Friday, February 23, 2018

Schools and Guns and Brokenness

I've started writing this post three or four times in the past few days, and I keep walking away from it. I feel like I have to say something in response to the school shooting in Parkland, FL last week, but I just can't seem to sort out my ideas. Here's my best thinking (summarized) for now...
Our society is so broken, that it seem like people on both sides of this debate are talking past each other, shouting their slogans, not really listening, and missing the nuance of the situation. But we have to actually have a conversation about this, and that's complicated, because people have such strong feelings, brute-force logic is not going to change hearts and minds.
A little more I can say to flesh this out...but recognize that these are my opinions, and I'm thinking out loud here, though pretty sure for now...

  • To my friends who own guns, let's get one is "taking your guns away."
  • To my friends who abhor guns, let's get real...there is no way we are banning all guns in the USA.
  • We have have to stop saying things like, "The NRA is a terrorist organization." I have friends who are NRA members who are clearly not terrorists. This is inflammatory language, and it isn't helping.
  • We also have to stop saying things like, "Guns don't kill people...people kill people." I understand what people are arguing here--that it's the brokenness of the people that is the problem. Yep, people are broken. But...the truth is, guns are designed for killing. That is the exact purpose for which they are engineered. Period. Full stop. The people in Parkland who died in this tragedy are indeed dead because of bullets fired from a gun.
  • We all--ALL OF US--have to check our language. (Pointing the finger at myself here first of all.) Name-calling is not conducive to real conversation, and if all you are doing is calling people you disagree with "libtards" or "right-wing whack-jobs," you are part of the problem. Stop it. 
  • Everyone arguing about this whole topic should go and read the actual text of the second amendment to the U.S. constitution. It's just 27 words, four commas, and a period. In my opinion, almost all of the talk is about the second half of the amendment, while disregarding the first half. (That's interesting to me...)
  • As a society, I think we need to talk more about mental health, and this is certainly part of the situation, but to say that it's all about mental health is missing nuance. 
  • In both the school context, and in the broader cultural context, I think we need to talk more about human development, and how schools function for kids of both sexes, and the macho-myth of masculinity, but to say it's all about hyper-masculinity is missing nuance.
  • I do think that we need to talk seriously about restricting access to weapons, but to say it's all about banning weapons is missing nuance.
  • While I do believe that last point...I also have to say that I have yet to see any serious example of a civilian use for an AR-15 or other so-called assault weapon. They seem to often be a weapon of choice for mass shootings, and seem to be efficient tools for killing many people in a short period of time. At this point, I can't see any true benefit to society for having such weapons available to the general population.
  • Speaking as an educator, I don't want schools to become prisons. Building walls and having armed guards roaming campuses...I don't know what else to call that but a prison.
  • On the flip side...something has to be done to better protect schools from shooters. I don't know what that is just yet.
  • But as soon as I say that...I will also say LOUDLY that arming teachers is a singularly bad idea any way you slice it. Speaking as a teacher who has shot a .22 rifle, a .357 Magnum, a Glock, a 12-gauge shotgun, an AR-15, and a pellet gun. There is no scenario I can imagine in which having any of these--even the BB gun--in my classroom would actually make it a safer place for learning to happen.
And maybe that's where I should stop for now. My thoughts are swirling, friends...and I just had to get them written down and out of my brain for a bit.

Image by Antique Military Rifles [CC BY-SA 2.0]

Three things I'm pretty sure of:
  1. This isn't a simple situation. Anyone offering a seemingly simple solution is misguided at best and dangerous at worst.
  2. Blasting our perspective, or sharing memes designed to get a rise out of someone, or being awful to people with whom we disagree isn't going to be productive as a way forward.
  3. This world is a broken, broken, broken place. Thoughts and prayers aren't going to solve that.


  1. You've hit the nail on the head Dave! Eloquently and truthfully written.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. This one really felt like putting myself out there, because this is such a contentious topic. But I'm tired of it all, and I just had to get my thoughts written down for once to get 'em out of my head.

  2. Your comments are extremely helpful and much, much appreciated!

    1. Thank you, Kris. I'm grateful that you took the time to read and comment.

  3. I'm sharing this everywhere I can. I'm so ready for those young people to get others talking about what IS the answer. I'm ready for them to lead US.

    1. Thanks so much for your encouragement and affirmation, Joy. This was a vulnerable one for me to write...worrying that I'd offend friends left and right (literally!) As someone who lands at a moderate political perspective on almost any issue, I feel like I'm often pulled one way or the other, and that I'm trying to play mediator between friends who just don't see things from the other side. My conservative friends think me liberal...and my liberal friends think me conservative. Not always a friendly place to stand. :-)

      I'm with you--I'm proud to see these young people taking a stand for their beliefs, and not being pushed around or bullied. Grateful for your willingness to share it too, friend!

  4. As you do so often, you've articulated a lot of what is going on in my head. Thanks, Dave.

    1. Always grateful when you take the time to read and comment, Deb!

  5. As a Teacher, a Military Veteran and a Texan, I like guns (own AR-15s, M-4s, various other long guns, and handguns). I'm still undecided about arming Teachers though. I need to be a Teacher...not a line of defense in a shooter situation. I believe in law enforcement on campus (heck; my school has TWO police substations and I don't feel like "I'm working in a prison"). I did feel in a shooter situation, there would almost be instant law enforcement on the scene (as there is when a fight breaks out). However, the 4 law enforcement officers that "cowered down" during the Florida shooting did not encourage me though (if you put on the uniform to "Protect and Serve" than have the courage to do so...we are counting on you to do that). Things like that make me think "would that happen here?" and I'd be wishing I had a firearm on me during that "moment of truth." You might find this interesting:

    1. Thanks much for taking the time to read and comment! That piece you shared is interesting and thought-provoking, and I hope people who might come across my post will take the time to read the article you've linked too. I'm still not convinced that having armed teachers is a good idea at all...but I think that, as a society, we should at least have the conversation about it!

      Thanks for your thoughtful response.

  6. Dave, this was your final statement: This world is a broken, broken, broken place. Thoughts and prayers aren't going to solve that. This is actually the one place where I disagree with you. I believe that only prayer is going to solve this broken world; prayer that God would bring healing and that there would be a whole-hearted turning back to Him. As a principal in a Christian school, I see broken students all around me. I KNOW the only way for them to find healing is through repentance and seeking after God. And that starts with the prayers of the parents and the staff.