Guns here, guns there, in Missouri, everywhere a gun

gunindrawer“A Utah elementary school teacher who was carrying a concealed firearm at school was struck by fragments from a bullet and a porcelain toilet when her gun accidentally fired in a faculty bathroom on Thursday, officials said.” [AP]

The sixth-grade teacher had a concealed-firearm permit and was within her legal rights to carry a gun while in a school in Utah, which, as the same article points out, is one of the few states to permit concealed carry in schools.

Wanna know what kind of fools think it’s a good thing to arm teachers? You don’t need to worry  about Utah. Just look no further than our own home state where legislators think that the only way to forestall a potential St. Valentine’s day massacre in our schools is to enable a repeat of the gunfight at the OK Corral instead. Missouri has been among the states permitting teachers the “privilege” of concealed carry for some time, but, as of this week, the state went further to institutionalize guns in public schools when the legislature overrode Governor Nixon’s veto of SB656 which encourages public schools to train and arm designated personnel. Just let me point out in passing that the teacher in Utah had undergone firearm training which is mandatory for concealed carry in Utah, and which has been given free of cost to many teachers there.

I’m sure many will dismiss the Utah occurrence with the bromide that accidents happen, adding that it’s worth the risk in order to enable an armed “good” guy to counter those “bad” guys when they show up. Even if one accepts this highly questionable formula (which, incidentally, seems to be the entire rationale for casually carrying guns), the idea of guns in schools raises several questions that go beyond the issues involved in adequately training teachers – itself a veritable minefield: Will teachers also go through mandatory mental health screening? Can the authorities guarantee that no teachers with anger management issues will be armed in schools? Do schools mandate that guns are locked up while teachers are in class – rendering the good guy response moot – or are they left accessible to children in purses, lockers, desk drawers, or, better yet, on the desk tops where they are to-hand when that bad guy appears? Doesn’t it stand to reason that when you fill schools with guns, there will be gun related accidents? After all, accidents happen. And it’s an obvious fact that accidents with guns have a high probability of inflicting harm.

But let’s get back to that good guys with guns with guns vs. bad guys with guns argument. There are certainly true stores about armed good guys thwarting bad guys with guns – just as there are also anecdotes about situations where armed good guys are either ineffective or make the problem  worse. So lets look at what happens when folks try to analyse the issue  systematically:

One of the largest and most recent studies on gun violence in America concludes that widespread gun ownership is the driving force behind violence. The study compiles data from all fifty states between 1981 and 2010 to examine the relationship between gun ownership and homicide. After accounting for national trends in violent crime as well as eighteen control variables, the study concludes, “For each percentage point increase in gun ownership the firearm homicide rate increased by 0.9%.” This research is consistent with evidence showing that even in “gun utopias” such as Israel and Switzerland, more guns means more violence.Another large study compared 91 case workplaces with 205 control workplaces and found that workers whose job sites allow guns are about five times more likely to be killed on the job than are those whose workplaces prohibit all firearms.

Given the weight of evidence demonstrating the danger of carrying guns in public settings, it is extremely unlikely that more guns would make schools safer.

And in case statistics don’t convince you that arming random citizens to fight madmen and criminals is a bad idea:

A 20/20 segment, “If I Only Had a Gun,” showed just how hopeless the average person is in reacting effectively to high-stress situations. In the segment, students with varying levels of firearm experience were given hands-on police training exceeding the level required by half the states in order to obtain a concealed carry permit. Each of these students was subsequently exposed to a manufactured but realistic scenario in which, unbeknownst to them, a man entered their classroom and begin [sic] firing fake bullets at the lecturer and students.In each one of the cases, the reaction by the good guy with a gun was abysmal. The first participant, who had significant firing experience, couldn’t even get the gun out of his holster. The second participant exposed her body to the assailant and was shot in the head. The third, paralyzed with fear, couldn’t draw his weapon and was shot by the assailant almost immediately. The final participant, who had hundreds of hours of experience with firearms, was unable to draw his weapon and was shot at point blank range.

Of course SB656 goes a lot further than just encouraging schools to arm personnel:

It also allows anyone with a concealed weapons permit to carry guns openly, even in cities or towns with bans against the open carrying of firearms. The age to obtain a concealed weapons permit also will drop from 21 to 19.

Looks like we’ve got two choices: welcome to the wild, wild West, or sayonara Missouri. Personally, I’m considering the latter. There’s something less than compelling about remaining in a state about which a commentator can write that “if there were a competition to see which Republican-led state legislature can govern in the least responsible way possible, Missouri would have to be considered a credible contender.”