2018-02-22 / Editorial

Make our schools safer

The Right Side
by Mike Coleman

Last week we were all horrified at the news from Parkland, Florida. High school students killed by a man with a gun inside what should have been a safe location. How do we fix this? How do we prevent another Parkland? Are we going to approach this with logic and reason understanding the environment in which we live or are we going to be driven by emotion and reactionary? It’s natural to want to find a bogeyman to blame. For some it is the NRA even though NRA members aren’t the ones committing these violent acts.

To fix this problem, we must first know and understand the reality of our environment. There are between 300 million and 350 million privately owned firearms in the United States. The vast majority of these guns are held by good, decent people who would never harm an innocent person. Some are held by people who are downright evil. Those people will lie, cheat and steal to obtain their guns. No matter what legislation is passed, a black market in guns will exist.

We must also know which conditions are changeable and which are not. The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution instructs the government that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” This amendment was incorporated into our Constitution to prevent any monopoly of force emerge which could be employed against the people. Any change to the Constitution may be blocked by one legislative chamber in each of only 13 states. Conversely, it takes at least 38 states to ratify an amendment. Repealing or changing the Second Amendment is just not happening.

Predictably in the aftermath of the massacre in Parkland there were calls to enact tougher gun control and even an outright ban on AR-15s. Emotionally charged terms like “military style assault weapon” are used to further the aims of those who believe we can make our society safer by reducing the number of guns. This is terribly na├»ve. The Second Amendment is part of our reality. The AR-15 itself is a semi-automatic rifle. That means for every pull of the trigger only one bullet is sent downrange and the next round is made ready. That differs from military rifles that are fully automatic. Each pull of the trigger may send a burst of three rounds out of the rifle or it may be set to continuous fire. Fully automatic weapons manufactured after 1986 are not available to civilians. Any transfer of a pre-1986 automatic weapon requires an extensive background check and a federal tax stamp. The cost of these rare items keeps them out of the reach of all but the most ardent collectors.

One of the solutions proposed is to add metal detectors and more armed guards in our schools. One of the many problems with this approach is that it just isn’t practical. Are we to stop every student entering every school and search their backpacks? We’ll need to add hours to the school day just to get through security screening.

What will work is allowing school staff, if qualified, to carry concealed firearms in our schools. One of the arguments against that approach is the emotional “guns don’t belong in schools.” Unfortunately, guns are already in our schools and not necessarily brought in by people who want to nurture and protect our kids. The only thing effective against a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. When a shooting occurs, we call 911 and hope that good guys with guns known as police will show up quickly. When seconds count help is only minutes away. Body counts tend to be lower when an armed civilian is on the scene than when an active shooter situation is ended by the police. This is not a criticism of our police but recognition of reality.

We should also get rid of the fiction that setting up areas as “gun free zones” makes anyone safer except for someone who wants to kill. Without a hardened perimeter and controlled access these so called “gun free zones” become free fire zones for those who wish to do harm. Perpetrators know they are unlikely to face meaningful resistance. There’s no logical reason why Maine should not join other states that allow concealed carry permit holders to carry in schools. According to statistics compiled by the FBI and analyzed by John Lott – American economist, political commentator, and gun rights advocate – permit holders are more law abiding than the general public and have fewer firearms violations than police officers.

If we really want our schools safer we will put the first line of defense in the classroom. Any teacher who wishes to become qualified should be afforded the necessary training and allowed to carry to protect our kids. Our kids deserve nothing less.

Mike Coleman is a former town councilor in Old Orchard Beach and was a member of the Maine Republican State Committee from 2010 through 2017 where he served as budget chairman under three separate state chairmen. He represented Maine at the Republican National Convention as an alternate in 2012. He recently left the Republican Party and became an Independent.

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