Wednesday, April 4, 2018
I refrained from my usual April Fools’ Day pranks this past Sunday because it was also Easter and practical jokes seemed irreverent. Not that I’m opposed to irreverence, but some people are touchy about whistles going off in their exhaust pipes while they are driving to sunrise services. I hate to see a day normally devoted to foolishness go by unrecognized, so instead of celebrating April Fools’ Day this year, I’ll just use this April column to highlight foolishness, fools, damn fools and damn fool ideas.
Topping my list of damn fool ideas is the cockamamie suggestion that in response to school shootings we should arm teachers. In tense, volatile situations, even trained, experienced police officers occasionally shoot unarmed people and innocent bystanders, so why would we assume that armed teachers will react coolly in a blurry, chaotic situation. Here’s what’s more likely to happen. Track coach Hogan hears gunshots inside building C. Drawing his gun, he rushes in, spots the shooter and fires. Unfortunately he has mistakenly shot and wounded Mr. Johnson, a geometry teacher, who had pulled out his gun when he heard shots. Coming around the corner with her gun is Ms. Montez, the chemistry teacher. She sees Mr. Johnson bleeding on the floor, looks up and quickly fires at the shooter before realizing it’s Coach Hogan. He ducks, and she accidentally wounds a student behind him. At this point everyone realizes that the shots are actually coming from building D. Who knows what mishaps might be transpiring elsewhere on campus?
I’m not trying to make light of this serious topic, but it’s not a good idea to send armed, minimally-trained people into confusing, lethal environments. Practicing on the local shooting range while wearing ear protection is a long way from what you’d encounter if the real thing erupted around you. Accidental shootings are commonplace in the United States, and most of them don’t occur under the high-stress conditions of a school shooting. Full disclosure: I taught high school for many years. I would not have felt safer knowing some of my colleagues were armed. As a matter of fact, if the principal had asked for volunteers to carry guns on campus, I can guess who these volunteers would have been. Trust me, you would not want this band of testosterone-fueled hotheads packin’.
By the way, did you read the recent Associated Press story about a California high school teacher whose gun went off accidentally in his classroom, injuring three students? This guy was a reserve police officer and even he screwed up. I rest my case.
While we’re on the subject of guns and foolishness, we should take note of that shameful legislative duo from Whatcom County’s 42nd District, Representatives Vincent Buys and Luanne Van Werven. Recently Governor Inslee signed into law SB4992, banning bump stocks in Washington. Not surprisingly, Buys and Van Werven voted against the ban. It’s pretty hard to justify bump stocks or make a reasonable Second Amendment argument for them since they aren’t actually “arms,” but are accessories that turn a legal weapon into a machine gun. So if these two are not protecting the Second Amendment, what are they protecting? Could it possibly be support and high ratings from the NRA in the conservative 42nd District? This heedless pair do some foolish things to society at large, but when it comes to watching out for number one, they aren’t fools.
Do you suppose that by this time next year Congress will have enacted any meaningful gun legislation, including a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines? Don’t get your hopes up. But let’s end on an optimistic note. Hundreds of thousands of kids across the country are in the streets these days demanding their right not to be killed at school. I joined the 3,000 people who marched here in downtown Bellingham recently, and talked with many of the kids who were there. I don’t have space to include all their comments, but I was very impressed by the youngest person I spoke with, 11-year-old Zack Lyne from Whatcom Middle School. When I asked him why he was there, he answered, “To be part of the change that’s going to happen, and to bring lawmakers to their senses. They look away as children die.”
These kids will be voting soon and the young people I talked to seemed a lot smarter than many of the damn fool politicians their parents’ generation has put in office. I’ll pin my hopes on the kids.