Contrary to what you may have read online, teachers in Israel do not pack heat, and fewer guns in circulation means fewer gun deaths

In the immediate aftermath of last week’s mass shooting in Connecticut, in which 20 six- an seven-year-old kids were shot to death, a photo began circulating around the internet of what we were told was a school teacher in Israel, walking behind a group of children, with a rifle strapped across her back. There are several variations of the photo in circulation, but, in all of them, the implication is the same — if only the teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary had been armed, none of this would have transpired. If only American teachers were allowed to carry loaded weapons in the classroom, these 20 children would, at this very moment, be enjoying lives as carefree and happy as their contemporaries in Israel… The only problem is, it’s not quite true. According to Israel Today, while there are armed guards in Israeli schools, teachers are not armed. Here’s a clip:

There is a picture going around the Internet that I have seen about a dozen times today that claims that Israeli teachers are packing heat. Well, are they? The answer is “NO.” There may be some exceptions in dangerous areas like the West Bank (where five percent of Israelis live), but in general, Israeli teachers are not walking around like it’s the Wild Wild West, strapped with a six shooter. No, our teachers are not focused on shooting, but educating. That doesn’t mean, however, that we don’t protect young students.

In the picture, the students are on an outing. While it appears that the teacher is holding a rifle, I have never seen such a thing in ten years of living here. Rest assured however, they are under armed protection. In most cases it is an armed guard or a soldier that will accompany a class, not the teacher. And my guess is that the woman with the gun is a security guard, not a teacher.

Secondly, they are not armed in the classroom. Is that really the image you want to imprint on the minds of six-year-olds? (That would be Hamas) On the other hand. I have never seen a school in Israel that was not fenced in. You must go through a locked gate that is guarded by an armed shomer, a security guard. He or she, on the other hand, is not concerned with educating, but protecting. He or she will ask you why you are there? “What is your child’s name?” “Show me your I.D. card.” And he or she would not let you bring a weapon inside.

These types of massacres don’t seem to happen here for other reasons as well. Despite the stereotype of Israel being a violent nation, it is a million times (slight exaggeration) easier to get a weapon in the US than it is in Israel. Gun Control laws are very strict here….

The truth is, guns are very hard to come by in Israel. According to Janet Rosenbaum, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health at the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center School, gun ownership in the country is not only low, but decreasing. “(I)n Israel,” says Rosenbaum, “they’re very limited in who is able to own a gun. There are only a few tens of thousands of legal guns in Israel, and the only people allowed to own them legally live in the settlements, do business in the settlements, or are in professions at risk of violence.” She goes on to say that, unlike in the United States, “There isn’t this idea that you have a right to a gun. You need a reason. And then you need to go back to the permitting authority every six months or so to assure them the reason is still valid.” Furthermore, Israel rejects 40% of gun applications, and all the guns that are approved have to carry an Interior Ministry identifying mark, which ensures that fired bullets can be tracked back to individual guns and their owners.

Here in the United States, not only do we not deny anywhere near 40% of those seeking to buy guns, but, according to Senator Elizabeth Warren, a full “40% of gun sales are not subject to a federal background check because they are purchased privately at gun shows, online, or person-to-person.” Warren, in an email sent to supporters yesterday, said that she would vote to support both the Fix Gun Checks Act, which would close this gun show loophole, and the bill which Senator Diane Feinstein has promised, which would re-instate the ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004.

