Welcome to Common Gunsense

I hope this blog will provoke some thoughtful reflection about the issue of guns and gun violence. I am passionate about the issue and would love to change some misperceptions and the culture of gun violence in America by sharing with readers words, photos, videos and clips from articles to promote common sense about gun issues. Many of you will agree with me- some will not. I am only one person but one among many who think it's time to do something about this national problem. The views expressed by me in this blog do not represent any group with which I am associated but are rather my own personal opinions and thoughts.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Arming teachers

The NRA lobbyists and leaders have trotted out their plans to arm teachers. In a press release yesterday, the NRA spokesperson Asa Hutchinson released the inevitable idea that arming teachers is a good idea post Newtown:
The study — unveiled at a news conference watched over by several burly, NRA-provided guards — made eight recommendations, including easing state laws that might bar a trained school staff member from carrying firearms and improving school coordination with law enforcement agencies. But drawing the most attention was its suggested 40- to 60-hour training for school employees who pass background checks to also provide armed protection while at work. 
"The presence of an armed security personnel in a school adds a layer of security and diminishes the response time that is beneficial to the overall security," said Asa Hutchinson, a GOP former congressman from Arkansas who directed the study.
Asked whether every school would be better off with an armed security officer, Hutchinson replied, "Yes," but acknowledged the decision would be made locally.
It is unusual for guards to provide security at events that lack a major public figure at the National Press Club, which houses offices for many news organizations. NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said he did not know whether the guards were armed, and several guards declined to say if they were.
Hutchinson said school security could be provided by trained staff members or school resource officers — police officers assigned to schools that some districts already have.
Dan Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators, said while a trained law enforcement officer with a gun would be valuable, his group opposes arming "a teacher or an employee who simply has taken a course and now has the ability to carry a weapon."
The Brady Campaign, a leading gun-control group, accused the NRA of "missing the point" by ignoring the need for expanded background checks and other measures the Senate is considering. It said people want "a comprehensive solution that not only addresses tragic school shootings, but also helps prevent the thousands of senseless gun deaths each year."
Hutchinson also said that it would be fine for teachers to actually carry an AR-15 while performing their daily teaching duties. Yes, really. He said that. From this video of Lawrence O'Donnell's MSNBC show last night:

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In what world is he living? This is what that would look like:

This idea is ludicrous but an organization that is so fearful and paranoid that they need their own armed guards when they hold a press conference is not likely to be suggesting anything that doesn't involve guns. Further, members of their task force would benefit financially if this plan were to take place. Always follow the money when the NRA lobbyists and leaders recommend or oppose anything. Since the gun industry is so intertwined with the NRA, profits trump safety. More from the linked article:
In fact, the report presents a clear conflict of interest as five of the 13 named members of the taskforce are employees of Phoenix RBT Solutions, including the company's CEO. RBT Solutions is a global non-lethal ammunition distributor. According to their website, the company is a global distributor for Ultimate Training Munitions, a type of wax roundspecifically marketed by RBT Solutions to private security and law enforcement. RBT Solutions also sells a wide array training and defensive gear for security personnel andrents a "portable training facility."   
So, as it turns out this is just another proposal from the right wing to take money from the government and hand it over to their own financial interests. It's worse, really, than the war profiteering of Halliburton and the like. This is profiteering off of gun violence, from tragedy. On the graves of the dead from Newtown, these shameless ghouls are presenting the country with a supposedly independent and wholesome taskforce, with a plan that just happens to seek to line their own pockets.
And more from this article about the members of the "independent task force":
While Hutchinson repeatedly insisted the project was conducted independently of the NRA and without the group's influence - the press conference was organized by the NRA's press office, paid for by the group and the website for the project waswww.nraschoolshield.com.
Well. So let's arm teachers and train them so money will be paid by the government to companies owned by members of the task force. I thought the NRA lobbyists didn't like government involved in gun issues. They have strangled efforts of the Centers for Disease Control to do research on the causes and effects of gun violence. They have wielded their influence to underfund the ATF, the agency responsible for monitoring gun dealers and solving federal crimes. But when they want the government to spend money on what they want, that's perfectly O.K. by them. I smell hypocrisy. I smell denial.

