Thomas Gabor: It’s A Folly To Arm Teachers.

Since the atrocity at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, President Trump has been promoting the idea that arming instructors, or at least some of them, would have prevented the carnage.  The National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre has weighed in predictably with the tired slogan he created following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”   States like Florida are considering adopting some version of this approach in lieu of significant changes in firearm policy.

teachThe recitation of LaPierre’s slogan in the aftermath of these slaughters of our young is, in my view, cynical, offensive, and unsupported by empirical evidence.  It is also as illogical to suggest that increasing the volume of guns will reduce gun violence as it is to make opiates more accessible as a way of addressing the opioid crisis.  The solution of arming teachers is also highly cynical as this measure often depicts teachers as the last line of defense preventing our schools from descending into complete chaos.  Arming teachers or school staff does nothing to address the reasons why so many young men in America, relative to other countries, wish to murder as many of their peers as possible and nor does this proposal address the accessibility of weapons that enable these massacres.

Surveys show that neither teachers nor the public like the idea.  Like their college and university counterparts, most educators are not interested in doubling as security guards and students would feel less safe with schools awash in guns.  Teachers worry about undermining their special role as educators and mentors, which consists of a different skill set from that of security staff.  School teachers are usually women and women tend to have low gun ownership levels.  Schools would likely lose valuable talent.  Even if just some teachers were armed, incentives would likely be required to recruit and retain teachers with armed training, creating a preference for those prepared to undergo the necessary training over talent in the classroom.  In addition, scarce educational resources will be diverted from the classroom to firearms training.

The cost of training teachers and/or other school staff willing to serve as armed marshalls would be prohibitive and ongoing training and recertification would require time out of class, with its associated costs.  Kansas gave school districts the prerogative of arming teachers and the state’s largest insurer of schools refused to cover schools with armed instructors, deeming the situation as unduly risky.

In general, across the US, the training required of those with permits to carry guns, in states where a permit is required, is woefully inadequate.  Rigorous training ought to include instruction in the law pertaining to the use of force, gun safety and handling, judgment (when to shoot and not to shoot), awareness of the possibility of friendly fire incidents, and marksmanship under stress.  Even trained police officers miss their targets about 80% of the time in combat situations.  Deployment of a gun in a crowded school being attacked by a shooter requires exceptional skill, judgment, and composure.

While there are far too many school shootings in the US relative to other countries, there are about 60 per year in about 150,000 public and private schools or 1 in every 3000 schools.  Just as in the case of firearms kept in the home, arming teachers in every school may well result in many more unforeseen misuses of firearms, including  unauthorized uses of force, accidental shootings and discharges, and thefts of guns.  Teachers may over-react in dealing with unruly students and use deadly force to control them, a departure from the intent of arming them.  Issues relating to the disproportionate use of firearms against minority students may arise, as it is an issue with full-time, professionally trained law enforcement officers.[1]

Also, arming at least some teachers will create a new market for the gun industry, one reason the gun lobby supports this initiative.  The industry is currently experiencing a major downturn in sales.  In addition to helping deal with slumping sales in the industry, the entire idea is not just dangerous and harmful to the mission of schools but a huge distraction from what we ought to focus on:  The community and societal issues that produce school shooters and the weapons that enable them.


Thomas Gabor, Ph.D. is a criminologist, sociologist and author of Confronting Gun Violence in America.



Let’s Hear It For Those Parkland Kids.

Yesterday I wrote a column talking about how the post-Parkland gun debate is different from all previous post-shooting debates because of the spontaneous emergence of social media networks driven by high school kids. I’m not saying this is anything other than coincidence, but today’s New York Times is carrying a major article which basically says the same thing. Except that the NYT story goes beyond my basic point, describing in detail about how national gun-control organizations like Everytown have mobilized lobbyists, members and advertising to respond to the usual pro-gun defenses from the other side.

parkland4              Most of what the NYT reportage said about the new-found strength of the gun-control community is correct. But their understanding of what is really driving the dynamics of what they refer to as the ‘anti-gun’ movement misses the larger point. Obviously, having Trump in the White House, as opposed to Obama, creates a fundamental difference when it comes to the public debate about guns. And it certainly is the case that what Trump says today about gun control may be very different from what he’ll say the next day or the next.

