Guns in schools

The cafeteria footage of the shooting has becoming an iconic image associated with the event; it shows the two students with guns, in the mass chaos of the cafeteria in the minutes after their initial shootings and before they committed suicide.

On October 1, 1997, 16-year-old Luke Woodham began to shoot his fellow-students and classmates at his school – Pearl High School in Pearl, Mississippi. Earlier that day, he had murdered his own mother, then retrieved a .30-30 lever action deer rifle and ammunition. As soon as the gunshots began to ring through the school facility, Vice Principal Joel Myrick ran to his truck to retrieve his Colt .45 pistol to fight back. While he did so, Principal Roy Balentine called 9-1-1.

Woodham’s rifle was neither semi-automatic nor automatic, requiring reloading after each shot. Woodham methodically thumbed rounds into the gun, “all business, no play […] just shooting and reloading, shooting and reloading.” (Laugesen, “A Principal and His Gun”) He shot until he could hear police sirens, than ran to his car to escape. Woodham later confessed that he had planned to drive to Pearl Junior High School and shoot even more kids until the police could show up. This plan was foiled by Principal Myrick. Two people had already been killed and seven more injured before Myrick returned to find Woodham racing to his vehicle to escape to Pearl Junior High. Myrick drew his pistol on Woodham and brought him to bay.

As soon as he was confronted with an armed civilian, Woodham withered. Myrick later said, “Here was this monster killing kids in my school, and the minute I put a gun to his head he was a kid again.” Myrick detained Woodham until police could arrive, stopping what could have become another mass school killing. In the end, only two people died. (Greenfield, “How an Assistant Principal With a Gun Stopped a School Shooter”; Laugesen, “A Principal and His Gun”)

The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” This amendment, part of the Bill of Rights, secures the right of citizens of the United States to own and carry weapons, or ‘Arms.’ This right has long been held sacred and inviolable throughout America. However, the right of all citizens to ‘keep and bear Arms’ no longer holds that same respect.

Nowadays, the mere mention of relaxing gun regulations is liable to spark outrage, and accusations that it’s because of ready access to firearms that incidents such as Columbine occurred. One is liable to face fearful protests by people who are afraid of another Virginia Tech massacre, and be condemned as a proponent of school violence like the Sandy Hook shootings. But is that really what guns in schools mean?

Vice Principal Joel Myrick later received letters condemning his actions to save innocent teenagers at the school. Those letters said that “he shouldn’t have had a weapon on school property and, even worse, should not have aimed the gun at a student.” Those letters cited laws such as the Gun Free School Zones Act of 1996 (18 USC 922). Myrick was condemned for saving innocent lives by letters categorized by FrontPage Magazine as ‘hate mail.’

Myrick saved lives. His actions saved students at Pearl Junior High who would have been slaughtered without his quick action. Myrick arguably saved the lives of police, who might have been shot by Woodham and who would not have known the area like Myrick. Myrick also arguably saved the life of the shooter, who, following precedent, would probably would have either shot himself or would have been killed by SWAT teams. His only ‘crime’ was carrying a pistol in his truck. (Greenfield, “How an Assistant Principal With a Gun Stopped a School Shooter”; Laugesen, “A Principal and His Gun”)

The Gun Free School Zones Act was originally written with intent to prevent violence in schools, ranging from premeditated mass shootings to accidental injury from a firearm. However, recent incidents such as the shootings at Columbine, Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook have sparked new debate over the Second Amendment rights of American citizens, and over whether or not banning guns from schools is the best way to prevent violent crime. There are two sides to the guns in schools debate. One side calls for banning guns from schools. The other calls for relaxing the regulations on carrying firearms in schools.

There are several reasons cited for banning guns from schools. Obviously, guns are one of the deadliest, most accurate, and most portable weapons available for use by someone who wants to perpetrate violent crime in a school. Criminals use firearms for the same reason that the United States Army uses guns as their primary weapon. They are deadly, they are accurate, and they are portable. They can also be easily concealed.

When people call for banning guns from schools, their primary reason is usually the prevalent use of firearms in violent crime. The reasoning that more guns will result in violent crime, whereas banning (or restricting) guns will end their use in violent crime. Hence, by banning guns, violent crime will also be reduced.