I know that there are people who would push for more, but I think that these two bills, if passed, and if accompanied by meaningful mental health access legislation, would be an adequate, and significant, step forward for our country. I can certainly understand, living as we do in a time of great uncertainty and fear, why some folks would like to have a weapon within reach that’s capable of wiping out a small army, like in a video game, but we exist as members of a society, and, as such, we have to collectively draw the line somewhere. As it is, that line seems to be drawn at the personal ownership of rocket-propelled grenades. I’d argue, in light of what we’re seeing transpire around us today, however, that this line should move a bit in the direction of sanity, with armor-piercing bullets, high-capacity ammunition clips, and military-style assault weapons being illegal for individuals to own, just as tanks and surface-to-air missiles are. I know that some of my friends would say that keeping these weapons out of the hands of the general public only makes it easier for our government to inflict its will on us, and maybe they have a point. I’d point out, however, that having an arsenal of automatic weapons didn’t really help the folks in Waco, and Ruby Ridge. The truth is, if the government wants you at this point in our nation’s history, there’s really not much you can do about it. And, it’s probably also worth pointing out that, in spite of the fact that we have easy access to inexpensive assault rifles right now, the federal government is still doing away with the 5th Amendment before our very eyes, and, here in Michigan, as we discussed yesterday, there’s a very real threat that women may effectively lose their reproductive freedom. So these arms aren’t stopping us from losing our rights. No, I’d argue, if we intend to fight back in a meaningful way, we’re going to have to be more creative than just relying on that Bushmaster under the bed. As much as our Libertarian friends would like to believe that we’re still playing by the rules of the founding fathers, we’re not. Our path to freedom, I’d argue, lies more with communications and organizing than it

And, as long as we’re on the subject of gun control, I thought that I’d share this clip from Adam Gopnik’s piece in The New Yorker on what other countries have chosen to do, and the success that they’ve experienced.

…There are complex, hand-wringing-worthy problems in our social life: deficits and debts and climate change. Gun violence, and the work of eliminating gun massacres in schools and movie houses and the like, is not one of them. Gun control works on gun violence as surely as antibiotics do on bacterial infections. In Scotland, after Dunblane, in Australia, after Tasmania, in Canada, after the Montreal massacre—in each case the necessary laws were passed to make gun-owning hard, and in each case… well, you will note the absence of massacre-condolence speeches made by the Prime Ministers of Canada and Australia, in comparison with our own President.

The laws differ from place to place. In some jurisdictions, like Scotland, it is essentially impossible to own a gun; in others, like Canada, it is merely very, very difficult. The precise legislation that makes gun-owning hard in a certain sense doesn’t really matter—and that should give hope to all of those who feel that, with several hundred million guns in private hands, there’s no point in trying to make America a gun-sane country.

As I wrote last January, the central insight of the modern study of criminal violence is that all crime—even the horrific violent crimes of assault and rape—is at some level opportunistic. Building a low annoying wall against them is almost as effective as building a high impenetrable one. This is the key concept of Franklin Zimring’s amazing work on crime in New York; everyone said that, given the social pressures, the slum pathologies, the profits to be made in drug dealing, the ascending levels of despair, that there was no hope of changing the ever-growing cycle of violence. The right wing insisted that this generation of predators would give way to a new generation of super-predators.

What the New York Police Department found out, through empirical experience and better organization, was that making crime even a little bit harder made it much, much rarer. This is undeniably true of property crime, and common sense and evidence tells you that this is also true even of crimes committed by crazy people (to use the plain English the subject deserves). Those who hold themselves together enough to be capable of killing anyone are subject to the same rules of opportunity as sane people. Even madmen need opportunities to display their madness, and behave in different ways depending on the possibilities at hand. Demand an extraordinary degree of determination and organization from someone intent on committing a violent act, and the odds that the violent act will take place are radically reduced, in many cases to zero.

Look at the Harvard social scientist David Hemenway’s work on gun violence to see how simple it is; the phrase “more guns = more homicide” tolls through it like a grim bell. The more guns there are in a country, the more gun murders and massacres of children there will be. Even within this gun-crazy country, states with strong gun laws have fewer gun murders (and suicides and accidental killings) than states without them. (Hemenway is also the scientist who has shown that the inflated figure of guns used in self-defense every year, running even to a million or two million, is a pure fantasy, even though it’s still cited by pro-gun enthusiasts. Those hundreds of thousands intruders shot by gun owners left no records in emergency wards or morgues; indeed, left no evidentiary trace behind. This is because they did not exist.) Hemenway has discovered, as he explained in this interview with Harvard Magazine, that what is usually presented as a case of self-defense with guns is, in the real world, almost invariably a story about an escalating quarrel. “How often might you appropriately use a gun in self-defense?” Hemenway asks rhetorically. “Answer: zero to once in a lifetime. How about inappropriately—because you were tired, afraid, or drunk in a confrontational situation? There are lots and lots of chances.”

