I have worked at several large, comprehensive high schools as an administrator. Over the last 5 years, I’ve been involved in four lockdowns which were precipitated from a real threat to the school and its staff. Each one of these was absolutely terrifying.
Every single instance had me thinking about the last thing I said to my wife or my kids, how I left the house that morning, and what would be said to them in the event that I didn’t return home.
Every single instance had me questioning whether or not my chosen profession was worth it.
Every single instance gave me a new perspective on every single student in the building, especially the challenging ones. No matter the offense that my squirrely-est kid at school committed, I would prefer they be there for me to send them to In-School-Suspension rather than make a phone call about how they’d never be coming home again.
Every single instance strengthened my respect for the campus-based law enforcement officers that I worked with.
Every single instance made me think hard about our commitment as a nation and a state to a free, fair, and excellent public education. They also strengthened my belief that a free, fair, and excellent public education is the only way to move forward as a society.
Even without the presence of an actual threat the same thoughts, ideas, regrets, and fears that went through my head during those actual emergencies return every time I have to practice for the eventuality of a day like that (which is monthly, by the way, because we now have to assume its inevitability) but the only one that never went through my head is the one I felt that I should highlight.
In every single instance, I have never once thought, “Boy, I wish I had a gun.”
The horrifying act in Florida is no longer going to be horrifying to us as a country. I wish that I could muster tears, or even feel the proper amount of fear that I probably should, considering my workplace. But I don’t anymore. I’m numbed to it and most of the time I can manage no more than an exasperated sigh. I absolutely hate the continued loss of young life and the loss of those who dedicate themselves to teaching and caring for the young. But it’s going to happen again. And it might happen to me, or my students, or my own kids, which is where I come to the one idea in all of this that still makes me feel an emotional surge, that still enrages me over this whole epidemic.
I typed that last phrase about my death, the deaths of students or of my own kids, and you, John or Jane Q. Reader apparently don’t give an ever-loving shit.
After these events, you offer thoughts and prayers again. You offer trite moralizations about the decline of the family, or about the lack of awareness regarding mental disability or instability in this country, you demonize those who don’t have fathers or mothers, who don’t attend church, or who were just always “a bad apple”. You’ll agree with the mouthpieces and infotainers out there that now is not the time to talk about politics, now is the time to let these families alone to grieve. We shouldn’t cheapen these events with such mundane talk as gun-control laws, because you own guns and you’d never shoot anyone (except in self-defense, home invasion, in case of hostile government takeover, or if you had to stand your ground, or if the right heightened circumstances presented themselves, or if an accident happened, or …) and the criminals will get around every law, and these are hardened criminals with long records to go by, after all.
You’ll angrily tell me how crazy I am to want to regulate or restrict access to a consumer product, because besides for Benadryl, Tide Pods, Tylenol, defective baby dolls, and even offensive library books we’ve never done anything like that, and besides it won’t work anyways because criminals and all that. You’ll call me a fascist and a dictator for even suggesting restriction of assault or assault-style weapons, telling me that I’m pushing my personal belief on you because others can’t control themselves. You’ll claim that they’re a tool and that any tool could be used inappropriately, so if we’re going to be silly and ban guns then let’s just ban baseball bats, hammers, and cars too. You’ll quibble about tangential nonsense, such as arguing that the number of school shootings for 2018 isn’t as high as some news outlets are reporting and that this is the typical bleeding-heart overreaction to a situation that has nothing to do with guns.
You’ll offer very few solutions. The only solution that you will offer which, inexplicably, seems to have any political will behind it is to arm me and my kind. You think that the answer is more murder, more death, more mayhem, more lives lost.
Your answer is called Mutually-Assured Destruction.
You want me to admit to you that this is the new reality, and that there is nothing which can be done except get smart and arm myself, because you never know when one of that tiny (you swear it’s a very small number) maladjusted (definitely mental problems) group of irresponsible gun owners (again, very small and not all that much of a threat) comes on to my campus looking to punctuate the misery of their own lives by ending mine. My only option, you say, is to shoot first and hope to God that I hit them and not one of my staff members, kids, parents, or anyone else unfortunate enough to be on campus.