On the other side, there are several reasons cited for relaxing regulations on guns in schools. Larry Correia, a former competition shooter and a concealed carry instructor says this:

Cops can’t be everywhere. There are at best only a couple hundred thousand on duty at any given time patrolling the entire country. Excellent response time is in the three-five minute range. We’ve seen what bad guys can do in three minutes, but sometimes it is far worse. They simply can’t teleport. So in some cases that means the bad guys can have ten, fifteen, even twenty minutes to do horrible things with nobody effectively fighting back.

So if we can’t have cops there, what can we do?

The average number of people shot in a mass shooting event when the shooter is stopped by law enforcement: 14. The average number of people shot in a mass shooting event when the shooter is stopped by civilians: 2.5. The reason is simple. The armed civilians are there when it started.

(Correia, “An Opinion On Gun Control”)

Correia is from the state of Utah, which has some of the most relaxed gun laws in the nation. He goes on to say that “my state laws allow for somebody with a concealed weapons permit to carry a gun in a school right now. Yes. Utah has armed teachers. We have for several years now.” Utah’s state firearms law permits concealed carry with a permit in public schools. Utah is also the most armed state in the Union by firearm purchases per capita. (The Daily Beast, “The Most Armed States”) Utah has not had a single school shooting in its entire history.

On February 10, 1989, there was an isolated incident of an attempted shooting where a student pulled a gun on his principal. (Fidel, “Officers Seeking Answers”) Even anti-gun sources report that, to date, there have only been three gun-related deaths at Utah schools. (Algard, StopTheShootings.org) There have been zero successful premeditated shootings at Utah schools. Again, there have been zero successful premeditated shootings at Utah schools. KSL.com reported on January 17, 2014 that “there have been at least 30 more school-related shootings around the country since Dec. 2012. But […] in Utah, there have been zero.” (Adams, “Experts Speculate”)

The article continued to say:

Pedersen believes the fact the state has so many gun-friendly laws and concealed weapons permit holders may actually be a deterrent to these types of rampages. The shooter doesn’t know what he’s up against.

“Odds are your neighbor, your person that you work with or your best friend, maybe, has a concealed weapons permit,” he said.

(Adams, “Experts Speculate”)

Many people believe that having ‘guns everywhere’ actually deters potential criminals. Larry Correia put it this way: “Gun Free Zones are hunting preserves for innocent people. Period.” Correia explained this statement later on. Gun Free Zones are the favorite place for would-be mass killers and criminals to go to, simply because there is nobody to oppose them. A criminal, especially a suicidal mass murderer, would be looking for a place where he could do the worst damage possible. A Gun Free Zone gives him that place by disarming everyone there except for the attacker, giving him free range to commit his crime. A criminal who is already going to face the death penalty or life sentence because of the crime he will commit is not likely to respect a Gun Free Zone sign. An old proverb says: “They can only hang you once.” (Correia, “An Opinion On Gun Control”)

A sarcastic petition was put up on We the People on December 23, 2012. Its title was “Eliminate armed guards for the President, Vice-President, and their families, and establish Gun Free Zones around them.” The creator of the petition stated that “Gun Free Zones are supposed to protect our children, […] If Gun Free Zones are sufficient protection for our children, then Gun Free Zones should be good enough for politicians.” (J.W., “Eliminate armed guards”)

On Tuesday morning, April 29, 2014, at 5:45 AM, a shooter with an assault rifle entered a FedEx sorting center in Kennesaw, Georgia, and began to shoot the employees, before committing suicide. At the time of writing, six people were injured, three in critical condition. (Brumback, “Shooting at FedEx center”; Doody, “FedEx Shooting”) Coincidentally, the package sorting center was a Gun Free Zone (see picture). Online, a man named David Gray had this to say about the shooting: “I guess the shooter in Kennesaw GA didn’t see the “No Guns” sign posted on the door as he entered to commit his murderous rampage? Gun free zones are a LIE! All innocent law abiding citizens are hurt or killed in these gun free zones where the criminal ignores these posted signs.” (Gray)

The two worst mass shootings in United States history took place inside schools supposedly protected by the Gun Free School Zones Act. Virginia Tech (33 dead) and Sandy Hook Elementary School (27 dead) were Gun Free Zones.

Columbine High School (15 dead) was a Gun Free Zone covered by the Gun Free School Zones Act.