So don’t listen to those who, seeing twenty dead six- and seven-year-olds in ten minutes, their bodies riddled with bullets designed to rip apart bone and organ, say that this is impossibly hard, or even particularly complex, problem. It’s a very easy one. Summoning the political will to make it happen may be hard. But there’s no doubt or ambiguity about what needs to be done, nor that, if it is done, it will work. One would have to believe that Americans are somehow uniquely evil or depraved to think that the same forces that work on the rest of the planet won’t work here. It’s always hard to summon up political will for change, no matter how beneficial the change may obviously be. Summoning the political will to make automobiles safe was difficult; so was summoning the political will to limit and then effectively ban cigarettes from public places…

Clearly it won’t be easy to shift the line, and redefine what we a society find acceptable. This is a huge, profitable industry. In the first nine months of this year alone, the Freedom Group, the corporate entity that owns the Remington and Bushmaster brands, among others, reported $677.3 million in sales. Business is good, and you can be damned sure that they don’t want the good times to end. And, as I mentioned earlier, people are fearful, and they’re convinced that owning their own personal arsenals will help them to protect their families against what Glenn Beck tells them is on the horizon. These are enormous obstacles, but there now seems to be the political will to do something significant, and that’s encouraging. There’s much more to be said on this, but, as I’m falling asleep, I think that will have to suffice for now.

Oh… one last thing on the prospect of arming teachers… It occurs to me that Republicans should be careful what they wish for… Arming teachers, I suspect, may have unintended consequences that they’re not really prepared for.

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33 Comments

  1. anonymous
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 12:30 am | Permalink

    Sandy Hook was good for business.

    WalMart sold out of assault rifles in five states.

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/12/20/walmart-sells-out-of-assault-rifles-in-five-states-report/

  2. alan2102
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 5:12 am | Permalink

    Meanwhile, while we’re all wringing our hands about guns….

    https://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/12/18
    Published on Tuesday, December 18, 2012 by Common Dreams
    Wealthiest Kissed, Weakest Kicked: Obama’s Ugly ‘New Deal’ Offers to Cut Social Security
    President gives away the store in fiscal negotiations
    snip
    Obama has put cuts to Social Security benefits on the table by changing the way cost-of-living adjustments are calculated. The change, known as the “chained CPI” which would alter the way payments are calculated, is a cynical ploy by the White House, say most critics, because politicians likely feel they can get away by calling it an “adjustment” rather than a “cut.”

  3. Edward
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    The NRA is also doing good business. They’re claiming that membership is way up after the Connecticut shootings.

    Also, they’ve yet to elaborate, but, after several days of complete silence, the NRA has come out with a statement saying that they promise work in good faith toward a solution.

    From their press release:
    “The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.”

    http://www.1029thelake.com/cc-common/news/sections/newsarticle.html?feed=104668&article=10653343

  4. Eel
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    “Arming teachers, I suspect, may have unintended consequences that they’re not prepared for.”

    Great point. I had been against this idea, but now I’m not so sure. I’m starting to warm up to the idea of a Teachers Union that’s armed to the teeth, and ready for battle. And let’s arm the UAW while we’re at it.

  5. Erika
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Here’s another interesting write up about Israel and guns: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/aaron-zelinsky/israel-gun-laws_b_2318352.html

    One of the better lines I have seen recently is in this article by Nicholas Kristof, regarding the other popularly spouted argument that “people will find a way to kill people even if they don’t have guns”. First of all, as you mention above there’s the convenience/opportunity factor – “they will just build a bomb” isn’t as easy as it sounds (aside from a gasoline bomb) as dynamite (as was used in the Bath school massacre) is pretty hard to purchase without suddenly having an undercover member of the FBI trying to buy you beers at the local tavern. Most salient, though, is this, from Kristof:

    ” ‘If people want to kill, you can’t stop them. Even a fork can be deadly. On the same day as the Connecticut tragedy, a man attacked 23 schoolchildren in China with a knife.’
    But, in the attack in China, not one of those children died. What makes guns different is their lethality. That’s why the military doesn’t arm our troops with forks.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/20/opinion/kristof-looking-for-lessons-in-newtown.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0

    Also, now that it has been a full week since the the shooting happened, aren’t we all supposed to be lulled back into our sense of security by “Top Ten of 2012” lists and news of celebrity break-ups? Isn’t this how these sorts of things usually go? Why are you still talking about it? I’m sure many of your readers are like “Ugh, this again? I’m so sick of talking about things that make me uncomfortable or frustrated. Let’s all just be happy all the time, okay?”

