This Is Not A Fortress. I Am Not a Soldier.

Keeping our children safe shouldn’t require arming teachers, staff, or parents.

On the Monday following the horrific murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, someone called in a threat to my kids’ school district. The district locked down all five schools in the district including my daughter’s kindergarten-only school and my son’s elementary school. I heard about this via an email from the district. I was calm until I called my wife with the news. Then, we both cried.

The police eventually deemed the threat to be without credibility. The kids came home free of fear or even anxiety. The teachers had clearly held it together much better than had I. The kids mentioned the locked doors and the lack of recess and gym but seemed unbothered by the events of the day. I cannot thank the administrators and the teachers enough for making such a troubling situation so easy on my kids.

But, here’s the thing: while I’m glad to live in a school district with such wonderful educators, I don’t want my kids to live in a world where preparing for a school shooting is normal.

Clearly, my level of distress was and still is high, due in no small part to the fact that the threat to my kids came so soon after the horrific murders at Sandy Hook. But my intent isn’t to write about my emotions in all of this. We all love our children. My sadness over what occurred is not unique. We all ache. This is something we share.

What we don’t share is our opinions on what should be done now.

I am a supporter of Second Amendment rights. I have plenty of very responsible friends and neighbors and family members who are gun owners. I see no utility in seizing their guns or preventing them from purchasing more.

But the Second Amendment is not a mandate. It permits gun ownership; it does not require it. And yet, I have heard plenty of people argue, after this most recent tragedy and after previous incidents of mass murders involving guns, that what we need is more guns. The argument generally goes as such: if we are all armed, then no one would dare start shooting. People say this as if it is the obvious and only solution. But, personally, I can’t imagine a more cynical and depressing answer to gun violence.

What kind of nihilistic society believes that our safety, let alone the safety of our children, should be governed by who has the best weaponry or is the best marksman? Is our only recourse to arm ourselves and live in a condition of perpetual anxiety, always ready to draw our guns, afraid to go anywhere without first arming ourselves? Perhaps we can convince ourselves that such a society would be a more secure society, but we certainly can’t believe it would be a more peaceful one. There is no peace when the only defense is self-defense.

I prefer to be optimistic. I hope for a society where my family can be safe even if we choose not to arm ourselves, and where the school staff is unarmed. Because I do not want to be a soldier. And I do not want my children’s schools to be fortresses. I want to be a dad, not part of some militia. I want our schools to be places of learning, not armed encampments where children are hidden behind locked doors. I want my kids to be free from the worry that evil might visit their classroom.

Arming ourselves and our schools is an act of surrender. If we do that, we admit that our society is failing and our only hope is to hunker down and just try to survive. But I don’t believe our society is failing. It may be sick. It may riddled with narcissism and sensationalism and political divisiveness that boils into hate, but I refuse to believe we can’t improve. That we can’t find ways to protect ourselves through improvements in our mental health system and through a general cultural shift, where we start recognizing our shared humanity.

I am fine if you want to own a gun. I will stand up for your right to do so. But don’t tell me I have to own one too. Don’t tell me I have to send my kids to a school with armed guards with assault rifles. That is not the America I want for my children.

When my kids came home after the lockdown at their schools, we explained to our third grader what had occurred. His only real question was: Why? Why would someone threaten him? I had theories as to the perpetrator’s mental condition and need for attention, but this kind of speculation wasn’t the answer my son wanted. He meant: What kind of society allows such a thing to happen? To that, I have no answer. But that doesn’t mean there are no solutions. We can’t erase evil and tragedy from the world, but we can do more than add more guns to the equation. I believe we can do better than that.

 

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About Alan Stewart Carl

Alan Stewart Carl is a writer of fiction and essays. He lives in San Antonio, Texas with his wife and two children. A list of his other works and his occasional musings can be found at AlanStewartCarl.com.

Comments

  1. “I prefer to be optimistic. I hope for a society where my family can be safe even if we choose not to arm ourselves, and where the school staff is unarmed. Because I do not want to be a soldier. And I do not want my children’s schools to be fortresses. I want to be a dad, not part of some militia. I want our schools to be places of learning, not armed encampments where children are hidden behind locked doors. I want my kids to be free from the worry that evil might visit their classroom.”

    Wow, that’s a great solution…empty idealism… must be nice. Sounds like in your world if you ignore the problem it will go away.

  2. “The argument generally goes as such: if we are all armed, then no one would dare start shooting.”

    You don’t have to be ‘optimistic’ to see why that argument is nonsense. Indeed, cynicism helps us recognize that such an argument assumes that everyone who starts shooting is acting rationally and made a careful, objective cost/benefit analysis beforehand. Obviously this is untrue.