After the Sandy Hook massacre, facts and stories began sifting out of the confused history of the shootings. One heroic story that later came to light centered on the principal of Sandy Hook – Dawn Hochsprung. The National Post later said that “Hochsprung and Sherlach [the school psychologist] ran out of the room, toward the shots. “They didn’t think twice about confronting or seeing what was going on,” Day said. Hochsprung lunged at the gunman when she confronted him, officials say. She was killed. Sherlach is also believed to have been killed.” While most lawmakers called for gun control and assault weapon bans, one Texas congressman, Representative Louie Gohmert, gave a speech in support of more gun rights. Gohmert said on December 16, 2012, “I wish to God she had had an M-4 in her office […] so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out and she didn’t have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands.” (Associated Press, “Gohmert: Sandy Hook Principal”)

The pattern of Gun Free Zones turning into killing zones doesn’t just extend to school shootings. The Aurora, Colorado ‘Batman’ shooting (12 dead) of July 2012 took place inside a Century movie theater at the Town Center at Aurora shopping mall, which was a Gun Free Zone. An article on Examiner.com stated that “Mass shootings in this country overwhelmingly occur in so-called ‘gun-free zones’ — schools, post offices, and commercial locations that ban the legal carry of defensive firearms.” (Workman, “Obama Wants ‘Action Regardless of Politics’”)

In the Pearl High School shooting cited at the beginning of this essay, Vice Principal Joel Myrick’s heroic actions won acclaim. Wayne Laugesen wrote that “Myrick is as much of a hero as the law would allow.” Laugesen went on to explain his statement. The federal, state and local laws kept Myrick’s gun far away from him. A concealed weapon carried on his person would have been far more effective at saving lives because it could have gone into action faster. Instead, Myrick had to go all the way to his truck to get his gun to stop Woodham. By then, Woodham was already done shooting up Pearl High, and was preparing to move on to Pearl Junior High. Laugesen wrote, “In Pearl, federal, state and local laws helped Luke Woodham shoot nine students. […] The moments it took Myrick to reach his gun are what allowed Woodham to continue shooting and almost escape. Gun laws, and nothing else, gave Woodham that time.”

Woodham was using a single-shot rifle that required reloading after each shot. This alone cost him moments that could have been able to be used effectively to stop the shooter if Myrick had his weapon on his person. (Greenfield, “How an Assistant Principal With a Gun Stopped a School Shooter”; Laugesen, “A Principal and His Gun”)

The arguments in favor of guns center on this. This logical syllogism looks like this: there are good guns and bad guns, and banning good guns will leave only bad guns, therefore banning good guns will open up schools for bad guns to come in. There is no question that guns can be used for ill. However, there is also no question that guns can be used for good. There is a reason why the military, the National Guard and your police department or sheriff’s deputies are all armed with firearms. They are the best method of stopping violent crime.

Larry Correia, in an article cited earlier in this essay, proposed an excellent plan to end violent crime in schools that has already been used in Utah with great success.

The single best way to respond to a mass shooter is with an immediate, violent response. The vast majority of the time, as soon as a mass shooter meets serious resistance, it bursts their fantasy world bubble. Then they kill themselves or surrender. This has happened over and over again. […]

The teachers are there already. The school staff is there already. Their reaction time is measured in seconds, not minutes. They can serve as your immediate violent response. Best case scenario, they engage and stop the attacker, or it bursts his fantasy bubble and he commits suicide. Worst case scenario, the armed staff provides a distraction, and while he’s concentrating on killing them, he’s not killing more children. […]

It is rather simple. Just make it so that your state’s concealed weapons laws trump the Federal Gun Free School Zones act. All that means is that teachers who voluntarily decide to get a concealed weapons permit are capable of carrying their guns at work. Easy. Simple. Cheap. Available now.

