After great tragedy — as that which befell Newtown, Conn. and indeed all of us Dec. 14 — it is common, healthy and necessary to look for answers and seek solutions.
Predictably, some people proclaim that the immediate aftermath of such an event isn’t a proper time to discuss gun control. Righteous anger that such a discussion would “politicize” a tragedy is itself passive-aggressively politicizing the tragedy.
As has been said, Newtown feels different than the myriad other mass shootings which have been our national shame for too long. That 20 of the 27 victims were children, that most of the adults were educators at an elementary school — it struck us in a way others have not.
And so, on a national level, the president indicates support for the restoration of the assault weapons ban — though, to be fair, the weapon used by Adam Lanza would not have been prohibited under the now-repealed, perhaps soon-to-be-revived law.
Other leaders and pundits rightly point out a conversation about mental health care should be part of the discussion.
And then there are those who tut that had there been more guns at Sandy Hook Elementary, this all could have been prevented.
Indeed, some — in Tennessee, Sen. Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains) — propose arming teachers, even mandating the deputization of elementary school educators. Niceley said he will introduce a bill when the General Assembly gavels in next month that will allow schools to pay for background checks and firearms training for teacher volunteers, and he didn’t wholly dismiss the idea the state might pay for the guns themselves.
Niceley reasons that if potential mass shooters know there are teachers who are armed, they will avoid schools, which presumes these shooters are rational actors, though there’s plenty of evidence they are not.
It is deterrence theory writ small — the fear of mutually assured destruction kept the Americans and Soviets from firing off world-ending nuclear missiles during the Cold War, so surely arming teachers to the teeth will end mass shootings. In that case, perhaps low-yield bombs should be a lagniappe with a teaching certificate.
Gov. Haslam didn’t exactly dismiss Niceley’s proposal, but Speaker of the House Beth Harwell unequivocally opposed it, raising hopes more sensible heads will prevail.
Niceley, Stacey Campfield and others like them presume teachers will react with the cool efficiency of law enforcement when faced with a situation so high-stress few of us can even comprehend it. According to this camp, the potential benefit — unproven — of putting weapons in teachers’ hands outweighs the potential risks of putting firearms in kindergarten classrooms.
No doubt, these are the same folks who would classify a gun-control debate as reactionary politicization; they can’t see the plank in their own eye.