  6. Mr. X
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    The thing I don’t get is how teachers are supposed to be ready, in a split second, to stop reading nursery rhymes, and unload a clip into a perpetrator. It’s a nice fantasy, but I don’t see how it would work in reality, if someone steps into your clssroom and begins firing. Would teachers have one in the chamber at all times, pointed at the door, with the safety off?

  7. Meta
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    This kind of complicates things.

    Rep. Steve Israel wants to stop you from making assault rifles with a 3-D printer.

    On December 7th, the New York Democrat announced plans to introduce a bill to reauthorize the Undetectable Firearms Act, which prohibits the sale, transport, and manufacture of weapons that can’t be spotted by a metal detector. Set to expire next year, the law was originally passed in 1988 to stop the anticipated-but-never-realized spread of plastic weapons. This time, Israel has set his sights on something decidedly more sci-fi: “Remember ‘Replicators’ on #Star Trek?,” he tweeted earlier this month. “Now gun parts can be replicated with 3-D printers. Introducing [a] bill to stop so-called ‘wiki-weapons.'”

    3-D printers, which “print” objects out of plastic by using digital blueprints, have exploded among DIYers over the last few years, fueled by the rise of companies like MakerBot. Thingiverse, an online library of blueprints hosted by MakerBot, holds tens of thousands of blueprints—for everything from engagement rings to glasses frames. “It is just a matter of time before these three-dimensional printers will be able to replicate an entire gun,” Israel said. “And that firearm will be able to be brought through this security line, through the metal detector, and because there will be no metal to be detected, firearms will be brought on planes without anyone’s knowledge.”

    It’s a scary scenario, made all the more so by last week’s massacre at a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school. As Israel tells it, guns made out of plastic parts by home 3-D printers might provide a roundabout path to gun ownership for convicted felons or the mentally ill. Given that a nearly identical bill was signed into law by President George W. Biush, Israel’s legislation stands a pretty good chance of passing. But it’s not entirely clear whether Israel’s bill would actual curb the kinds of activities he says it does—or, given the current state of things, whether that’s even desirable. To understand the future of printed guins, it helps to understand how it began.

    Read more:
    http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/12/3d-printed-guns-wiki-weapons-ban

  8. anonymous
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Obama has come out with a video in response to all of the petitions that have been initiated through the White House site asking for new gun legislation. In it, he says he want’s legislation on his desk in January to ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=u5ynVMBxOus

  9. facebook stalker
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Derek Green just posted the following to Facebook:

    A couple days ago the moronic Megan McCardle excreted an article suggesting that we should train kids to rush shooters. Apparently, stupid is contagious on the right. So now we get this from National Review:

    “Male aggression can be a good thing, as in protecting the weak — but it has been forced out of the culture of elementary schools and the education schools that train their personnel. Think of what Sandy Hook might have been like if a couple of male teachers who had played high-school football, or even some of the huskier 12-year-old boys, had converged on Lanza,”

    Of course, male aggression in an elementary school might have been part of the problem last Friday. And if a couple men and burly twelve-year olds had been trained to rush into the hail of bullets, all we would now have is a couple dead men and 12-year-old boys to bury this week along with twenty 6- and 7- year-olds. How completely idiotic is this idea? As my good friend and former marine Todd Rollins pointed out, they don’t even train the military to rush shooters. But hey, let’s turn our elementary kids and teachers into a frontline paramilitary force to protect a citizen’s right to bear assault weaponry.

    What’s really on display here here is the vicious instinct on the right to blame victims. If you’re poor, if you get raped, if you’re unemployed, it’s your fault. Now: if you’re a first-grader and get massacred by an assault rifle in your classroom, it’s because you were too afraid to rush the shooter. At some point it’s time to shout these fuckheads down.

  10. John Galt
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    But I need armor-piercing “cop killer” bullets, and 100-round clips for deer hunting. Deers today aren’t like they used to be.