  3. Very cute concept. Warm Teddy Bears and such.
    But I will never accept direct and arrogant willingness to leave children vulnerable to evil just because you think guns are icky.

    Q: How many children had died in school fires in the past 50 years?
    A: Zero
    Why?: An infiltrated infrastructure set to prevent it, PREVENTED it !!!

    I suggest people get real and start learning how to protect children, rather than sacrifice them to perpetuate an agenda.

  4. Richard Aubrey says:

    Gee. Just posted this link in another gun thread before I saw this one.
    I don’t want my movie-going experience to take place in a fortress.
    http://www.snopes.com/politics/guns/sanantonio.asp
    Another theater shooting. Note lack of coverage.

    Yeah. What this guy wants is…going to come true because if it doesn’t…he’ll be mad or something.

  5. Quote “But that doesn’t mean there are no solutions. We can’t erase evil and tragedy from the world, but we can do more than add more guns to the equation. I believe we can do better than that.”

    So what exactly are these solutions? Please be more specific, Mr Carl.

  6. To suggest that, because one person feels safer and abler to handle threats because they choose to carry a gun, it will therefore make ALL people safer and abler if they carry guns, is to fall prey to the logical fallacy of composition. The basic version of the FOC is this: 1) I will be able to see better if I stand up at a concert; 2) So if everyone else stands up, they will see better, too; 3) Therefore, everyone should stand up.

    It doesn’t work. If everyone stands up, everyone is right back where they started. Some people arming themselves with guns may make themselves feel better, but it doesn’t guarantee the safety of anyone in addition to increasing the probability of unauthorized access to those weapons (as the December 28th shooting in that New Jersey police station demonstrates), nor does it prove that average citizens can protect themselves or anyone else when even trained, armed professionals cannot protect themselves, as the fatal shooting of two armed police officers in Topeka, KS on December 16th demonstrates.

    Are there examples of good guys stopping bad guys through use of guns? Sure. I recently read of a case in San Antonio where an off-duty sheriff deputy shot and killed a gunman who had shot his ex-girlfriend in a restaurant and then allegedly followed the fleeing patrons into an adjacent theater for the purpose of shooting others. The deputy pulled her weapon and shot the man to death. That is an example of where the gun, properly used, fulfilled its purpose.

    It is important to note, however, that was ONE PERSON with a gun, not a room full of people with a gun. And that one person was a trained professional, not someone who carries a gun “because it makes me feel better”. Here again is where too many people commit the fallacy of composition. Just because one person has success in some action does guarantee that others will have success, nor does it increase the overall odds of overall success.

    It is also a dangerous, fallacious argument to imply (as one commenter did) that the success of the “infrastructure” of fire safety in preventing fire deaths is somehow translatable to preventing crimes of intent through “infrastructure”, the extension of which is training and arming everyone to carry guns. This does not make sense. The implied argument is loaded with logical failures that destroy its viability. An accidental fire does not have intent to kill, it does not plan, fires do not not have the capacity for thought and reason. Gun violence involves people acting (rationally or irrationally) with intent, and is impossible to predict. As one other commenter above noted, “Indeed, cynicism helps us recognize that such an argument assumes that everyone who starts shooting is acting rationally and made a careful, objective cost/benefit analysis beforehand.” Giving more guns to more people does not magically grant the power of accurate prediction.

    Sure, it may be idealistic or unrealistic to hope we could just live in a world where bad people won’t do bad things. I support the right to gun ownership, it’s implied and allowed by the Constitution and most laws. I don’t think guns are “icky”, but they are tools whose only purpose is to inflict violence over distance.

    Those who need guns to make themselves believe they are safer have no right to put others in danger, either. And that includes arming teachers and concealed carry options. As an example, yesterday in a town not far from where I live, a “responsible” citizen carried a loaded weapon into a local restaurant. The weapon “accidentally” discharged and he shot his wife. Fortunately, she will be okay.

    I don’t see this person as a paragon of defense and security, when he couldn’t even remember to keep the safety on. His paranoia and insecurity do not trump the safety of his fellow citizens. Imagine that gun going off in a room full of armed people, most of whom are not professionally trained. Good luck getting everyone to act rationally, safely and skillfully. And hope and pray that it isn’t you or your child that gets shot, just because too many others wanted to make themselves feel safer by carrying dangerous tools whose only purpose is to kill.

    • Stop trying to inject sense into these matters Kevin, it will just confuse matters.

      Best we stay on track with John Lott(ish) rhetoric – the Government is just over yonder and they are packing nukes. Arm up!