Trump’s behavior reminds me of what Sitting Bull once said about Crazy Horse after the massacre of Custer at the Little Bighorn in 1876.  Back in 1868, both Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse agreed to a treaty which the U.S. Government broke before the ink was dry. Crazy Horse then claimed that he never signed the document, but when asked whether Crazy Horse did sign the treaty Sitting Bull replied, “Of course he signed – Crazy Horse would do anything for a free meal.”

So now we have someone sitting in the Oval Office who will say anything to grab the media spotlight, no matter whether he means it or not. Will Trump really push for increasing the minimum age for purchasing guns? Will he try to get the DOJ to figure out a legal maneuver that would ban bump stocks?  Who knows what’s on his mind, but mind or not, I can tell you this: If Hillary Clinton was the 45th President, she would have gotten on Air Force One and flown down to Florida no later than the day after the shooting, done the requisite hospital visit, then thanked the first responders, photo-ops at every stop. At some point there would have been a tearful, emotional speech and a demand that Congress do what they should have done after Sandy Hook; i.e., pass some kind of legislation to ‘end this horrifying gun violence’ or words to that effect.

Wayne-o Lapierre talked for 37 minutes yesterday at CPAC, a speech which was the ‘official’ response to Parkland by the NRA. He started off with the usual bromides about the ‘terrible tragedy,’ this and that, but then went into a long rant about how the Democratic Party had been taken over by a European-style ‘socialist’ elite, whose headway had been briefly stopped by the election of Trump. The way Wayne-o rambled on and on about this threat, you would have thought that Barack Obama was still in the White House trying to figure out how to push the country further to the Left.

Every time there was a mass shooting since 2008, Gun-nut Nation could and did respond by attacking the guy from Kenya and turning gun control into an issue between ‘us’ – the good guys – versus ‘them.’ Which is exactly how Trump behaved throughout his entire Presidential campaign as well as his tenure in the Oval Office until February 14 when everything changed. And what changed is that, for the very first time, the public debate about a political issue is being defined by the kids. Not by the lobbyists, not by the organizations, not by the media and the editorial boards, but by the kids.

The best thing which has ever happened to the movement to end gun violence is that we no longer have a friend at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Thank God for the kids.

There’s A New Player On The Gun-Control Field.

Now that the gun industry’s response to Parkland has been effectively communicated to all relevant noisemakers from Trump on down, maybe it’s time for the gun violence prevention (GVP) movement to evaluate what they are saying in a calm and dispassionate way. Because like it or not, the chances of getting rid of assault rifles are slim to none, but I can see the Republican leadership jumping around gleefully imagining how a program to put armed guards in every school might play out in the upcoming elections on November 8, 2018.

CPACNobody takes That Schmuck in the White House (TSWH) seriously when he suggested that one out of every five school teachers should be armed.  But what if the GOP decided to add a few more billions to the deficit by coming up with the money that would allow every school district to hire some more cops? You wouldn’t get an argument from the police unions, that’s for sure.

A week after the Sandy Hook massacre, Wayne-o gave a belligerent press conference in which he denounced any talk about new gun regulations and unveiled the NRA’s new school security program, National School Shield, which if implemented, would keep killers away from schools. The program was a hodgepodge of the usual security stuff, first an assessment of school security needs, then a conference with a security professional, then a plan to do this and that, then everyone’s secure.

The program went nowhere, of course, because the NRA was too busy promoting its concealed-carry agenda, including an insurance program for folks who get arrested because they shot some guy coming through the front door even though this ‘street thug’ was the UPS driver delivering a pair of those LL Bean winter boots. But at today’s CPAC conference, where Wayne-o spent most of his talking time reminding the audience that the Democratic Party was now completely under the control of ‘European-style, socialist elites,’ he also pulled out the School Shield program again and no doubt will try to make a deal with Trump, trading a ban on bump stocks for armed guards in every school.

This list may be somewhat incomplete, but the data appears to support the idea that there have been 12 mass shootings at educational sites since the Columbine massacre in 1999, resulting in 167 deaths. Of this total, only 4 occurred in primary or secondary schools, although three of the four worst massacres took place at Columbine, Parkland and Sandy Hook. These horrific events should not blind us to the fact, however, that primary and secondary schools remain locations where little fatal injuries take place. For the 2013 – 2014 school year, according to the Department of Education, there were 26 homicides in 98,000 primary and secondary public schools with a total enrollment of 98 million kids. That’s pretty safe.

Putting a police resource officer in every school sounds like a great idea, but if any police department were to ask for additional monies to hire more cops, the first question which would be asked was whether the particular jurisdiction was experiencing more crime. And if the DOE mean anything at all, putting a cop or armed guard in every school would be like using the elephant to swat the fly.

