Lessons of the Gun: Blackboards and Bullets

More than 2000 years ago Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace himself understood the very real need to take up arms for personal self protection when he advised disciples: "…if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one." (Luke 22:36). Lawmakers in all but two states have shown they understand the need for self defense by formally recognizing a citizen’s right to carry a pistol. Almost 20 years ago, the Oregon legislature understood self defense when it ordered Sheriffs to issue permits to any citizens except felons and nuts.

And then there’s the Medford School District.

Last week Medford officials subjected a classroom teacher to threats of arrest and search if she didn’t confess to carrying the gun. The teacher’s ex-husband has threatened her life and she has obtained a restraining order. She also has a permit to carry a pistol, just like an estimated 100,000 Oregonians. My research shows that in nearly 20 years of legalized concealed carry in this state, there hasn’t been a single incident where a carry permit holder has assaulted anyone.

The evidence from around the country shows that guns in the hands of citizens deter crime, and they stop violent crimes…even in schools.

Before we get to that, let’s begin with the fact that this woman has a constitutional right (both state and federal) to carry this gun and schools are specifically forbidden to deny that right. Section 27 of the Oregon Constitution says “The people shall have the right to bear arms for the defense of themselves…”. The U.S. Constitution contains a similar guarantee.

State and Federal law also guarantees gun rights.

Oregon lawmakers crafted a law in the early 90’s that said Sheriffs “shall issue” a permit to anyone not disqualified by a criminal or mental record. Then the legislature (in ORS 166.170) ordered “…the authority to regulate in any matter whatsoever the…possession…or use of firearms…is vested solely in the legislative assembly”. 166.370 is the law that forbids carrying a gun in a public building…but permit holders are specifically excluded from the law. ORS 339.315 forbids carrying a gun in a school…but permit holders are specifically excluded. Federal law forbids possession of a gun within 1000 feet of a school…and specifically exempts gun permit holders.

School districts all over Oregon have been violating these laws for years. In the 1990s, I obtained a confidential legal opinion written for the Portland school board that when boiled down says “your anti gun policy violates the law but since you feel so strongly about it, keep the policy until someone decides to spend thousands of dollars in court to challenge you and then you can decide if you want to defend it”.

Teachers with guns make classrooms safer for your kids. I interviewed Medford School board member Larry Nicholson this week about the teacher with the pistol. He claims guns in the hands of teachers put kids in danger. It’s simply not true.

There’s not a single example in the United States of a teacher legally carrying a gun who has assaulted or put kids in danger. Those who claim that school police can keep the kids safe should talk to the police officer, armed with a pistol, who was in the hallway at Columbine as Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold began their murderous rampage. He didn’t fire a shot and he didn’t save anyone’s life.

On the other hand, in Pearl Mississippi, when 16 year old Luke Woodham beat and stabbed his mother and then shot and wounded 7 people on his school campus, it was assistant principal Joel Myrick got his .45 pistol from the glove compartment of his truck and subdued Woodham while he was trying to drive off campus toward a junior high school. Five years ago, a former Tri Met bus driver began shooting and killing people at the Appalachian School of Law when two adult students got their personal firearms and stopped him.

Ask yourself, would Kip Kinkel have even come to Thurston High in Springfield on that awful day if he knew that he’d be met with deadly force?

A graduate student at Virginia Tech wrote an op-ed six months before the shooting this year that took 30 lives, begging for the right to carry (his state of Virginia permit being null and void on campus). V-Tech officials promised that they had security well in hand. The presence of armed police, investigating two murders on campus that day didn’t even slow down Cho Seung-Hui.

Disarming teachers and adult students only makes schools vulnerable targets of opportunity.

If you’re worried about a teacher with a gun (or the possibility it may fall into a student’s hands) do you have the same fear about all of the shop tools stocked in most high schools that could kill or maim a student? Do you lay awake at night worrying about the explosive, poisonous or cancer causing compounds stocked in chemistry labs? A student could hurt a lot of people with a baseball bat, a javelin, a shot put or even a kitchen knife from the cafeteria. We trust teachers to make sure students don’t misuse these things. Heck, we even trust schools to teach students how to drive…which is putting a 3-thousand pound deadly weapon in their hands. And you’re worried about a pistol?

You take your kids many places (Banks, shopping centers, grocery stores) protected by security guards armed with guns…and you figure they are safe. Why not a school with one of the people in which you place the greatest trust (6 hours a day, 190 days a year) for the care of your child.

Economist Dr John Lott points out that an estimated two million times a year around America, citizens legally use guns (usually without firing a single shot) to protect themselves and stop a crime. What good reason would the Medford district (or any district in Oregon) have for not wanting this kind of protection inside a school?

The Oregonian editorial writers refer to concealed weapons in schools as “a nightmare”. They offer no support for this position, so I propose we take a survey of the families of those who died at Pearl and Paducah and Columbine and Thurston.

I think if Jesus Christ had lived in this day and age, he would have advised his disciples to get a permit and carry a gun because as Ben Franklin liked to remind people “God helps them that helps themselves” (Poor Richard’s Almanac)