According to this article by Dana Milbank of the Washington Post, the idea of needing guns for protection everywhere you go includes surrounding themselves with armed guards, just in case. Really NRA? You are so afraid of reporters that you have to have armed guards for yourselves at a press conference? That is the extremes to which the NRA lobbyists and leaders go to get their message out that there are monsters out there waiting to get us all. When Hutchinson was asked about the armed thugs muscling their way around the National Press Club, here was his response:
Hutchinson, pressed by reporters about the armed goons, said: “You go into a mall, there is security. And so there is security here at the National Press Club.”
A reporter asked Hutchinson what he was afraid of.
“There’s nothing I’m afraid of. I’m very wide open,” Hutchinson replied, separated from his unarmed questioners by an eight-foot buffer zone, a lectern, a raised podium, a red-velvet rope and a score of gun-toting men. “There’s nothing I’m nervous about.”
Really Asa? Why the thugs? I was just at my local mall this morning. Occasionally I see a guard walking around the mall. But that guard has never been seen examining the bags of customers or preventing them from carrying liquids inside, as was done at this event. What kind of lie is that? Do these folks ever think about how ridiculous their excuses are when trying to convince reporters and our elected leaders that they are a serious organization?

So let's review. The NRA thinks teachers should be armed. They could be armed with AR-15s. This would keep students safer. If the plan were approved by some stretch of the imagination, the government would pay for teachers to get training and I don't know where the money for the guns would come from. This would benefit the companies represented on the task force that recommended the NRA plan. There were no educators on the task force. What could possibly go wrong? And where is common sense? The NRA lobbyists would have us believe that Americans would support this plan. Far from it. These are just some of the organizations who have come out against the plan:

  • The National Education Association- "“We are deeply concerned about increasing the presence of guns on school grounds, which has never proven to be a deterrent. A national poll found that educators overwhelmingly support stronger laws to prevent gun violence, rejecting the NRA leaders' idea of putting more guns in schools by arming school employees. Most Americans share these views—parents do not want their five-year-olds to have to walk past someone with a gun to reach their kindergarten class. Armed guards at Columbine and Virginia Tech were unable to prevent those tragedies, however a more robust mental health program and background checks might have made the difference."
  • The American Federation of Teachers opposes the plan: "
  • "Today's NRA proposal is a cruel hoax that will fail to keep our children and schools safe. It is simply designed to assist gun manufacturers flood the nation and our schools with more guns and large magazine clips, which will simply lead to more violence. 
  • "The NRA is trying to distract the American people from the real, serious gun problem we face in America. Adam Lanza broke into Sandy Hook Elementary School and fired 155 bullets into innocent children and educators in less than five minutes.  That America can't do something to prevent future mass shootings with this kind of weaponry and ammunition is unacceptable and outrageous. The NRA proposal will do nothing to stop another gunman with similar weapons and munitions from shattering the safe sanctuary of our schools.
  •  "If we are serious about protecting our children and our communities, Congress must reject the NRA's dangerous posturing and follow the lead of the Connecticut Legislature in enacting bipartisan, commonsense gun safety legislation, including comprehensive background checks, and a ban on large magazine clips and military assault weapons. These reforms would strike at the heart of America's gun violence epidemic. 
  • "Schools must be safe, nurturing learning environments for our students, which is why we are opposed to proposals to arm educators or turn our schools into armed fortresses. Safety personnel and safety plans have their place in schools, but we must leave those decisions to the people who know our schools best—not to those acting as a proxy for gun manufacturers. Ironically, the NRA proposes extensive background checks for the people they want to guard our schools, but opposes those same background checks for anyone else. 
  • "How many children have to be gunned down before Congress summons the political will to act?""
  • Some gun rights groups are against the plan as well.

The NRA is deflecting attention from the real issue. When a young man with Adam Lanza's problems can gain access to assault type rifles easily and bring them to an elementary school after killing his mother with said rifle and massacre 26 people in 5 minutes with 154 bullets, we have a serious problem. The fact that the NRA doesn't take this seriously enough is frightening and irresponsible. Worse yet is that some members of our Congress, who we entrust with our safety, are apparently listening to this nonsense. They are so entwined with the NRA lobbyists that they cannot see the forest for the trees. Shame on them all for listening to this "cruel hoax". Until Congress plugs its' ears to these continued circus like performances and outright lies, the American public will not be safer and our children will be put at risk for more massacres. The public, by the way, still supports reasonable gun laws. A new poll, out today, from MSNBC/Marist shows strong support for common sense gun laws. Here is an article from the MSNBC website with more information about the poll:
Six in 10 respondents – including 83 percent of Democrats, 43 percent of gun owners and 37 percent of Republicans – believe that the laws covering gun sales should be stricter.
This figure is virtually unchanged from the 61 percent who backed stricter gun laws when a NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll asked the same question in February, even though at least one other national survey has found waning support for gun-control laws months after the Dec. 2012 shootings in Newtown, Conn.
John Woodall. left, of Newtown, Conn., carries a sign that he says indicates the percentage of Americans who support universal background checks, speaks with Gordon Jones of Southbury, Conn., a supporter of gun rights during a rally outside the National Shooting Sports Foundation headquarters in Newtown on March 28.
What’s more, the Morning Joe/Marist poll finds that 87 percent of Americans support background checks for private gun sales and sales at gun shows, and 59 percent favor legislation that would ban the sale of assault weapons.
This, just the latest in a series of polling showing strong support for background checks, for stricter gun laws in general and even for an assault weapons ban, should inform our leaders about what Americans want them to do. Americans do not want armed teachers in every school. To arm people wherever children find themselves is a stupid idea. It will not save them from gunmen. In fact, it may make them less safe. Remember this one? Or this one? Prevention is what is needed now, not overreaction and introducing more guns in a vulnerable environment. We have serious work to do. This NRA proposal is not serious. It is more of the same hysteria, fear and paranoia coming from an organization that is becoming more and more irrelevant. Their hard core members and elected leaders who believe this stuff are also becoming irrelevant to the real discussion this country needs and deserves to have. Let's get to work and do the right thing. Enough is enough.


