in my view, an invitation for extreme disorder. All it means is that each of our schools could have four out of every five teachers handling a gun as skillfully as Don Knotts, and with the same results.
Only our schools are not sets for TV sit-coms or movies. There is no theme music playing in the background. This is the theater of real life, which means when people are shot, the flesh is penetrated by a bullet on a quest to either wound or kill. And a gun in the hand of someone who has the gun proficiency of a cartoon character is much more injurious than any student packing a pistol.
Let’s remember something: The kids who are intrepid enough to carry a gun to class usually place no value tag on the gift of life. And what that means is they may just be crazy enough to take on the challenge of a gun-slinging teacher for no other reason than they knew the teacher carried a gun. Picture a “High Noon” gunfight on a 21st century stage.
In a situation like that, I don’t know about whom I’d be more concerned – the students or the teachers. This isn’t anything like allowing airline pilots to carry firearms on board a plane. And just because a teacher is proficient in math doesn’t guarantee him or her a trophy for precision target shooting.
I mentioned this once before in a column I wrote after the Amish student massacre: Invest in bulletproof-glass security panels that guard reception areas, and have an entrance with a metal detector. The cost may be more than $100,000 per school, but how does that compare to the priceless loss of life of our teachers and children?
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This could be yet another idea to ponder by Gov.-elect Jim Gibbons on how to best use the state’s surplus revenue. When you stack up the dollars it would cost our schools to install a reliable security system versus the cost of auto-registration refunds, the pile of money for security doesn’t even size up. The state of Nevada would be able to pay for the security system and still be able to afford higher wages and bonus incentives for teachers.
Investing time and money to train teachers how to fire handguns is not an ingredient in the remedial formula, either. There is such a thing as having too quick a draw by a teacher – any teacher – who happens to watch “Taxi Driver” once a month, or any Charles Bronson movie from the ’70s and ’80s once a week.
The feel of a gun in the hand of any person triggers a loaded chamber of authority in the human psyche. That same gun in the hands of someone whose brain wiring has short-circuited and spits out sparks, be it student or teacher, is an open-house reception for a cell block shoot-out.
I can see schools being guarded by police officers on the premises; but the schools still need prevention and protection equipment (metal detectors and bulletproof entrance panels) to keep guns out!
Once the guns make it inside the school, that’s when the problem goes from an egg to the birth of a monster. If, by chance, guns are smuggled on school grounds, that’s when the presence of an armed officer is useful. But let’s not mistake a professionally trained, law-enforcing officer for a teacher who carries a gun to class like it was a water toy.
• John DiMambro is publisher of the Nevada Appeal. His column appears regularly on Sunday’s Opinion page, but this week he’s also written this extra column. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.