(Correia, “An Opinion On Gun Control”)

Correia’s plan takes into account the fact that concealed carry permits are only issued for adults, so only the staff can have guns, preventing student violence. Students would not be able to have guns under Utah law unless they were participating in competition shooting and accompanied by an adult. Correia also mentioned that concealed carry for school staff should not be mandatory, saying that only “the ones who wish to take responsibility and carry a gun” are worth anything in an actual situation. The armed staff will then be prepared to stop (by shooting the criminal) or distract (by trying to shoot him) a would-be shooter from accomplishing his goal – hurting people. And as Correia said, this plan is “Easy. Simple. Cheap. Available now.” (Correia, “An Opinion On Gun Control”)

The basic reasoning is this: guns will be used, both for good and for ill. If good gun users are banned, then all the guns that are left will be in the hands of bad gun users. If all the guns that are left are bad guns, then people will get hurt without anyone to stop the criminals. There are many real-world examples of this.

On Sunday afternoon, December 9, 2007, 24-year-old Matthew Murray began shooting churchgoers at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. A civilian volunteer security officer and church member reacted quickly and effectively, shooting Murray with her concealed carry weapon. Murray fatally shot himself after being wounded multiple times. Death toll: 2. (7NEWS, “6 Shot At New Life Church”; FOX News, “Colorado Church Gunman Had Grudge”)

On December 11, 2012, 22-year-old Jacob Tyler Roberts began to shoot shoppers at the Clackamas Town Center, near Portland, Oregon. A civilian concealed carry permit holder named Nick Meli drew his concealed weapon and aimed his weapon at Roberts, who was armed with a stolen AR-15 type rifle. At the last second, he realized another bystander was behind Roberts, and refrained from firing. However, once Roberts realized that there was an armed civilian in what he thought was a safe killing zone, he committed suicide. Death toll: 2. (Benner, “Clackamas Mall Shooter”; Channel 8 News, “Gunman, Two Victims Die”; Farago, “Clackamas Concealed Carry Showdown”)

These aren’t the only examples where private citizens stopped shooters before the situation turned into a mass killing. Often times, their zero or miniscule death toll renders them not newsworthy in the mainstream media. These situations occur frequently. Lives are being saved by private citizens on a regular basis. Gun proponents say that the same thing needs to happen in schools.

Switzerland has one of the highest gun ownership per capita rates in the world, behind only the United States and Yemen. Estimates run from 20.9 to 60.5 civilian guns per 100 people, plus off-duty military firearms. (Small Arms Survey, “Small Arms Survey 2007”) Switzerland has one of the best established gun cultures in the world. Every civilian is required to attend mandatory gun safety and marksmanship training as part of the Swiss militia. Ever since William Tell, the Swiss have had a reputation for straight shooting. Dr. Stephen Halbrook once gave a lecture where he stated that: “When the German Kaiser asked in 1912 what the quarter of a million Swiss militiamen would do if invaded by a half million German soldiers, a Swiss replied: shoot twice and go home.” (“Target Switzerland”) Good guns are everywhere in Switzerland.

Curiously, Switzerland is also one of the countries with the lowest intentional homicide rates in the world. Switzerland had 0.7 intentional homicides per 100,000 population in 2008. Switzerland is right down there with countries like Palau (0.0), Monaco (0.0), Iceland (0.3) and Guam (0.6). (UNODC 95-96) Many people believe this statistic is because of the large number of gun owners and because of the gun culture in Switzerland. Why would someone try to come and break into your house if he knows that one out of two houses is armed, trained, and ready to shoot an intruder? Criminals have no incentive to burglarize because they know if they do, they will only get through at most one or two houses before getting shot.

The gun proponents say that this principle should be applied to America’s public schools. If Swiss burglars and murderers and mass killers know that there are good guns all around them, they’re going to pack up and move to a country like Rwanda, which has 0.6 civilian guns per 100 people and 17.1 homicides per 100,000 population (76 times less guns and about 25 times the Swiss homicide rate). (Small Arms Survey, “Small Arms Survey 2007”; UNODC 92) Criminals aren’t dumb; they’re going to be looking for the easiest place to work, just like you would. Good guns deter criminals from committing crime by making the profit not worth the cost.

The facts are clear – gun control hasn’t worked at stopping mass school shootings. In fact, statistics show a marked increase in school shootings after the Gun Free School Zones Act became law. However, in the literally thousands of cases outside schools where civilians had guns on hand, the civilians were able to either stop the shooting, or distract the shooter until law enforcement could arrive. Even in cases in school grounds, armed civilians were able to successfully stop the shootings from going on. Good guns stop crimes on a daily basis.

America needs more good guns, not more bad guns. It’s time to get some good guns in schools.

Works Cited

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