  1. I don't know of any cases where an armed school guard or conceal carrier actually stopped a shooting by pulling a gun, but here are five examples where they nearly CAUSED a tragedy:

    1. "I don't know of any cases where an armed school guard or conceal carrier actually stopped a shooting by pulling a gun"

      An armed guard at Atlanta's Price Middle School stopped the student who shot and wounded a 14-year-old in the neck before anyone else was shot, police said.


    2. We have no idea from any of the stories about this incident whether or not this guard pulled a gun to stop the shooter. All is says is that he took the gun away. In Tucson, a woman took the ammunition magazine away from Jared Loughner while unarmed citizens subdued him. No guns were used.

  2. "We have no idea from any of the stories about this incident whether or not this guard pulled a gun to stop the shooter." I'd find it hard to believe that an armed police officer responding to a school shooting not having a drawn weapon. Just because he was able to stop the shooter without shooing him doesnt discount the effectiveness of an armed response.

    Here is one that is a little clearer, "Cowan trained a .380-caliber semi-automatic pistol at Riden’s face, said Sullivan County Sheriff Wayne Anderson. Carolyn Gudger, the school resource officer, drew her gun, then shielded the principal’s body with her own."


    1. Quite different than facing down someone with an AR-15 and many 30 round ammunition magazines. Even law enforcement couldn't do it at Columbine. The shooters moved from classroom to classroom taking people by surprise and shooting randomly. At Virginia Tech, the same. The shooter put chains on the inside of the doors and walked from classroom to classroom. Law enforcement didn't even know where he was. People were taken totally by surprise. Mass shootings have a way of doing that.

  3. I'm a teacher and I would would greatly appreciate being able to exercise my inherent right to defend both myself and the students entrusted to my care from grave threats using the most effective tools available. I would even pay for any mandated training (over and above the extensive firearm education I've already received) out of my own pocket. I'd even provide my own firearm and ammunition. Net cost to the public - zero.

    1. But that is not the plan, as presented. There is no way of protecting our children wherever they are. Shootings in school are rare. Schools are actually quite safe places in general. When a school shooting happens involving little children, it is very dramatic. But 8 children a day die, on average, from gunshot wounds through homicides, suicides and accidents. I believe teachers having loaded guns will make the school environment less safe. As a former educator, I can not envision a scenario when I could have or what have been able to defend students with a gun. My job was to keep the kids safe and secure and stay with them in the classroom.

    2. So you admit that "shootings in school are rare" and that they are "quite safe places in general", yet you insist on using one high-profile and admittedly tragic outlying case to argue for the widespread banning of semiautomatic firearms (based solely on looks, not function), standard capacity magazines and private transfers between law-abiding citizens (all others already being illegal)? And most of those 8 "children" are 18-21 year old gangbangers. But you already know that.

      Respectfully, I believe teachers having loaded guns (wouldn't make much sense to have them unloaded, now would it?) would make the school environment much safer. And I'm not alone in the education community. I'm just one of the few willing to go on record as saying so.

    3. Douglas, if one of those 20 children were yours, I am betting you would want to ban certain types of semi automatic rifles as well. If we can save lives, why not? These guns are not NEEDED for much of anything really. Not for hunting. Not for self defense. People like them and they want them. But when they are responsible for the massacres that have occurred in this country, something has to happen to make it less possible to kill as many people as possible in a short amount of time.