    • Richard Aubrey says:

      Ref. San Antonio. The armed non-perp was a cop. You’ll note that, until reminded that Clinton thought cops in schools was a good idea, lots of the Right Sort of People thought having cops in schools was a terrible idea.
      So we’re making progress.
      Note the spray&pray shooters in NYC in the fall who hit half a dozen bystanders were also cops. So you can’t guarantee good shooting goes with a uniform.
      Various armed citizens might–this is what the opponents of CCW claim–shoot wildly and kill even more people on Flight 93 than, for example, died on Flight 93. Problem is, there is no evidence. The imaginings of the deliberately obtuse do not amount to facts.
      And as to everybody standing up. Also bogus. Many states have huge percentages of CCW and we don’t have the imagined problems. Here’s the thing: You need facts. Imagining things might go differently than things actually go does not impress anybody.
      Also, misrepresenting Lott’s position is a negative in credibility.
      Tell you something: I’m not the only guy who knows this.

      • Be aware Richard, I am very in tune with Lott study that is often repeated in gun forums.

        My credibility on that front is quite sound. Is yours?

        • Richard Aubrey says:

          elissa.
          Then you can cite something from Lott telling us the government is packing up nukes to use against us.

          • I see, you’re taking a literal approach – how about you start by reading what Gary Kleck (one of yours) wrote in his book with regards to John Lott’s “More guns less crime” and what it purports to show…

            And in my defense – you can’t mischaracterize nonsense.

            On a side note and more related to my hyperbole: do you deny that one of the main pillars of the pro gun lobby is to protect against government tyranny?

            • Elissa, You can’t ignore the supporting history surrounding the second amendment. Why was it put there? If you examine the entire Bill Of Rights, you’ll see that ALL of the elements do the same bloody thing: Protect us from a govt that attempts to over-step its authority. Read them all. Tis a hoot. They ALL speak to empowering the civilians and giving the basis for why we will fight, how & why we will not tollerate power-grabs beyond the scope of the Constitution and that we have these specific rights to base our actions upon.

              If we are convicted of exercising a right granted to us by the Bill Of Rights, the Government formed by The People no longer exists.

              The FIRST step in this fictional possibility of tyranny you people love to poke fun at is and always has been, the disarming of the populous. PolPot, Mao, Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, etc all disarmed the populous first-thing in office.

              Today’s teddy-bear anti-gunners refuse to look at modern history AND human nature and see the truth. Why do you imagine the USA is any different from Germany, The USSR? It that deliberate denial based upon something real, or is it just the cable TV and leather-lined SUVs intoxicating you into vissions of immunity?

              I frequently deal with the upper-middle-class folks who are SO taken-up with their own power, their own worlds, and their extravagent comfort, that they see themselves as immune from all eveil. They really do.

              They meet me when their child became the victim of a pedophile. And one common song in every case is, I never thought THAT could happen to US.

              The FIRST step of tyranny is to dissarm the public in the name of a mutually aggreed-upon cause. Like a school full of dead children, a mall full of dead shoppers. I’m not accusing the O-man of setting it up, but remember Rohm Emanuel’s rule: Never let a good crisis go to waste.

              MY problem with all of it is that its not doing ONE LOUSY THING to protect our school kids. Not ONE! Its agenda run-amok and it has taken our lemmings eyes off the ball. They are screaming for NRA blood…cease the guns!!! All the while, our children remain foolishly vulnerable, while the adults tasked with protecting them walk the streets with foolish signs…thei politicians tasked with protecting them, holler for fully useless actions only set to “do something.”

      • I don’t care that Clinton thought having cops in schools was a good idea. I don’t agree with the simplified version of that proposal.

        If anyone is imagining how things might go, its the pro-non-regulated gun side. I am well aware that someone carrying a gun and is well-trained to use it in surprise situations has the potential to stop terrible people from doing what they plan to do. That’s why I referenced the San Antonio shooting. However, that doesn’t mean that multiple guns equates with increased safety.

        As to needing facts, that’s true of your position, too. Here’s a few interesting facts regarding guns and mass shootings: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/12/14/nine-facts-about-guns-and-mass-shootings-in-the-united-states/

        Note in particular number 8 and 9. More guns generally means more homicides and by extension gun-related accidents. I don’t see any evidence from you that high rates of CCW stop anything, because you can’t prove a negative.

        Even if thousands of guns will do what you claim they do, that still doesn’t change the fact that the primary purpose of guns is to maim or kill. As such, they deserve very tight controls. Japan, for example, has some of the tightest gun control regs in the world, and consequently a dramatically lower rate of gun-related homicide.

