By ZACH SCHONFELD
7:52 PM EST, January 22, 2013
A strange thing happened at Taft Union High School in Fresno, Calif. this month. A student brought a gun to school and shot a classmate, but no one died. A teacher and school supervisor talked the gunman into surrendering. Both were unarmed.
The story must have surprised NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, who proposed in December that all schools hire armed guards. "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," declared LaPierre.
Not so at Taft Union.
Let's be real: The problem with the NRA's proposal to reduce gun violence is that it is not a proposal to reduce or even condemn gun violence. It is an escalation of gun violence, a further militarization of a learning environment that has been rocked by carnage and trauma. It is an acceptance that these acts of terror are inevitable or even normal in our society and we might as well face it. Ultimately, it is what Mayor Michael Bloomberg has called a "paranoid, dystopian vision," where violence in America is not an aberration but a way of life.
Let's reject that vision.
The first problem with the NRA's proposal is that it regards mass murderers as sensible actors who can be logically engaged with during an attack. They are not. As writer Dave Cullen wrote, most mass murderers — whether psychopathic, delusionally insane, or suicidally depressed — plan to die in the act. They will not be deterred or frightened by an armed guard. They will shoot to kill. Whether they are shot in the process is of little consequence. Adam Lanza, the shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, killed himself when he realized he had been spotted by police. He'd finished what he came to do.
With a semiautomatic rifle, it takes less than 10 minutes to shoot dozens. The Aurora, Colo., massacre, which left 12 dead and 58 wounded, lasted only seven minutes. Shooter James Holmes came prepared: He wore a ballistic vest, ballistic helmet, throat protector, groin protector, and tactical gloves. Imagine if an armed moviegoer or guard had taken the NRA's advice and fired back. In a darkened theater packed with panicked, scrambling people, the death count could have been higher.
Then there is the childish binary between "good guys" and "bad guys." The NRA argues that most gun owners are responsible, law-abiding citizens. I think they're right. That doesn't mean the "good guys" have the training or life-and-death responsibility to wield a weapon and kill another human being — especially in situations where it's not clear who or where the shooter is. Every year there are stories like the New Fairfield man who shot and killed his 15-year-old son, who was breaking into a relative's home, in September. That father wasn't a "bad guy." He was a human being like the rest of us.
Even trained personnel are prone to mistakes. When Jeffrey Johnson, the New York man, shot a former co-worker outside the Empire State Building in August, nine bystanders were wounded — all of them by police fire. And more shooting is supposed to make us feel safer?
Columbine High School had an armed guard on duty in 1999. So did Virginia Tech. Studies have failed to find a link between armed guards and safer schools. Instead, according to Think Progress, a progressive blog, student arrest rates increase.
The NRA's refrain is not a call to fight gun violence. It's an escalation. But why would we expect meaningful policy proposals from an organization whose mission is to lobby for the business interests of arms manufacturers and related industries? In facilitating the continued sale of guns — whether to private citizens or professional guards — the NRA is merely doing its job.
As responsible citizens, let's do ours. We don't need more good guys with guns. We need bad guys without them.
Zach Schonfeld, 22, of Chappaqua, N.Y., is a senior majoring in English and American studies at Wesleyan University.
The Courant invites writers younger than 30 to write essays of 650 words or less containing strong views. Please email your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org, with your full name, hometown, daytime phone number, age and occupation (or your school's name and your level in school). You can also fax op-eds to 860-520-6941.
Copyright © 2015, The Hartford Courant