By Richard Riehl
There was another school shooting last weekend, this time in a grade school parking lot in Union City, California, 30 miles from San Francisco. Two boys, 11 and 14 years old, were shot to death while sitting in a parked van at 1:30 AM on a Saturday morning.
This was not a typical school shooting, of course. It took place after school hours, with the shooter, or shooters, still unknown.
But nine days earlier, a student at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, California, a suburb of Los Angeles, celebrated his 16th birthday by assembling his own .45 caliber handgun and shooting five of his classmates. Two died, before he turned the gun on himself.
The common denominators in these tragedies were guns and children dying. I wanted to know more about how a teenager was able to obtain gun parts online, together with do-it-yourself instructions on how to assemble it. Here’s what I found in an Internet search at ghostguns.com.
“Despite popular belief that the Federal Government can restrict all gun ownership, unconstitutional laws like the National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Gun Control Act of 1968 can only regulate the transfer and sale of weapons. And so, making a weapon on your own, without the intention of transferring it or selling it is not prohibited by Federal agencies such as the ATF. ”
Here’s what you can buy on the website, from a variety of do-it-yourself pistol and rifle kits to gun magazines, bulletproof backpacks, and T-shirts: $997.99 AR15 Build Kit
“At Ghost Guns we took the 16″ AR15 lightweight rifle and made it even better to give you an unregistered weapon system that’s ready for almost any combat scenario.”
The words “unregistered weapon,” and “ready for almost any combat scenario,” together with the sale of 21-Round Magazines and bulletproof backpacks, suggest the do-it-yourselfer is probably not preparing for target practice, hunting, or self-defense.
The website’s bizarre logo sets the tone for the sale of merchandise designed to kill.
Some say arming teachers will increase school safety by discouraging potential shooters from attacking schools and protecting students in shoot outs.
But that’s not true, according to The Trace, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit newsroom dedicated to shining a light on America’s gun violence crisis, Do Armed Guards Prevent School Shootings? April 6, 2019, by Alex Yablon.
“Active shooters do not favor ‘gun-free’ zones. Louis Klarevas, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, analyzed 111 shooting attacks between 1966 and 2015 for his book Rampage Nation, and found that only 18 took place in areas where firearms were banned. In four high-profile 2018 school shootings, attackers stormed campuses, despite the presence of armed guards. In all four of those cases, guards failed to stop the gunman from killing.”
As for protecting students in the classroom, according to Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence, a nonpartisan group dedicated to fighting the epidemic of gun violence, “Arming teachers wouldn’t decrease risk to students—it would increase their risk. Our comprehensive analysis finds there have been more than 80 publicly-reported incidents of mishandled guns at schools in the last five years, including a teacher’s loaded gun falling from his waistband during a cartwheel, and a teacher unintentionally firing a gun in class during a safety demonstration.”
In addition to learning how to handle and shoot a gun safely, teachers would need to be trained on how to stop an attacker, when to get involved or not, and how to deal with crowded rooms and buildings.
Texas State University’s ALERRT Center boasts of providing the best research-based active shooter response training in the nation. Its Active Shooter Incident Management Course requires 24 hours of training over three, 8-hour, days. Just as police officers do, they’d need refresher training periodically over the years. As a former high school English teacher, I can understand why teachers, engaged with helping students, grading papers, and preparing lesson plans, would not welcome the added responsibility.
If teachers with guns won’t work, check out this article about those who use them by George S. Everly, Jr.: “Profiling” School Shooters: Can we tell who will be the next to kill?” (Psychology Today, Mar 29, 2018)
- The vast majority were male.
- Nine out of ten were current or recent students at the school.
- Anger and revenge were the common themes. Three out of four felt bullied or harassed by other students.
- They tended to be socially awkward, with few (if any) friends.
- They expressed fascination with violence, morbid media, or death.
- The media contagion effect (copycat killings) may serve as an especially powerful motivator.
- They tend to express their frustrations and anger using art and/or social media posts;
Maybe we can reduce the number of school shootings by stopping the sale of ghost guns, not by giving teachers guns, but by arming them with the sensitivity, skills and resources to identify and find help for their troubled students.