Expressway: A pistol packin' principal isn't the answer

A man fires a handgun at Sandy Springs

A man fires a handgun at Sandy Springs Gun Club and Range in Sandy Springs, Ga. (Jan. 4, 2013) (Credit: AP)

I spent 12 years as the unarmed principal of an elementary school in Syosset before retiring in 2006. After the Connecticut school massacre, I asked myself what I would have done if I'd heard a loud bang in the hall that I believed to be gunfire.

I envisioned myself unlocking a drawer or metal box containing a loaded gun, quickly announcing a school lockdown via the loudspeaker, yelling at the office staff to call 911, releasing the gun's safety and dashing into the hallway to engage a crazed intruder in a firefight.

Although not a gambler, I'd put my money on the crazed guy with a semiautomatic to win this fight. If I had won, the incident would be over quickly. However, if I had been outgunned or missed my shot, surely another armed person in the school would back me up. If more staff members had access to firearms, they would emerge from their classrooms to join the fray.

As absurd as this scenario sounds, some individuals and elected officials say we must train and arm school staff. I assume this would include a visit to a local shooting range. Perhaps this would eliminate the "target-rich environment" a school presents to a killer.

Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association said, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." This statement was rather shocking. In time, such a battle cry might become as famous as John Paul Jones' "I have not yet begun to fight" or Andrew Jackson urging soldiers in the Battle of New Orleans to "Fire when you see the whites of their eyes."

Some other stories come to mind.

In the 1970s sitcom "All in the Family," the political views of Carroll O'Connor's Archie Bunker were so far to the right that even the most ardent of today's tea party members might laugh. In one episode, Archie contended in his Queens (N.Y.) English that you could "Stop dem dere" airline hijackings by giving each passenger a loaded gun as he boarded the plane, and then collecting the guns if unused upon landing.

Then there was the famous 1881 gunfight at the OK Corral, which came about when lawmen Wyatt and Virgil Earp defied the Second Amendment by enforcing an ordinance in Tombstone, Ariz., that prohibited anyone from carrying a firearm. The Tombstone town fathers believed that the way to keep the town safe was to control the means of the violence. Legend says a member of an outlaw gang refused to give up his sidearm during a confrontation near the corral. Gunfire rang out and two factions blazed away for about 30 seconds, leaving three outlaws dead. Virgil Earp, his brother Morgan and their ally, Doc Holliday, were all injured. Wyatt was unhurt.

 

An Old West-style shootout at a school would certainly lead to a bloodbath, and if won by the deranged intruder would not prevent injury to any child. It would guarantee injured or dead school personnel, including an armed guard. Perhaps better solutions, although also absurd, are to require students to wear school uniforms made from bulletproof Kevlar and buy backpacks lined with body armor.

In truth, neither Kevlar nor arming school personnel is the answer. Thoughtful study of reasonable alternatives is needed.

Reader Martin Mandelker lives in East Northport.

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