You know what I think about all of that?
I think that you’re Wrong. Morally, ethically wrong.
When you say that there aren’t as many mass shootings as the media reports, do you know what you’re saying?
Have you thought about the fact that you’re telling every teacher and student that there’s now a body count that should be met for this problem to be worth your attention? What number of dead kids allows us to have your attention, I wonder? Because it’s up in the thousands, and so I wonder how many dead kids, dead teachers, dead coaches, dead campus police officers, and dead administrators it would take for this to merit your care?
You scream about mental health care being the issue but applaud the gutting of social services. From the BIGLY, YUGE TAX CUT OF BIGNESS I am currently netting a colossal gain of 17 dollars per paycheck. If mental health is the problem, then why do you applaud the gutting of social services? Is it so that you can have 17 dollars added to your paycheck? Is that what my life and the lives of my students worth to you? In the same breath, you scream about the irresponsibility of society and condemn me to death if the situation merits it because it’s better than life without your AR.
And you are Wrong.
You moralize about the lack of mental health care and support and then complain about the cost of schools and taxes which would pay for programs to help those in mental crisis. You applaud the dismantling of healthcare and wish to do absolutely nothing about the skyrocketing cost of insurance, or even that mental health care doesn’t feature as a covered service in most insurance plans. Mental health care is of no more importance to you than my life, which isn’t as important as your guns.
And you are Wrong.
You’re telling me that your unlimited ability to purchase and use weapons designed only to take lives however you choose is the greatest hallmark of personal freedom in this country.
And you are Wrong.
You’re telling me that my life and the lives of my students mean less to you than your ability to purchase weapons designed or styled for a theatre of war. My potential homicide is less important to you than your AR, banana clip, bump stock, and gun show.
And you are Wrong.
You’re telling me that the minuscule amount you get back on your paycheck is more important to you than proper school support, mental health care, and opportunities for the poor, outcast, and misunderstood to get that support before they make a terrible choice to buy the only thing that they can with virtually no hassle.
And you are Wrong.
You’re telling me that you think nationwide voter I.D. programs will stop the “epidemic” of “illegal voters” but a systematic nationwide background ID check won’t catch a single rogue domestic terrorist out for my blood?
And you are Wrong.
Here’s the message that your arguments are telegraphing to me: My life, the lives of my co-workers and my students are worth less to you than to preserve the right of a mentally-deranged terrorist (yes, terrorist) to walk into a gun store in Coral Springs, Florida and purchase the ability to kill me and my kind with little to no hassle, worry, wait, or care. You would prefer to preserve a stranger’s right to kill then my right to live.
You are Wrong, and you are a Coward.
You’re cowardly because you’d rather hunch behind the blood-soaked status quo than to buck up the courage to really talk about the absolute unacceptability of the lives of teachers and students that your “freedom” is costing on an almost daily basis. Because that is a courageous, expensive, long-term talk that may result in necessary, life-saving, expensive, and variably successful legislation and programs. It takes courage to put the gun down, look into the future and make a decision which doesn’t involve you and what you can get for yourself, but rather a decision which preserves the future of others, and you don’t have that.
Once upon a time, citizens who worked actively for the harm of their fellow citizens were labeled as spies and traitors. Today, the wanton murder of citizens has the full support of a large minority of the citizenry and a current majority of the government while our lives at schools, churches and public buildings are sold very cheaply to satiate the interests of a few.
Until the day comes when you are willing to engage in a comprehensive reform that INCLUDES the restriction of certain firearms from our populace as a moral, ethical, and practical necessity, then I call you what you are, a coward.
From now on, if you claim again that it’s a mental health without the will to provide it for all and to include it as part of a comprehensive and restrictive background check process for buying firearms, then you’re a coward.
If you claim that it’s the price of freedom without consideration of your own sacrifice to preserve my freedom and my right to live, then you are a coward. A craven coward, afraid of everything, and hiding behind your homicidal killing machines, and afraid to do what must be done in the preservation of human life.
If my life is worth less than your guns, then so be it. I’m going to call you out for what you are. You are a coward.