  11. Knox
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    I’m not watching but I just heard from a friend that there’s an NRA press conference going on right now in which they’re blaming video games and films for the recent murders.

  12. Posted December 21, 2012 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    I like the substitution of “Wild Wild West” for “Wild West” in the Israel Today article. It makes me imagine a different Israel, specifically a steampunk-western version of the country.

  13. Posted December 21, 2012 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    What do teachers think about this? I have yet to hear their opinions.

    There must be teachers who wouldn’t mind being armed in the classroom, but how, as a profession, do they feel about this?

    How much more compensation would teachers expect to carry weapons in the classroom? Would it include a bullet proof vest and better life insurance?

    Are people, particularly the anti tax crowd, more than a few I suspect who think arming teachers us good, willing to tax themselves to compensate teachers for this additional and hazardous duty?

    What do teachers think about this?

  14. Mr. X
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    The teachers union put out a statement. (They’re against it.) I’ll see if I can find you a link.

    In the meantime, here’s an article about the NRA press conference.

    “NRA Blames Everything Except Guns: Outdated Video Games, Hurricanes, And Corporate Media Led To Newtown”

    http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/12/21/1371711/nra-blames-everything-except-guns-outdated-video-games-hurricanes-and-corporate-media-led-to-newtown/

  15. Mr. X
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    “It’s ridiculous to think bringing guns into a school or classroom would somehow make that area safer,” said Charlie McBarron, a spokesman for the Illinois Education Association. “It’s hard to understand how a sane person could make that serious suggestion.”

    Source:
    http://blogs.suntimes.com/politics/2012/12/teachers_union_rips_idea_of_arming_teachers_asks_how_any_sane_person_could_suggest_that.html

  16. Mr. X
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    I’m reluctant to quote the Washington Times, but desperate times call for desperate measures:

    The nation’s leading teachers unions Thursday slammed the idea of arming more teachers, a proposal floated in the wake of last week’s Sandy Hook school shooting by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and others and already in place in some Texas schools.

    “Guns have no place in our schools. Period,” reads a rare joint statement from the presidents of the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers.

    In their letter, Dennis Van Roekel of the NEA and Randi Weingarten of the AFT called the idea of arming teachers “astounding and disturbing,” saying it runs counter to educators’ vow to provide safe and secure public schools for American students.

    Source:
    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/dec/20/education-unions-flunk-armed-teacher-proposal/#ixzz2FhsqzWi9

  17. Demetrius
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Code Pink crashed today’s NRA news conference, where their leader, Wayne LaPierre, placed the blame for incidents like Newtown on Hollywood, music, and the media — and suggested that instead of new limits on guns, we should post police officers in schools to prevent violent acts.

    http://nbcnews.to/UdoN10

    Following the outburst, LaPierre continued his speech by suggesting that our world was “full of monsters.”

    Indeed.

  18. TeacherPatti
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    I am a teacher and I am against it for several reasons. (Note: I am also a gun owner with a CPL who has taken the mandated safety courses and then some. I was the best shot in my class and got to take home one of my target papers. Sorry to brag on myself but I was kinda proud of that :)).

    First, I believe that if some asshole busts in a school I’m at, my first reaction will be to try to get the kids into a closet or cabinet or whatever. I am almost positive that my first reaction would NOT be to grab my purse or sidearm or whatever. Quite honestly, I do not know if I would want to be in a room with a teacher whose first reaction would be to go for her gun.

    Next, I am a great shot when I’m shooting at the paper zombie on the hook. I am not so confident of being able to shoot someone who is dressed like Omar from The Wire. (The Wire taught me that you should shoot in the leg from a distance and then get closer for the headshot but will I seriously remember that in a time of panic???). I have read over and over that our fine motor skills take a hit when we are flooded with adrenaline.

    Next, the thought of having a gun on me at school is absolutely terrifying. As part of my job, I got to about 16 schools (not every week) to work with a variety of kids. About 1/4 of the caseload includes working with very low functioning students–a teen with the brain capacity of a 1 year old, little girls with brain tumors, etc. They love picking things up (they are also low vision) and inspecting them. It may be a stretch to imagine them being able to cock the gun and then actually shoot it but what take that chance? The rest of caseload is mostly made up of some very cool kids but do we want to chance that? And what would they think if they saw their teacher come busting in like the aforementioned Omar (the ones with better vision, I mean)? Would you want your doctor to have a sidearm? I was just at my dentist yesterday and I was kinda happy she wasn’t armed.

