Hey peeps. I’m really sorry I haven’t written in a spell. What have I been doing? I’m so glad you asked.
A few weeks ago, I was getting ready for class when I got a ping on my phone. News alert! Some fool decided to pull his piece and shoot his (former) buddy while they rode a city bus downtown. Sadly, I wasn’t shocked to learn that someone else got shot here in the nation’s third most dangerous city (although this guy had given new meaning to the concept of shooting on the move). What did cause a mild stir was the fact that the assailant (1) fled the bus on foot, (2) remained at large, and (3) was last seen heading down Second Street, just a few blocks from the law school, where I was scheduled to teach that evening.
As I sat there at my desk, struggling to translate “don’t get shot tonight” into a more palatable email message to my students, the ire began to simmer. It bubbled and popped and finally reached a furious boil as it occurred to me just what I was about to do. There I was, dutiful educator, prepping to go meet my students on the perimeter of an unsecured crime scene.
I had been trained never to do stupid things like going to stupid places where I had every reason to expect to meet stupid people. Man-who-shoots-friend-on-bus would likely qualify as a stupid person. Anywhere in his vicinity would be a stupid place to go. And the only thing stupider than B-lining over to that place with that dude on that night was to do so with a flock of syllabus-tethered students in tow.
Or not. Welcome to the gun-free zone.
When bad guys attack a plane, Congress passes the “Arming Pilots against Terrorism Act,” so they can “defend the flight decks of aircraft … against acts of criminal violence.” When bad guys attack rail lines, pundits suddenly ponder if we should “increase the number of armed patrols on high-speed trains.” When bad guys attack a military recruitment station, oh, well now we ought to “allow troops to carry guns on base for personal protection.” When bad guys attack a church, we’re all inspired “to look afresh and anew at how we protect our congregations” — perhaps “armed security teams” are in order.
Where were those big talkers last month when Professor Problem-Child randomly offed his colleague on the campus of Delta State, just a few klicks down the road from me? Or how about on September 17th when some predator right here on my own campus “got out of a dark SUV and punched another man who was crossing the street”? Or how about two weeks earlier, when someone “armed with a silver handgun … approached two men and demanded money” — again, right here on my campus?
The poor guy at Delta State did not meet his end in some back alley or dim lot. No. He was in his office. I think it’s safe to assume the last thing he expected was to encounter a murderous gunman. In my case, I knew there was a homicidal idiot running around a block or so from my classroom. I knew that most of my students were oblivious to the danger itself, let alone to any options they might have had for thwarting it if necessary. And I knew that the only way I could arm myself with even a smidgen of real stopping power was to do so at the risk of six years in the can and a permanent felony record that would prevent me from ever earning an honest living wage again. And of course they’d revoke my carry permit.
I totally get that pilots, pastors, servicepersons, passengers, parishioners, and other such wholesome folks are all worth saving. But damn it, so am I. If it makes so much sense that they should have some means of self-preservation, why doesn’t the same rationale apply to my students and me?