(MintPress) — As a college professor, it’s not uncommon to get emails alerting me to various professional development and other training opportunities, but the one that showed up in my inbox this week was uncommon, to say the least.
The notification I received was an invitation to a free Minnesota Permit to Carry class specifically for educators — including teachers, school administrators and college professors — the advertisement read. For my convenience, the class would be repeated at four different locations nearby over the next month. The event is being organized by a group called PermitToCarry.org.
I’d like to say that I was shocked by the email, but I wasn’t. Arming educators with heavy artillery is just one of the the many solutions to the problem that I consider to be ridiculous and lacking of a basic understanding of some of the most fundamental lessons to be taken from the event.
Instead of critiquing the culture of violence gripping America, some suggest that the solution to the problem is to put more guns out on the street.
Shooting sparks gun debate
I had been following the national discussions stemming from the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Conn. a few weeks ago.
Of course gun control has been one issue hotly debated in the wake of the incident, with President Obama pledging Sunday to make gun control a top priority in his second term. The president said he would put his “full weight” behind such legislation explaining, “I’d like to get it done in the first year,” in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “This is not something that I will be putting off.”
Democratic lawmakers and even some Republicans have called for immediate action in the aftermath of the Dec. 14 shooting.
Obama said Sunday he would not prejudge recommendations, and he professed skepticism about the only answer being to put armed guards in schools, as has been suggested by the National Rifle Association.
Another potential solution comes from a school district in Harrold, Texas, which in 2007 decided it would allow teachers to carry concealed weapons on school grounds to protect students against potential shooters. School Superintendent David Thweatt told a CBS affiliate in Dallas that the district’s “Guardian Plan” is a way of taking charge in the chaos of a potential shooting. Teachers are the true first responders, Thweatt told Fox News. ”We need to be here to protect our children. Not four, five minutes or six minutes from now.
“As educators, we don’t have to be police officers and learn about Miranda rights and related procedures. We just have to be accurate.”
Thweatt hasn’t said that his plan would have prevented the Newtown massacre, but he contends that “active shooters go where there is no one there to resist. The Guardian Plan addresses that fact.”
And a pro-gun group in Southington, Conn. carried out a simulated school shooting this week in an attempt to demonstrate the usefulness of arming teachers or security staff at schools.
“When you want the police, they’re five, 10 minutes away. The SWAT team could be 20, 40 minutes away,” said James Ward, who participated in the event told NBC.
The president weighs in
However, Obama seems to be taking a different approach and said he wants to rally Americans around an agenda to limit gun violence, and he has gone on record saying that he supports increased background checks and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity bullet magazines.
“I think there are a vast majority of responsible gun owners out there who recognize that we can’t have a situation in which somebody with severe psychological problems is able to get the kind of high capacity weapons that this individual in Newtown obtained and gun down our kids,” the president stated. “And, yes, it’s going to be hard.”
Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who sponsored legislation that banned assault-style weapons from 1994 to 2004, plans to introduce similar legislation early next year that would include bans on the high-capacity clips.
Meanwhile Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham supports armed guards over more gun control and has vowed to oppose Feinstein’s legislation
But the overarching issues of mental illness and the culture of violence in the U.S. aren’t getting nearly as much attention.
“Writing the historical narrative for the forces that led to the horrific elementary school massacre of 28 people, including 20 children, at Sandy Hook has already begun. Commentators correctly place Sandy Hook in a recent line of similar incidents (Aurora, Fort Hood, Virginia Tech…) — all testimony for America’s lack of dialogue on gun control and commitment to mental health services. The narrative holds that American culture is becoming increasingly violent,” writes Heidi Morrison, an assistant professor of history at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, for Le Monde Diplomatique.
“In the last decade, children in places like Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq and Gaza have also died at the hands of America’s culture of violence. Yet, there is no national outpouring of grief and outrage in America for these children. There is a disconnect in the American psyche between what causes our own children to die and what causes other children abroad to die,” Morrison points out.
On an international level, America exports its culture of violence, Morrison says. In 2004 -2012, CIA drone attacks killed almost 200 Pakistani children “just as innocent as those at Sandy Hook”. Thirty-three children were killed in the recent assault on Gaza, which had the full support of the Obama administration.
She also references a recent study by Harvard’s School of Public Health which revealed that incidents of homicide increase in areas where there are more guns.
“Yet, there is little regulation of arms in America and token regulation of American arms in the world. Most people in America can purchase a gun without having to undergo training, meet health requirements, obtain liability insurance, or participate in a system of renewals and inspections. It is easier to own a gun license than a driver’s license. There are not adequate monitors to prevent weapons from flowing freely in American homes, cities, states, and regions,” Morrison writes.
And many who desperately need access to mental health services are not getting the help they need. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health has estimated that only 7.1 percent of adults receive mental health services, and those in poverty are especially disenfranchised.
“The weapons control us. We do not know when or where we will be gunned down; even our children learning their ABCs here in America are fair game,” Morrison says. If this is the case, how could weapons possibly be the solution?