Sunday, November 12, 2017

Should there be guns in schools?

I intend to share this letter with my governor and as a letter to the editor. I would appreciate your feedback in the comments. Thank you in advance.


Dear Governor Snyder,

On November 8th, the Michigan Senate passed legislation (584, 585, and 586) allowing individuals with concealed weapons permits to request permission to carry guns in schools (and other previously gun-free zones) with extra training. “[A gun-free zone is] a target-rich environment for people that don’t abide by the law, and people should have the ability to protect themselves, wherever they are,” explained State Senate Majority Leader (and my senator) Arlan Meekhof. This follows the narrative often accompanying such legislation: the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. 

I understand why this is a compelling story; it makes us feel safe, empowered, and may even touch on our dreams of being a hero. There's even a recent example of a good guy with a gun helping to stop a bad guy. But law enforcement officials, like the Houston Police Department, want you to consider a different story when involved in an active shooter event: run first; hide if you can't run; and fight only as a last resort.

Why would the police discourage you from being a hero? A couple of storylines come to mind:
  • Good guy with a gun shoots an innocent student or teacher while trying to stop a bad guy (with or without a gun); and
  • Good guy with a gun shoots some other good guy with a gun after misidentifying him as a bad guy with a gun.
We must also consider that confronting an active shooter isn't the only story that can be told around a good guy with a gun in a school. In fact, the good guy with a gun is unlikely to actually encounter an active shooter in a Michigan school given current statistics. So what other stories might we tell that involve a good guy, a gun, and a school - minus a bad guy?
  • Good guy with a gun gets angry about something and shoots the student, teacher, administrator, or parent that made him angry;
  • Child finds good guy's gun carelessly left laying around and shoots self or another child; and
  • Child finds good guy's gun carefully hidden away and shoots self or another child.
I get why we would rather not consider these tragic storylines. Most everyone would prefer the happy ending associated with "good guy with a gun stops bad guy with a gun." But just because you like one ending better than the other doesn't make it more likely to happen - especially when you compare the hundreds of children accidentally shot each year with the handful of heroes.

We ought not be making laws based on Hollywood happy endings. Instead, we need to consider the reality and the possible unintended consequences that occur when a gun is added to any situation. If we truly want to use "common sense" when addressing gun violence, just remember that no one ever got shot in a place without guns.

Should these bills reach your desk, please exercise your veto. Do not put our children at risk just so a few people can dream of being a hero.

David Coffey

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