The real problem that TSWH and the NRA have is that for the very first time, they aren’t dealing with a reaction to gun violence which is led by the usual suspects – Schumer, Feinstein, et. al. Even Rush went out of his way yesterday to assure his audience that his comments about how the ‘Left’ always politicizes mass shootings was not meant, in any way, to disparage the Parkland kids.

I hate to say it, but it may have taken a senseless slaughter of some high school students to invigorate the GVP movement with a new kind of leadership whose motives and credibility are beyond reproach. We’ll soon see if the playing-field for dealing with gun violence continues to tilt their way.


Thomas Gabor: Gun Licensing Could Have Prevented Parkland Shooting

Tragically, fellow Americans, this time in Parkland, Florida, have once again been slaughtered ruthlessly by a young man wielding a weapon of war.  This is well past the time to discuss how these events can be prevented.  One does not need to be an expert to conclude that military-style weapons that can receive external magazines capable of holding 10-100 rounds of ammunition have no role in civilian life, other than to murder as many people as possible in the shortest time span.

parkland3Aside from banning these weapons, we need to do much better in screening individuals for their fitness to possess, own, or carry firearms.  In a January 8th post, I laid out some preliminary ideas for a national gun licensing system, although such a system could also be established at the state level.  The rationale is simple:  People operating a variety of forms of machinery and in many occupations require a license to ensure they meet certain requirements and maintain their qualifications to continue to engage in those activities.  In Florida, for example, licenses are required of motor vehicle operators, barbers and cosmetologists, mold remediation services, contractors in the construction industry, and many others.  If those operating cars and construction machinery need a license, it stands to reason that those owning and operating lethal weapons also ought to be licensed.

I mentioned in the previous post that expanding background checks to all gun sales and tinkering with our current system of checks is the low-hanging fruit with regard to reform as 95% of Americans support such actions.  Unfortunately, the obsession of gun safety advocates with this system has led us to lose sight of fundamental flaws in the way we screen prospective gun buyers.  Searching FBI electronic databases is not sufficient as, aside from clerical errors (seen in the lead-up to the Charleston church shooting) and the failure to forward data to the FBI (seen in the Sutherland Springs, Texas church shooting), every criminologist knows that official criminal records represent just the tip of the iceberg with regard to someone’s criminality and will miss troubling warning signs.  I therefore propose a comprehensive screening process including:

  • An in-person interview with law enforcement;
  • Reference checks;
  • Where applicable, notifying a current or former domestic partner of a license application;
  • Successful completion of gun safety and skills training provided by law enforcement or security firms;
  • Certificate of mental aptitude for applicants under 26 years of age; and,
  • A waiting period of 10 business days.

The shooter at Stoneman Douglas High School, just like many previous mass shooters, obtained his weapons legally.  The proposed licensing system may have prevented him from obtaining his weapons at four different stages of the process:

  1. The in-person interview may have uncovered some troubling attitudes on the part of the shooter in relation to guns. He may have even been deterred from pursuing a license due to the need for an interview.  With the private sale loophole closed, he may have either given up the idea of purchasing a gun or been forced into the illegal market.  With an accompanying assault weapons ban, the supply will eventually be reduced dramatically, substantially elevating the price of an illegal AR-15, which can cost $1,500 with all the accessories when purchased legally.  An illegal purchase might cost several times that amount, making it inaccessible to most young persons.
  2. Reference checks with peers, family (in this case surrogate family) members, school personnel, and social media checks would have uncovered his troubling behavior, statements, and threats.
  3. The psychological evaluation done for the certificate of mental aptitude may have uncovered disturbing attitudes and intentions.
  4. Even the requirement that he receive rigorous safety training—something not required to purchase a gun in Florida—may have raised some red flags for instructors.

No system is foolproof but experience with licensing in virtually every other advanced country with far better outcomes than the US indicates that it is time to develop such a regulatory system.  A national system is preferably to state licensing, as porous state borders mean that individuals who would be denied a license in one state can obtain firearms in nearby states that have lower standards.

Tom Gabor, Ph.D.