    I’m just one teacher who also happens to be fairly pro-gun but I am against this. And by the way, for this bullshit about schools not being masculine enough…if there had been burly boys and big strong men in the office they would be just as dead as the female principal and counselor. Unless those guys are bulletproof, I highly doubt they the outcome would have been much different.

  19. TeacherPatti
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    PS:
    :waves to Erika and Demtrius:
    :) Nice to meet you both on Saturday!

  20. Demetrius
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Also worth noting, NYT columnist Charles Blow has posted a chart comparing the world’s 31 “wealthy” nations in terms of gun ownership, total homicides committed with handguns, handgun deaths per 100,000 population, etc., as well as other standard indicators of the level of violence in each society.

    No big surprise that the U.S. is “off the chart” compared to every single one of its worldwide peers.

    http://nyti.ms/YpYkRl

  21. Demetrius
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    (You too, Patti!)

  22. Tatersalad
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    When will Hollywood and movie/video producers attack this problem that they are responsible for creating and for “profit”? They attack gun owners but insulate themselves from the same:

    How about the militant people that have taken over Hollywood and the video empires. Guess who were/are the biggest supporters of Barack Obama and the Democratic Party?

    Here is a video that corrupts America’s young minds and yet Hollywood lets it continue for profits and then blames the NRA and conservatives. Liberals like Michael Moore should take note! Do you think that Adam Lanza watched this video?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOKkG_sPmmE

  23. Tommy
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Because I can never put it into words better than Mr. Papa, here is his latest (his writings all week have been so spot on:

    http://rudepundit.blogspot.com

    Here is a response to the Sandy Hook shooting sent to the Rude Pundit from a 2nd grade teacher in New York City. You’ll forgive her the occasional surges of outrage:

    It is a typical morning in my classroom. I stand outside the door, shaking hands with my students as they enter, asking after new baby siblings and cold symptoms, commenting occasionally to my friends that need that morning boost: “We’re going to have a great day!” They unpack inside the room and they move purposefully. One student sits at a desk and writes a letter to another, explaining a small grievance. The girls are a little bit more talkative than usual this morning and I don’t mind, but I keep my ears tuned like antennae for words I’ll need to react to (shooting, Connecticut, killed– “we’ll talk about that in a bit, okay?”). They read our morning message, and it’s all about math today and about deciding whether their answer is reasonable.

    This is our every day. This room, this space, this group, this teacher- none of it is perfect, but it is ours and it is sacred. Do. Not. Disturb. Amazing learning-type-stuff happening ‘round these parts.

    Furthermore, I think to myself, as they read and respond to my message– we are not reasonable.

    We are perfectly unreasonable, these kids and me– as we, day in and day out, exchange a love of learning and love of one another and an understanding between us that I have come to believe can only be found in an elementary school, amongst these smaller-than-you people who are totally wired for learning, and do so with an incredible zest and vigor that it acts as a contagion on even my worst and most exhausted days.

    Of course, I have no way of knowing if this was true for the teachers and students at Sandy Hook. Of course this isn’t about my class. And sure, I’m “just” a teacher without a firearm to protect myself. Goddammit. What happened a week ago was personal. It paralyzed me at my very core. I am incredibly angry. I am tremendously sad. Yet I am also shamefully, terrifically relieved in this order: “It was not me. It was not my class. Not my kids. It was not anyone I know. It was an isolated incident. We would have been in our math groups, learning about two-digit addition. Where the fuck is the lockdown procedure handbook? We are three floors up, so would we have more warning? Our closet has no doors. I am in the middle of the hallway and directly across from the main office. How far would they fall if I had to toss all 25 of them out the window to safety? (There’s a second story roof deck, right?) How long would that take?” The other thought that kept me up? “I’d take a dozen bullets if it meant saving just one of my kids.” I humbly beg your understanding: that is not heroic. That is the job. I am, amongst a hundred other things, a protector. I protect them from one another, I protect them from themselves at times, I protect them from the weather, hell, sometimes I even have to protect them from their own parents. Again: that is the job.

