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WHY NOT? / We Have Met The Enemy and He Is Us

Like the rest of the civilized world, I have followed the gut-wrenching coverage of the various shootings at public schools. My gut wrenches even more when I see the lack of response by elected officials. And then it really wrenches even more when public officials begin to echo the words of their masters at the NRA and say the cure for the gun epidemic is more guns. I’m not a doctor, but it seems to me that arming our teachers is surrendering to the disease. Besides, weren’t there armed guards at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Vegas when that maniac opened fire on concertgoers?

The American War Library estimates that 39% of American casualties during the Vietnam conflict came from friendly fire. Other sources have lower estimates, generally around 14%. Either way, it means those of us who were blessed to be free of bone spurs and fought in the war faced a good chance of being injured or killed by one of our own highly-trained Americans. Of course, that number includes American soldiers who were victims of air or artillery attacks. But plenty of us were casualties of the chaos that occurs when bullets start flying. As my fellow combat veterans can attest, anything can happen once the shooting starts.

The thought of a teacher opening fire on one of her students is like something out of a horror movie. How many innocent children might she unintentionally shoot while trying to protect them? And when the police arrive at the site of a shooting, how do they know the good guy gunmen from the bad guy gunmen? Someone has already asked the question “How would police react to a Black teacher firing at a student?” Something is amiss when the man in the White House wants bonuses for teachers who are armed, rather than teachers who are inspirational.

“Guns don’t kill people, people do” tells only half the story. “Guns don’t kill people, people with guns do,” is more accurate. If the shooter in Florida had not had a combat assault rifle, the brave coach he killed would have had a far better chance of stopping the carnage.

I grew up in a family of schoolteachers. My parents were teachers. My uncle was a teacher. Both of my grandmothers were teachers. Each and every one of them would have taken a bullet to protect their students. But none of them would have ever dreamed of packing a pistol in the classroom. Ok, wait; my father may very well have had that dream.

He was living in El Paso when I called him on his ninetieth birthday. “Sorry, can’t talk now,” he said. “As soon as I finish this pitcher of margaritas I’m loading up and driving to the gun show in Odessa.”

So a ninety-year-old man, under the influence of tequila, headed out on a highway with an 80 mph speed limit, in a car filled with all sorts of rifles and pistols. I hope none of you had a fender bender with him along the way. And I am grateful that neither he, nor any other teacher, was ever fully armed when I made one of my smart-alecky remarks in the classroom.


James BigBoy Medlin © 2018

James BigBoy Medlin was the sports writer for the original Austin Sun. His column was called "Why Not?"


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