Criminologist and Sociologist

Author, Confronting Gun Violence in America (Amazon’s #1 new release in Criminology)


What Do All Mass Shootings Have In Common? A Gun

It turns out the Florida Department of Social Services conducted a review of Nikolas Cruz’s behavior and decided he was at ‘low risk’ for hurting himself or anyone else. The good news about this report is that it takes the onus off the FBI, whose investigation into the shooter’s background led nowhere fast. The bad news is that neither of these investigations prevented Cruz from buying a gun.

parkland              Gun-nut Nation hasn’t yet begun trumpeting their usual mantra about how even the ‘mentally ill’ don’t necessarily forfeit their Constitutional ‘rights;’ Wayne-o will wait at least another week until he gets a wink from the Oval Office and then issues his now-standard nonsense about how every school in American needs an armed guard.  In the meantime, the gun violence prevention (GVP) movement will ramp up their demand for a renewed ban on assault rifles, carefully sidestepping the fact that Seung-Hui Cho, who used to hold the American record for most homicides in a single, mass shooting, managed to kill 32 people at Virginia Tech using a semi-automatic pistol, the Glock 19. For that matter, the kid who almost murdered Gabby Giffords in a Tucson parking lot on January 8, 2011, managed to kill and wound 20 people with a Glock 19.

What do these rampage shooters and so many others of the same ilk have in common?  Sorry, it’s not the fact that they used an AR-15, because that’s not always the case. On the other hand, if we look at the personal histories of the shooters at Aurora,The Pulse, Virginia Tech, Santa Isla, Sandy Hook, Columbine, Umpqua CC, we find a disturbing pattern; namely, all of them were either treated by mental health professionals, or were investigated by law enforcement authorities, but as far as we can tell, none of the individuals who intervened with the shooters ever asked them about guns.

Nancy Lanza, for example, the mother of the kid who shot his way through the elementary school at Sandy Hook, dragged her son hither and yon for mental health treatments, while at the same time that she was building an arsenal for his use. The Virginia Tech shooter, Seung-Hui Cho, was admitted overnight to an on-campus mental health facility because he had threatened to take his own life, but the report covering his contact with a staff professional makes no mention of guns. At the request of his mother, the Santa Isla shooter, Elliot Rodger, was interviewed by the cops the day before he started his shooting spree, but the issue of guns was never raised.

Let me make one thing very clear. I am not trying in any way to raise doubts about the professionalism or dedication of anyone in either the mental health or law enforcement communities. This column is not an attempt to imply or infer blame. What I am simply trying to point out is that for all the talk about banning assault weapons on the one hand, or better mental health screening on the other, what I see again and again leading up to these horrific events is a tacit acceptance of the idea that a professional intervention with a troubled individual somehow occurs without any mention of guns.

This may come as a great shock to my friends in Gun-nut Nation, but asking someone whether they own or have access to a gun isn’t a violation of anyone’s Constitutional ‘rights.’. And this statement applies equally as well to my friends in the GVP who sometimes appear overly concerned about respecting the 2nd Amendment, regardless of whose ox then gets gored. If you walk up to any adult in the street, the odds are one out of three that this individual can get their hands on a gun, in some neighborhoods more, in others less. Would you look the other way if you thought this same person might be infected with Ebola virus or some other virulent, communicable disease?  According to the CDC, Ebola killed 29,000 people during the outbreak in 2014. That’s nothing compared to the 38,658 Americans who were killed with guns in 2016.



Will Condolences And Prayers Stop Mass Shootings? Of Course.

The day after a 29-year old security guard named Omar Mateen walked into The Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12, 2016 and began blasting away with his trusty Sig assault rifle, killing 49 people and wounding another 58, then-candidate Donald Trump immediately started yapping about how the shooting wouldn’t have happened if someone in the nightclub had been carrying a gun. Of course his real campaign manager, a.k.a. Chris Cox of the NRA, had to  remind him that the boys in Fairfax didn’t actually endorse mixing alcohol with guns. But that didn’t stop Trump from continuing to promote the necessity of arming civilians for the remainder of his campaign.

prayer            Now that candidate Trump has transmogrified into President Trump, the narrative has all of a sudden changed. When word reached the White House that a shooting rampage in a Florida high school was going to end up costing an untold number of lives, Trumpo’s first tweet was: “My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting. No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school.” An hour later, when the death toll had reached 17, and it may go higher, America’s guardian of the 2nd Amendment couldn’t resist another burp, this one saying, “Just spoke to Governor Rick Scott. We are working closely with law enforcement on the terrible Florida school shooting.”

