NEWTOWN, CT - DECEMBER 14: Responders gather at the scene of a mass school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. There are 27 dead, 20 of them children, after Adam Lanza reportedly opened fire in one of the largest school massacres in U.S. history. Lanza is dead at the scene and his mother, a teacher at the school, is also dead. (Credit: Getty Images)
We live in a world where we are surrounded by violence. There are those that attempt to isolate themselves from the realities of crime and violence but they can never fully do so. Many newscasts utilize the latest violent crime as their lead-in story to get viewers to tune in after the commercial break. Violence is also depicted, sometimes glamorously, in all sorts of media to include music, television, movies and books.
Are there any safe havens? We would like to think that there are some, but if we are truly honest, right now there aren’t any. There will always be an element of society that believes they have a right to take from someone else something that they did not earn and things that do not belong to them. There are those out there that do not value their own lives let alone the life of another human being. We call these types of people, criminals.
Crime and criminals have been a part of society almost from the beginning. There is evidence of the first homicide in the Bible as Cain murdered his brother, Abel. Of course there is also evidence of laws against such behavior in the Bible as God gave us the 10 Commandments in which He commanded that we should not lie, steal or murder. As a society we also have put in place certain laws to deal with those that commit offenses that we deem inappropriate or evil.
Laws have been enacted to deal with crimes against property as well as crimes of violence. Laws have been enacted but do they stop criminals from committing these acts or are they simply in place to punish those that commit them? I would argue that our laws rarely act as a deterrent but are in place to deal with the aftermath. This seems to be all too common when dealing with criminals that commit horrendous acts of violence in our schools.
Schools should be safe havens. However, we have seen an increase in violence in our schools. Violence can be found at all levels from elementary to our colleges and universities. So what can we do to protect our students as they seek to achieve an education? In the elementary to high school level many school systems have taken a proactive approach. We have seen everything from education about violence and bullying, to special security measures such as metal detectors and keyless entry systems to police officers in the schools. Some of these measures have helped but we still have more work to do to ensure our younger students remain safe.
This past week was unwelcome reminder that we still have a ways to go to ensure the safety of our children in school. Twenty children between the ages of 6 and 7 and six adults were killed in an Elementary school in Connecticut. This is a place where our children’s biggest concern should be an upcoming exam. What further measures should our schools take to make sure our children are only worried about tests and not their safety? I would suggest that we allow our teachers to carry a concealed weapon.
There is one school district that already allows this, the Harrold Independent School District in Texas. There are certain criteria that must be met before allowing a teacher to carry a concealed weapon. Of course this would include proper background checks and the appropriate training. Our teachers spend a lot of time with our children. We entrust them with the duty to educate our children. Why not give them the option to protect our children and themselves from these senseless acts of violence? Allowing the teachers to carry could end a situation much quicker than having to wait for the police to arrive. This could translate into many lives being saved. It is time that we stop allowing our children and teachers to be victimized.
There are similar concerns for our colleges and universities. Some of the violence that has taken place in these institutions has made national headlines as well and have caused students to become concerned for their safety. Most post-secondary schools have either a police or security department in place in an attempt to ensure student safety. One issue with this is that the campus police/security cannot be everywhere and will not be able to stop every crime from occurring. In most instances they are reacting to a crime that has already occurred.
Just two weeks ago, at the college where I am employed, an armed assailant abducted a female student from one of the campus parking lots. The perpetrator of this crime also attempted to sexually assault the victim. Thankfully, the student kept her wits about her and when the opportunity presented itself, she made good her escape. Of course, many students expressed serious concerns about their safety on the campus. It turns out that the perpetrator had a criminal history including a previous conviction for sexual assault.
The school did the best they could with the limited experience of having to deal with such incidents. This of course led to numerous questions and concerns raised by faculty and staff as well as the students in the classroom. Many professors noted their students questioned their overall safety as well as noting issues concerning the lack of sufficient communication. The overall assessment was that the response to the situation was quite inadequate and in some areas a bit embarrassing.
So what steps can we take to ensure our college students remain safe on their campus? This is where I believe the 2nd Amendment comes into play as well. I quizzed a number of my classes as to whether or not any of the students had a Pennsylvania license to carry a firearm. Approximately a quarter of my students actually posses a Pa. carry permit. In my case, not only do I posses a Pa. license to carry permit; I also fall under the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA). Under this Act, as a retired law enforcement officer, I am required to qualify with my handgun each year. This then allows me to carry a concealed handgun in all 50 states. Of course institutions such as colleges can restrict this even though Congress put this in place to provide its citizens an extra layer of protection.
Those people that choose to commit crimes understand that law enforcement cannot be everywhere at all times. Because law enforcement/security can not be everywhere and the fact that as U.S. citizens we have a 2nd Amendment right to bear arms, colleges and universities need to rethink the restriction of legal possession and carrying of firearms on campus. Right now the only people that are being prevented from carrying a firearm on campus are those who actually obey the law. Criminals will continue to ignore the law and the students, faculty and staff will continue to pay the price.
Just think how things might be different today if colleges and universities did not restrict the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. Might the colleagues of the biology professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville be alive today if they could have better protected themselves? Would the situation have played out a bit different in Wyoming a few weeks ago if students had been able to protect the professor that was attacked in the classroom? What about the massacre at Virginia Tech. in 2007? In that event 32 people were killed and 15 were injured. If one or two students, faculty or staff members had been able to exercise their 2nd Amendment right to bear arms might some of those people still be with us today?
It is a sad state of affairs when we continue to restrict the law-abiding to the point that students, faculty and staff could lose their lives. Handguns are not the culprits in school violence; it is the criminals that utilize them. As long as we allow the criminals to have the upper hand, our schools, colleges and universities will continue to deal with tragedies that could be averted or at least lessened by students, faculty and staff that are allowed to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights.