From the 1st of July it will now be legal in South Dakota for teachers and other employees to carry arms in South Dakota schools. Kevin Jensen, the vice president of the Canton School Board in South Dakota said: “Our kids start hunting here when they’re preteens. We know guns. We respect guns.”
The move comes in response to the terrible tragedy in Newton, Connecticut last year when twenty first graders died after a gunman went on a shooting spree in an elementary school. The NRA has endorsed the view that schools are seen as soft targets and they should follow airports, train stations and other public buildings by having armed security personnel who can respond quickly to attacks by crazed gunmen.
Some states already allow guns to be on site in schools, but in locked and secure locations. The idea that teachers or support staff could be walking round armed is scary and deeply disturbing. It wouldn’t be too hard to imagine accidents or disgruntled employees getting carried away and whipping out a firearm to deal with an argumentative student, parent or colleague. Teachers are not trained in armed response – the idea that armed staff could somehow prevent future school shootings is ludicrous and ups the ante in an increasingly violent society.
Gun control in the US is such a baffling topic to outsiders. Both sides of the debate present their passionate arguments why citizens should or shouldn’t carry arms. No doubt the issue will gradually fade into the background until the next horrific tragedy, which there surely will be. Statistically, the arguments in favor of gun ownership as a means of preventing violent gun crime don’t bear out. However, endless comparisons with Canada or Europe are like water off a duck’s back. The pro-gun lobby just doesn’t get it. To Europeans it’s a no brainer- fewer guns means fewer gun deaths.
It would be a mistake to think Europeans don’t have their own histories of crazy gunmen. The worst school massacre in the UK occurred in the village of Dunblane, Scotland in 1996 when a lone gunman massacred sixteen children and their teacher. However, the response after the incident was very different from the political dithering presently going on in the US. Public pressure in the UK lead to the 1997 Firearms Act which effectively made private ownership of all handguns in UK illegal. That is progress.
Instead of bringing arms into schools, authorities should be doing just the opposite. Secure entrances and metal detectors seem the way to go-that is a good example to take from airports. We wouldn’t allow anyone to board a plane with a gun, so why would we want anyone to enter a school building with one? It’s a question of changing attitudes towards school security, something that is probably far easier to do than changing gun control in the US.
By Stewart Hird