    Taking a bullet, is, of course, not really the job. But safety sure as hell is. We talk about safety constantly in our school. It is a tagline in our daily life, hitched onto practically everything we (or the kids) do (or don’t do). Hold the railing…so you’re safe. Eyes forward…so you’re safe. Hands to yourself…so your friend is safe. I moved the desks…so you could be safe. I thought when I first started teaching that the “safe” line would lose its juice– would be somehow devoid of all potency with overuse– but here’s the heartbreaking truth of the matter, and what makes me full-out weep with sorrow every time I think about the shooting:

    The “safe” line? It works every time. Well, almost.

    Yes. Really. Because kids want to be safe. And they expect you to help them do that. They will tell you, if they did something stupid, that they didn’t know any better. And they’re generally telling the truth.

    Safety is sacred. You know it, and they know it. It’s a cause that everyone can agree on.

    All this to say that we had to approach this topic with our kids, of course. For safety’s sake. I was honestly surprised to learn on Monday morning that some teachers thought it was best not to bring up Newtown unless their students did. They asked about how parents would feel. Some folks were worried about getting asked “too many questions.” My m.o. with my kids is always the same: proactivity. Get out in front of issues, before they bloom and spread into a hybrid mess of concerns you hadn’t anticipated. I knew we had a chance–a narrow window through which we could help steer this conversation.

    How do you turn the incredibly sad, the paralyzing, the absolutely unthinkable into a conversation to be had with seven year olds?

    Well, first you start with honesty: “As, I’m sure most of you have heard, something absolutely terrible happened in Connecticut on Friday. Raise your hands if you know what I’m talking about…Yes, it’s true that children, teachers and the principal were killed.”

    “I’m sure you have a lot of questions. And I’ll take them, but first I’m going to talk a little.”

    And then came Mr.Rogers. Thank heavens for Mr.Rogers.

    I told the kids exactly what I needed to hear to deal with what had happened: We are safe in our school just as we have always been. We will practice drills to be sure that we are prepared in the case of an emergency, which would be a very unusual circumstance. (lots of nodding)

    Then: horrible things will always happen in this world. Sometimes the world can exceed our expectations for being a kind of terrible place. Sometimes those things are designed by nature, like Hurricane Sandy, or the hundreds of other natural disasters that have happened and have killed people and destroyed many lives. Sometimes, horrible things are designed by other people, like wars and bombs and shootings just like this one.

    Our job right now is to “look to the helpers,” to think about the people in the community who are doing everything they can to support the families who have been effected by such a terribly tragedy. Kind of like how there were a lot of people helping out when people lost their homes and businesses during Hurricane Sandy.

    But WHY did he do it, Ms. P?

    I know that is the question you all have in your minds. Why would someone do this? How? Lots of people have ideas about why. Honestly, though, only he really knows. And he is gone. Which means we will never know.

    For me, now, I could get involved in the gun control debate or the mental health conversation or any choice of the myriad topics available based on my personal connection to the tragedy– but day by day they become more and more tangential and less a central part of the conversation I’m really interested in having. How do I help my kids understand that they can all be the helpers? Not just to clean up after the horrific messes made by others, but to elevate us all to be better.

    As for my girls, they understood. They still feel safe…because they have no idea that I’m considering flinging them from a third story window in the event of an emergency.

    Hope springs eternal in my classroom.

  24. Demetrius
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    @ Tater

    There is plenty of blame to go around.

    That someone would create and distribute such a video/game is every bit as shameful as the actions of the NRA.

    The point is both are just symptoms of a nation and society that increasingly is steeped in a culture of weapons and violence.

  25. Posted December 21, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    I’m a virgin at this

    http://i.imgur.com/vYCef.jpg

  26. Posted December 21, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    Not a bad first effort, Rick! I look forward to watching your work evolve over the coming year.

    And welcome back, Tater. I can’t believe that, in a 24 hour period, both you and EOS returned to the site. It’s a true Christmas miracle!

