The column, which appeared on the heels of the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting, suggested that it’s time to arm public school teachers, as well as college professors. Although I qualified the suggestion, adding that school and college gun carriers should be volunteers who had received expert psychiatric vetting and extensive training, it still was not well received.
Now that we have had another school shooting, bringing unimaginable sorrow, I am elevating my suggestion to a plea. I am begging the powers that be to reject the romanticism held by the media elites, city-boy politicians and many others who apparently know nothing about the so-called “gun culture” which they so religiously oppose.
There are two images which U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein and others are confusing. There is the image of Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mel Gibson spraying bullets everywhere on movie screens, and there is the image of long lines at gun shows around the country, guns laid everywhere. Feinstein, along with her supporters and a few conservatives who are caving, thinks the gun show lines are a big part of the problem. I’ve never known her to comment on the movie screen blood and bullets that our teenagers flock to see.
The so-called “gun culture” argument shows just how far the entertainment arts, especially movies and television, have pulled us into unreality. Aristotle once wrote, sensibly, that art is the imitation of life. A play, a movie, a novel, your favorite television drama, a painting or even a photograph holds a mirror up to life; then, we look at the mirror. All art, therefore, is at least once removed from reality.
Today, though, we have a problem. Life is imitating art. Loners, sick teenagers and disturbed people of all ages see vicarious violence around them and are acting it out.
Do Feinstein and company really believe that the disturbed people who shot up the Colorado theater and the Connecticut elementary school went to a gun show, or saw a neighbor’s gun collection, or went hunting with a friend and then became violent because of it? If they do, they really need to be challenged in their party’s next primary.
I am not inclined to hide for hours in a green tent with holes in it, or sit in a cramped, glorified tree house waiting for a deer to pass by, but I doubt very seriously that men who do find pleasure there have influenced anyone to open fire on school children. Silly men, including two of my sons and one son-in-law, who walk through the woods with their guns and dirty caps on, are not responsible for the sorrowful, recent events involving guns. Their freedom should not be infringed.
As for the gun shows, please attend one. You’ll find a neighbor there who you didn’t even know had a lifelong interest in the history of weaponry. But I warn you. You might be bored as you observe quiet, law-abiding men and quite a few women as they walk up and down the aisles of tables, examine the guns, chat with each other, and turn to an older teenager to whom they seem to be giving instructions about something. These guys and ladies don’t anchor the Sunday morning news talk shows. They are not elites or constant commentators on the ignorance of America’s middle class preferences and practices. They are wonderfully “regular” people who never cause a peep of trouble, but who, even so, are the target of Feinsteinian worked-up rage.
Feinstein’s problem is that gun show lovers are mechanics, carpenters, masons, and electricians, and we know how prone to violence they are.
Quite a few avid gun owners are not even middle class at all, unless you call rich doctors and lawyers middle class just because they hunt and like to attend gun shows. Whatever their social or economic status, if they happen to watch New York Mayor Bloomberg talking about guns on early morning television, they probably shake their heads and go on out the door to their work.
It is disturbed people, not my sons and son-in-law, who are killing others with guns. Schools already have plenty of qualified personnel who could be armed. The coaches I have worked with, the retired military people who went into teaching, teachers who are gun enthusiasts, and many a female teacher who is strong, brave, and wise — all of these are at our finger tips. We best start using them and quit thinking that nobody at the schoolhouse is capable of self-defense.
Roger Hines of Kennesaw is a retired high school teacher and former state legislator.