According to a New York Times article published March 8th(1), South Dakota’s Republican governor, Dennis Daugaard, has signed the first-ever law that explicitly allows guns to be carried in schools by school employees. (Hawaii and New Hampshire reportedly have no prohibitions against guns on school property for those with a concealed carry permit. Texas law includes an exemption for people the school authorizes to be on the property with a gun.)
Mr. Daugaard expects that few schools will actually take advantage of the option of allowing people to carry a weapon in school. He believes, however, that it is important for schools to have that choice.
To his credit, the law he signed requires that the school district first receive the permission of its local law enforcement agency. It also requires that volunteer “sentinels” undergo training similar to what law enforcement officers receive. The article does not explicitly say if the other two types of people who would be permitted to carry guns on school property – teachers and hired security officers – would be required to undergo any training.
Andrew Arulanandam, an NRA spokesperson, put his organization’s support of the law in terms of choices, saying, “There’s certainly not a one-size-fits-all approach to keeping our children safe in schools.” He went on to say, “It’s incumbent upon state and local governments to formulate and implement a plan to keep students safe.”
By virtue of this bill, and by the logic of the NRA, perhaps we should expect lots and lots of new laws. All this new legislation could define similarly hyper-localized authority and the conditions for allowing armed individuals inside places like manufacturing plants, for-profit schools, Sikh temples, movie theaters, coffee shops, and Korean spas.
Each with their own law, and they’re just for starters.
Why them? Why not?
Before Newtown, those were the locales of 2012′s mass shootings(2) where, as the FBI defines it(3), 4 or more people were killed.
Every state, every town, every school board, and even every private enterprise making their own choices about allowing guns in? We have that now, you say? “Gun Free Zone” signs as advertising to all the mass shooters where they can expect little to no resistance?
Mass shooters, by the very definition of their actions, could hardly be considered as individuals concerned with the law. Isn’t that what we’re told by all the gun advocates and the NRA?
As for law-abiding gun owners, how does each state giving such hyper-localized authority about where and under what circumstances guns are allowed square with desires for smaller and less intrusive government, more gun-related freedoms, and less onerous restrictions one where and when you can carry?
This idea of letting schools – or temples or spas or businesses – decide on whether or not they’ll allow guns on the premises seems like a feel-good piece of legislation for gun advocates. It also looks like a recipe for all sorts of unintended consequences and violations.
Or does it?
It seems to dovetail perfectly with the NRA’s position that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, the fact that there are already some 300 million guns in America and over 11,000 gun-related homicides last year alone notwithstanding(4).
I recently blogged about gun registrations and licensing. I’d like to propose that if such programs were national in scope, it could be a way to keep from having to figure out if you need to leave the Glock in the glove box or not before you get your next pedicure or attend your place of worship.
We live in a society where certain among us are authorized to carry deadly weapons as part of their job. Personally, that’s enough for me. I truly hope I never find myself in a theater, school, or place of business when some madman opens fire. No offense to my fellow gun-carrying citizens, but I also hope that you’re not there either. I don’t want anyone to get hurt. More to the point, I don’t trust you if you’re not a trained law enforcement official to open fire in my defense.
As wise and as visionary as the Founders most certainly were, they could never have foreseen what 237 years of societal and technological change would mean for America. The good news for us is that they gave us a form of government that allows for changes and amendments. (Speaking of which, there’s some interesting evidence that Madison’s final version of the Second Amendment was a concession necessary to win Virginia’s support for the Constitution and to meet the demands – mostly by Patrick Henry, but also from James Madison and George Mason – to keep slave patrol “militias” out from under the control of Congress(5).)
More and more guns in more and more hands has not worked. If that was the answer, America would be the safest, most crime-free country on the planet. Getting Americans to put aside their fears and paranoia about the government and their neighbors long enough to consider having fewer guns seems highly unlikely.
Given that, it’s time to consider some serious and significant changes to what it means to be a responsible gun owner. Registration and licensing (along with requisite training) isn’t going to stop every gun crime or mass shooting, but tracking, registering and licensing every gun – existing and new – will at least make gun owners more accountable for how their freedoms affect the rest of us.
(1) A State Backs Guns in Classes for Teachers
(2) US Mass Shootings, 1982-2012: Data From Mother Jones’ Investigation
(3) Mass shootings toll exceeds 900 in past seven years
(4) Gun Rhetoric vs. Gun Facts
(5) The Second Amendment was Ratified to Preserve Slavery