IPFS Vin Suprynowicz

The Libertarian

Vin Suprynowicz

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Within living memory, Southern Nevada high schools had rifle ranges and competitive shooting teams. Kids brought their .22s to school; no one thought much about it.

Up until 1989, Nevada had no restrictions on teachers carrying weapons in the schools, according to state Sen. Bob Beers. To this day, teachers can do so with the permission of a school’s principal, he says, while California, Oregon and Utah manage fine without even that restriction.

Yet Sen. Beers now seems to have stirred up a swirl of controversy by merely proposing that Nevada schools be taken off what he calls the list of ”easy terror targets” by again “allowing” teachers to exercise their constitutional right to bear arms.

From the response in some quarters, one would think the senator is proposing that teachers be encouraged to shoot any young person who forgets his homework. Yet there have been no reported incidents of teachers harming their students in jurisdictions where they regularly go armed, such as Israel.

Sen. Beers’ proposal -- Senate Bill 286 -- would allow teachers to exercise their 2nd and 14th amendment rights only after 40 hours of specialized training -- five times the amount required for any other Nevadan to a acquire a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

Nor would any teacher or school employee be required to go armed. The authorization would be “volunteers only” -- and it’s a safe bet that of the few who apply, many would be ex-military or ex-police.

Hundreds died when Islamic terrorists targeted a school in Russia in September of 2004, Sen. Beers told the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee Thursday.

Terrorists may have no dearth of potential targets, but “I can think of none that combine such an extreme degree of vulnerability and pricelessness as our schools and our children,” Sen. Beers said.

In the Middle East, Arab terrorists once targeted Israeli schoolchildren as easy prey. But after the Israelis authorized both teachers and parent chaperones to carry guns -- thus “hardening the target” -- only one group of Israeli schoolchildren has been subject to such an attack. On March 13, 1997, seven seventh and eighth-grade Israeli girls were shot to death by a Jordanian soldier while they visited Jordan’s so-called Island of Peace. The Los Angeles Times reports the Israelis had “complied with Jordanian requests to leave their weapons behind when they entered the border enclave. Otherwise, they might have been able to stop the shooting, several parents said.”

Sgt. Bob Roshak of the Metropolitan Police spoke against Beers’ proposal in Carson City Thursday. “We really don’t feel that schools are the place for handguns to be,” Sgt. Roshak said.

But that’s nonsense on its face. Does Sgt. Roshak really expect us to believe that -- should shooting break out in a Southern Nevada school and Metro officers be called to the scene -- they would carefully remove their sidearms and lock them in their trunks before entering the premises?

Of course not.

Metro thinks schools are great places to carry their handguns if they’re called there. The good sergeant only means Metro doesn’t think schools are a good place for anyone ELSE to bear arms.

Sure, it’s easier to spot bad guys if they’re the only ones with guns. In totalitarian states, where “civilians” are disarmed by law, they’re generally the ones still standing amidst the piles of bodies.

American schoolchildren and at least one teacher bled to death inside Columbine High School in April of 1999 after their two assailants merely waited for the on-duty “school policeman” to go outside and sit in his car for an early lunch. Once the attack began, that “school policeman” apparently made no effort to intervene, while the real local police dawdled outside for hours.

No student, teacher or administrator inside that Colorado high school had the means at hand to fight back and to stop that attack.

But in a similar school shooting in Pearl, Miss. in October of 1997, Vice Principal Joel Myrick responded quickly to the sound of shots. Young Luke Woodham had slit his mother’s throat before carrying a .30-30 deer rifle to school that day. Woodham fatally shot two students as Mr. Myrick dashed to his truck -- parked more than a quarter mile away as required by law -- to recover and load his own Colt .45. He then captured and disarmed Woodham, holding a gun to his head for more than four minutes while waiting for police to arrive, thus almost certainly saving lives.

“I said ‘why are you shooting my kids?’ ” Myrick later recalled. “He said it was because nobody liked him and everything seemed hopeless. Then I asked him his name. He said ‘You know me, Mr. Myrick. Remember? I gave you a discount on your pizza delivery last week.”

So an armed American teacher has already saved lives, on an occasion when the police couldn’t possibly arrive in time -- but only after other children died while he was obliged to run an 880-yard dash.

“The effect of ‘shall-issue’ concealed handgun laws which give adults the right to carry concealed handguns ... has been dramatic,” John Lott of Yale University (now of SUNY) reported in 1998. “When states passed them during the 19 years we studied, the number of multiple-victim public shootings declined by 84 percent. Deaths from these shootings plummeted on average by 90 percent, injuries by 82 percent.”

Patrick Boylan, a former member of the Nevada Board of Education, congratulated Sen. Beers on his proposal Thursday, pointing out that floor plans of U.S. public schools have been recovered from terrorists in Iraq. “I commend Sen. Beers on taking such a risky move,” Mr. Boylan said. “But it’s about time we sit up and protect our children.”

Mr. Boylan is right. Police can’t be everywhere. Sen. Beers’ proposal not only acknowledges a pre-existing constitutional right, it also honors the advice of Patrick Henry to the Virginia ratification convention of 1787, that if our children are to remain both safe and free, “The great object is, that every man be armed.”