Wednesday, July 06, 2011
Gun-Free School Zones
A teacher meeting was just ending in my room a couple of years ago when the school secretary announced over the loudspeaker that the school was going into lockdown. Students were in their “Unified Arts” classes, which used to be known as Gym, Shop, Home Ec, and Art. Emergency procedure dictated that I stay in my room with the door locked, the lights out, and out of sight of anyone who might look in the windows.
Cowering in the face of a threat is not in my nature, however. I knew I was supposed to sit there quietly and let the appropriate authorities deal with whatever the threat was, but I couldn’t. I looked out into the hallway to see what was going on. Policemen were searching student lockers which were lined up on either side of the wide corridor. Later, I learned that someone had scrawled “I have a gun” on a wall in one of the girls’ bathrooms. The principal decided to take the threat seriously and called police. Hence, the lockdown.
Before learning that, however, I ran the possibilities through my mind of what the threat might be. In declining order of likelihood, I figured it could be an irate parent who felt aggrieved by a custody decision. It could also be a deranged student or students reenacting a Columbine-type episode, or, least likely, it could be a terrorist attack. Whatever it was, I knew one thing: because of the screwball Gun-Free School Zones Act enacted during the Clinton Administration, we could all be assured that the perp would be the only one with a weapon and all the rest of us would be at a distinct disadvantage as his unarmed victims.
Feeling the familiar frustration of the many ways federal intervention had screwed up public education during my then-35-year teaching career, I reflected on the what I’d recently taught my students about “gun-free zones” as part of a Second Amendment lesson. Fox News had put together an effective, short satire on them in the form of an infomercial. The pitchman explained the benefits of putting up “gun-free zone” signs in homes, businesses and public places. A potential robber with a gun would try to hold up a store. The owner behind the counter put his hands up and pointed to a “gun-free zone” sign, whereupon the robber put down his gun and left the store in frustration. Then he repeated the scenario in a sidewalk mugging and in a home invasion. Students caught on immediately to the absurdity of the whole “gun-free zone” concept.
Asked how many had guns in their homes, about two-thirds of my students raised their hands. We discussed the correlation between the high rate of gun ownership and the low crime rate here in Maine and in other rural areas of the country as well as the high correlation between strict gun control laws in our major cities and their high crime rates.
All this came back to me when Chicago Mayor and former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel’s newly-appointed a new police chief blamed the National Rifle Association and Sarah Palin for the roving hoards of bandits and murderers terrorizing that city. “[It’s] federal gun laws that facilitate the flow of illegal firearms, into our urban centers across this country, that are killing our black and brown children,” he said. However, there are way more guns in Maine, per capita, than in Chicago, and lots of people here leave their doors unlocked and they don’t kill each other. As the saying goes: Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. In this case at least, a bumper sticker slogan easily trumps progressive “thinking.” The problem lies with people in Chicago, not the guns. All those Alinsky-inspired community organizers have done a wonderful job in the Windy City, haven’t they? If a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged, do you think smug progressives would learn anything if they were forced to put up “Gun-Free Zone” signs in front of their own houses?
When I first taught here in Maine back in 1977, I noticed students driving to school with rifles on racks across the rear windows of their pickup trucks. During November, they hunted before and after school, and so did many teachers including this writer. Parents dropping their children off in front of the school often had rifles visible in their vehicles as well. Then in the 1990s I found myself distributing notices to parents warning them against doing that anymore after the ludicrous Gun-Free School Zones Act was signed into law by President Clinton. The notice students were instructed to take home and give to parents said those parents could be arrested if they drove onto school grounds with their deer rifles or shotguns in their vehicles. This, progressives insisted, was going to make us all safer.
God save us all from progressive do-gooders.