  7. ***”To suggest that, because one person feels safer and abler to handle threats because they choose to carry a gun, it will therefore make ALL people safer and abler if they carry guns,”***

    I don’t really give a rat’s poo about how anyone feels if they are charged with protecting children. I know cops who HATE to carry guns off-duty, but do so out of local rules and duty to society. Protecting children is a mighty task; mighty enough for Sandy Hook adults to throw their bodies at 3000 feet/second bullets. At that moment, the adults taked with protecting children, did so but were fully and horrifically ineffective. Immagine the “oh sh*t” going through their minds when the bullets started destroying the bodies of their students. You think they were thinking “gee, I wish I had a gun to stip this devil?” Do you think they enjoyed the armchair luxury to mentally masturbated the scenario to reach conclusions like “well, if I DID have a gun, I’d probably just miss the psycho and hit a perfectly good locker.”

    Maybe they wished that the janitor could have done something other than sh*t his pants.

    ***”feel safer by carrying dangerous tools whose only purpose is to kill.”***

    There’s that “F-word” again….but either way. Duty shirking or not…the task remains. But you are wrong about “the only purpose is to kill thing.” Guns have an awesome ability to discourage attack without spitting bullets. I’ve proven it at least twice.

    But when a gun does speak-up, it is not always going to kill a good guy. I’ve heard about a few events when children have actually used them to protect themselves and siblings from mortal attack.

    But here we go again…ignoring the task…the most important task we can ever face as humans, and we, as a nation of hand wringers, are focusing on the ickiness and cruelty and violent nature of a mis-used inanimate object. Its typical of a civilization in rapid decline.

    Oh…and back to your F-word. Yeah, I’d feel safer if someone in that school had realized that school shootings by psychos do in fact happen in this nation and that in my kids school they had some options other than “do I close my eyes first?”

    This is reality time. Reality of the world visited with the CHILDREN of Newtown, and the adults let them down for emotional ideals. Sleep well!

    • I am in no way wrong about the primary purpose of guns: they are designed to project force over distance in a short time period, the end result of which (assuming the target is hit) injury or death. That is the only reason they act as deterrents, not because they look shiny and big. And deterrence by gun only really works if someone is seeking to avoid pain and death, which would not seem to be the case with people like the shooters in Aurora or Newtown.

      As to shootings by psychos happening, we are all painfully aware that they do happen in this country. No one is ignorant of that fact. The fact is they do happen, in this country which has the highest rate of personal gun ownership in the industrialized world. Don’t pretend there is no connection.

      • Oh…I know….but its been a LONG time since a gun told me to pick it up and do something bad.

        Have you ever asked yourself why such wrapped things are happening these days, and not in the days when a 12yo could bring his .22 Browning to school for after-school hunting? or why in Hibbing Minn, the High Sckool has a rifle range in the basement (as did hundreds of schools in this nation)?

        I mean, I have MY opinion on why we have current day slaughter of the lambs…just wondering why YOU think it is.

        IMO: Snot the guns telling Lanza to do what he did. He could have the same body-count with wasp-spray, a knife, a bat and a ninja sword. But why now? Why NOT back “then?”

        But the libs can go on blaming the gun. Hell, the CT gov said “we are not going to allow this to happen again” and instantly, in the same breath, cited a review of gun laws. Total fktard in my book. He’s not interested in saving ANY children…and blood IS on HIS hands…NO doubt in my mind!

  8. wellokaythen says:

    I wonder, as a practical matter, how anyone at a school could possibly distinguish between an armed volunteer who’s there to protect the children and an armed intruder whose there to shoot them. Don’t worry at all that he has a pistol strapped to his hip – it’s okay for an outsider to carry a gun into a school, unless he draws first, and then we shoot him?

    Suppose there’s a clerical error and two armed NRA volunteers arrive at the same school at the same time, unbeknownst to the other. If only the “good guys with guns” only ever draw on “bad guys with guns”, and they only ever hit the bad guys.

    What you would achieve is that only people who are familiar to the school staff or could present NRA credentials would be allowed to shoot up a school. That’s a kind of progress, I suppose.

    • Suppose you come up with a plan to protect children and F the guns for a moment.

      How does a high-and-mighty think we ought to actually protect the children?

      Are you FOOL enough to think an NRA membership card would serve as a “document of capability?” Do you think so little of the children that your can be so bloody smarmy? Has anyone here or any other media source/outlet ever suggested NRA membership was a qualifying factor? People have ONLY suggested highly trained people be on campus or in-building if they are there with a gun.

      Look, we all know you are of superior intellect and don’t lower yourself to the dirt of real-life activity, but would you PLEASE try putting away the “smarmy” for a moment and suggest one…just ONE freakin idea to actually protect the school children!?

      I dare ya!

    • Richard Aubrey says:

      wellokaythen.
      I suppose you could try to see if anything like this has happened at, say, Appalachian College of Law. Two armed citizens. Took care of things.
      Or anyplace else. Got any evidence? Examples?

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