  27. Erika
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    Teacher Patti: thanks for your balanced comment. Just fyi, it must have been a different Erika that you met recently, as I have moved to North Carolina. :)

  28. Posted December 21, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    Or have you?

    ;)

  29. Citywatch
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    I overheard two about 7 year old boys today talking about why their downriver charter school was closed today. “Today was supposed to be the end of the world so they closed my school” one said. “They closed my school because someone called in and said they were going to come and shoot at us…….and today was supposed to be the end of the world too”. I am not making this up, I nearly fell off my chair. They tossed a miniature football around for awhile and then the first boy said ” In Shady Hook Connecticut 20 kids were shot in school. I think it is in New York someplace”. “We have drills in our school so we know where to go” the other boy said and caught the ball. I thought of tornado drills we used to have in school, and during the era of the atomic bomb how we would hide under our desks in a drill. ” You know God used to be human and was on the earth before the planets were formed” he said and they ran off having fumbled the ball.

    Then, on my way home, I heard about the NRA press conference and nearly got physically ill. The station then interviewed an owner of a private security company all ready to send their armed security guards into schools across the nation.

    I THINK the lesson of this weird confluence of things is this: These children are so innocent and vulnerable and they take what we say and do as reality. We need always to be mindful about what we teach them, but even more thoughtful now.

  30. carax
    Posted December 24, 2012 at 5:09 am | Permalink

    Very dubious sources to prove that there are no guns in Israeli classrooms. In other words, this is not a believable artticle.

  31. Meta
    Posted January 4, 2013 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Obama plans rapid victory over NRA.

    The White House and gun control supporters are gearing up for an a whirlwind month, with plans to pass reform legislation before outrage over the Sandy Hook massacre has a chance to fade.

    While the fiscal cliff has dominated Washington’s attention in recent weeks, lawmakers and activists are laying the groundwork for their big push. Vice President Joe Biden, tasked with heading a commission to investigate gun violence, has been quietly meeting with experts, interest groups, and public officials and is expected to release a set of recommendations within weeks. Boston mayor Thomas Menino, co-chair of Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns, told the Boston Herald this week that an optimistic Biden had assured him that Obama would sign legislation “by the end of January.”

    “We had been led to believe their report would come by end of January, but we’re hearing they may want to have something out by January 15, even quicker than expected,” Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, told TPM.

    House Democrats are moving ahead with their own plans as well. On Friday, Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA), chair of the newly created Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, announced the appointment of 12 vice chairs, including Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), the body’s leading voice on gun control. According to a Democratic aide, the group plans to release its recommendations in early February and is already organizing public hearings on the issue.

    Obama has personally identified an assault weapons ban and limits on ammunition magazine size as top priorities. Other possible reforms could include background check requirements for purchases at gun shows, a loophole that’s helped create a huge market of off-record arms purchases.

    Read more:
    http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2013/01/white-house-nra-gun-victory.php?ref=fpnewsfeed

  32. anonymous
    Posted January 7, 2013 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    Speaking of letting God back into school, I thought that you might find this of interest.

    “A state senator in Indiana introduced a bill on Thursday that would give public school districts the authority to mandate daily recitations of the Lord’s Prayer in public classrooms.”

    http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/01/04/1397651/indiana-lawmaker-wants-to-give-schools-the-power-to-mandate-prayer-in-classrooms/?mobile=nc

  33. Gary
    Posted June 23, 2014 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    The original article stated that in 10 years of residency the author had not seen armed teachers. A long time ago when Saddam was making trouble, I visited Israel briefly and saw it for myself. At an archaeological site, a school bus pulled up, and ALL adults shouldered long guns before touring the site with the kids. It was an unusual sight, so I asked our Israeli tour guide about it. His response was that all groups of children must be accompanied by armed escorts. Now this was a field trip, and not in the school itself, and long ago, but I’ve seen it myself, even just as a visitor.

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] worth the risk, especially when there are other means available to us. As we discussed yesterday, the evidence indicates that fewer guns in circulation means fewer gun deaths. People argue that insane people will still find a way to do harm, and that’s true, but it […]

  2. […] online, teachers in Israel do not pack heat, and fewer guns in circulation means fewer gun deaths Contrary to what you may have read online, teachers in Israel do not pack heat, and fewer guns in ci… __________________ To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 10 or greater. […]

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