      You are wrong. The children in the category are 17 and under by most. None of the stats include anyone over 18. Buit you knew that, I'm sure. And you are among the very few who believe teachers should be armed. You are in the minority all the way around considering virtually all polling data. We disagree obviously but we do need to deal in facts.

  4. I refer my readers and Douglas Hester to this blog http://kidshootings.blogspot.com/2013/04/11-year-old-pronounced-dead-after.html

    Most shootings of children are NOT "gang bangers". They are accidental shootings aided by irresponsible storage of guns by their owners. They are suicides and sometimes homicides.

  5. Finding accurate data on childen killed and injured by gunfire can be a challenge because some sources are up front about changing the definition of children. For example, "Every day eight kids under 20-years-old die from gun violence in America." Most people consider people from 18 on to be adults. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-rosenthal/enough-dead-children-from_b_2307169.html
    Other sources make it a challenge due to where the age zones are split when they process data. For example, the CDC has an age range from 15 to 24. So in 2010, the CDC reported a total of 207 accidental gun deaths for people up to age 24. The number killed accidentally through are 14 was 62.
    The FBI does use a cutoff age for some of their homicide statistics of 18. For example, in 2010, the same year as the above cited CDC data showed firearm homicides of people under 18 totaled 632. The number of gun homicides of people under 22 rises to 2,199.
    Even when you use CDC data of accidental firearm deaths up to age 24, the number of homicides under 18 is much larger than accidental shooting deaths.



    The numbers for suicides using a firearm have similar issues because the FBI doesnt track that. The CDC shows 274 firearm suicides through age 14, and the 15-24 age zone jumps to 4,600. This would suggest that a fair percentage of the suicides in that age range are committed by adults. If you have a neutral source of data that provides a clear cut-off at age 18, I'd love to look it over.

  6. At the Kid Shootings blog, the cut off for posting articles about kids involved in shootings is 17. I don't have totals for kids 17 and under for gun homicides and suicides. In the CDC data, some age groups of children, firearm deaths are the second or third cause of death. That's enough for me. No child should be shot and we should be doing whatever we can to prevent shootings of children. We do so for deaths from other causes that are far fewer than with firearms.

  7. With respect, the Kid Shooting blog is anecdotal and anything but neutral. I prefer to use data from more neutral sources like the FBI or CDC. I try to steer away from data from the VPC, Brady Campaign. and also the NRA.
    I also agree that no child should be shot, however, we differ on what potential solutions to look into. If it were only the outlawing of possession of firearms by citizens, we've already tried that. Not only was it found to be unconstitutional, it didnt work. So there is likely another solution out there that might work better.
    There is independant research going on out there. In fact, the Minneapolis paper has just published an article with suggests that armed intervention by civilians has had a positive effect on mass shootings in the past and that more can be done to help minimise casualties in these events.

    "In 16 of the attacks studied by the researchers, civilians were able to stop the perpetrator, subduing him in 13 cases and shooting him in three cases. In other attacks, civilians have obstructed or delayed the gunman until the police arrived."


    1. No mention is made of arming teachers. I have never heard of this organization before and not sure of its' research. From a source. " In 2007, PERF made news by reporting that violent crime rose by double-digit percentages in cities across the country between 2005 and 2007.[1] This claim was controversial at the time [2] and the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics show rates of violent crime decreasing consistently between 1994 and 2009.[3]".

      Kid shooting is a neutral source. No opinions- just reporting. You do remember that the NRA had made sure that research is not conducted by the CDC or other government agencies. I guess they don't think any source is neutral except their own. That didn't go so well in their recent report when they reported on a phony shooting in Minnesota.

  8. Just in case you are wondering about the neutrality of information from various sources, I direct my readers to this study, also done by PERF, as referred to above-- http://www.joycefdn.org/assets/1/7/PERFPresentationonGunViolence.pdf

    It is an interesting study of gun crimes in 6 large cities in America, including Minneapolis. Note that it is funded by the Joyce Foundation. The gun rights extremists don't like any information coming from the Joyce Foundation. Read it for yourself. Much of the information confirms what we know to be true about the rates of gun violence, the rates of gun related crime and the cost of gun related crime in America.

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  10. It is astounding to me that anyone would think that more killing machines in a school would make the school safer, especially a teacher. I can understand in a nation where guns are so prevalent that anyone can get a gun at anytime that parents would like to see an armed protective unit around the place where their children spend so much time. However, it would make more sense to build a nation that had fewer people owning fewer killing machines. Not only would the schools be safer places, but so would the homes and it would be cheaper at the same time.