In case you’re wondering, Trump the Shlump was demonstrating his leadership by talking to the same Rick Scott who signed 5 gun laws in one day on June 23, 2014, one of which which made it easier for residents of the Gunshine State to get concealed-carry licenses, another making it easier for defendants to justify violent behavior under the state’s Stand Your Ground law, all of which made him, according to the NRA, the Governor who “has now signed more pro-gun bills into law — in one term — than any other Governor in Florida history.”

As for the boyfriend of Stormy Daniels ‘working closely with law enforcement,’ I wonder if he was referring to Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, who would have been the chief law-enforcement officer on the scene. You may recall that just two weeks before we had to start putting up with this schmuck of a President, the exact date was January 6 2017, a guy named Esteban Santiago-Ruiz got off a flight from Alaska, collected his luggage, then pulled out a 9mm pistol and quickly shot 5 people dead. When a few Florida lawmakers then talked up a law allowing guns to be carried in certain areas within airports, Sheriff Israel spoke out against the measure, claiming that letting civilians walk around with guns would just make it more difficult for police officers to tell the good guys from the bad.

Incidentally, the day of the airport shooting, although not yet President, the New York landlord was obviously practicing for how he would respond to mass shootings from inside the Oval Office, because he tweeted that he had ‘spoken’ with Governor Scott and was ‘monitoring’ the situation. Oh yea, don’t forget the thoughts and prayers.

What I find interesting about this charade of concern is that Obama also responded to rampage shootings by first always mentioning how the victims were in his thoughts and prayers. But he would then call for some kind of ‘action’ in response to the shooting, which of course meant a new law regulating guns. The moment he switched from ‘thoughts and prayers’ to ‘regulations and laws,’ the various Gun-nut Nation mouthpieces accused him of ‘politicizing’ the event.

Remember when Wayne-o reminded us after Sandy Hook that it’s the bad guys we need to worry about, not the guns? Sooner or later I figured they would have to come up with a new slogan to keep the discussion away from whether we should be doing something about the guns. Who can argue with condolences and prayers? Perfect, just perfect.

Khalil Spencer: Gun Violence Is More Than Gun Deep.

I just finished reading Mike Weisser’s latest post on why we are not reacting more strongly to the constant string of mass shootings. Mike, as usual, makes a lot of excellent points on this subject and discusses how the GVP community needs to develop a voice that will pull  Americans into common cause to reflect on our addiction to Sam Colt’s Hammer. That said, my concern is that this is not an issue as shallow as those guns themselves.

spencer1Here in New Mexico, we are going through the latest shock and horror over the latest incident of domestic violence in our midst. Thirteen year old Jeremiah Valencia was apparently systematically abused and kept locked in a dog cage for prolonged periods. He was tortured and beaten so savagely, according to reports in the Santa Fe New Mexican and Albuquerque Journal, that he sometimes needed a cane or wheelchair to get around. He was finally beaten severely, put in the dog cage to die, and buried in a shallow grave. Maybe that was the only form of relief from torture that this little boy could hope to find. Sadly, these stories, like mass shootings, keep happening. Like mass shootings, they are here and then gone from public consciousness as we go about our everyday lives. Not to mention, these incidents often occur, as JC said in Matthew, to “the least of thee”. Easy to overlook until you read the details.

The bottom line is that in New Mexico we have a fair amount of gun violence. But at its heart we have a lot of domestic violence, drug abuse, poverty, and illiteracy (roughly one third of our kids don’t graduate high school).  The gun violence is far from random but correlated with these underlying problems. The GVP community is correct that we need to disarm domestic violence perpetrators and others who are documented risks to the public. Unfortunately, our governor vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have done just that during the 2017 legislative session. But Jeremiah’s tormentor didn’t need a gun.

It would be the height of hypocrisy to only worry about mass shootings because unlike everyday low level violence that happens in those other places, these incidents of mass carnage can happen in nice communities such as ours: Santa Fe, Los Alamos, or the town where GVP crusader Shannon Watts lives. We need to focus more efforts on why our society has this cancer within it because if we don’t do so, we will breed more monsters. As the Ghost of Christmas Present said to Scrooge about the two ragged children within his robes,

them. ‘And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers.
This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both,
and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy,
for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the
writing be erased. Deny it.’ cried the Spirit, stretching out
its hand towards the city. ‘Slander those who tell it ye.
Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse.
And abide the end.’
The gun violence certainly makes the social violence more toxic, but is only the surface manifestation of the metastases within this country. We can try to regulate guns, but we can’t build enough prisons and workhouses to escape the cancer within.