Saturday, September 27, 2014

Gun laws and the Law of Unintended Consequences

I own guns. I do not have a concealed weapons permit, nor do I leave the house with a gun on my person or in my car. I think it is just asking for something bad to happen. There are just too many stupid people I would want to shoot.*

I was angry when, in the wake of Sandy Hook, innocent students and teachers gunned down by a mass killer, the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre came out with his own guns blazing. Figuratively speaking, of course. His solution was not that common sense measures should be taken to prevent gun violence, but that no measures whatsoever should be taken.** He called for more guns in schools! Guards! Paid for by taxpayers!

Since the National Rifle Association is the lobbying shill for gun manufacturers, you would think they could have at least offered to pay the cost for the guards, or provided them free arms with training, but no. The NRA is only in the business of making sure their gun manufacturers make money with the least encumbrances to sales. They are saying we provide the guns and ammo for you to buy. You pay for your own protection from our products.

Immediately many states, including my home state of Utah, went to work with legislators passing laws making it possible for teachers to carry weapons in schools. In Utah by law the teacher does not have to inform anyone that they are armed. And the principal cannot tell them to leave their gun at home.

I know one thing from experience, that no matter how carefully constructed a plan is there will always be something that will come along that no one anticipated: the Law of Unintended Consequences. The impression that was given when news cameras showed teachers in gun classes was that the teachers would know what they were doing. But realization can be much different than expectation.

A 6th grade teacher in a Utah school had a gun on her person. She went to the school restroom and blew a hole in her leg when her concealed weapon fired. Oops. She also blew up the toilet bowl. Kind of the old insult to injury thing. I'm sure that the teacher did not leave home that morning after secreting the weapon on her person and think, “Today I'm not going to put the safety on; today I am going to shoot myself and make myself look like a fool to the entire nation.”

It surprised me, despite the nationwide publicity, when the school district said only five people called to complain about teachers with guns. I should not have been surprised. In polls more than 50% of Utahns think having guns in schools is perfectly fine, that having a sharpshooter like this teacher with a hole in her leg, ready to stand her ground (when she is again able to walk) to an armed intruder, is a perfectly good idea.

That must be why they played up the story of a hearing specialist who goes to several schools working with deaf children. She has a gun. A pink gun. It was on the local news and even NBC Nightly News.

Do you feel safer knowing this young woman is toting a gun to school?

Now that both of these armed teachers have been outed, will they be targets? After all, the idea of a concealed weapons permit was to have one up on a potential enemy, not to let them know you would be the first person he had to shoot. I didn’t use their names for that reason, although they are named in various news stories.

Okay, so in the case of the teacher shooting herself, she is an exception. Most teachers carrying guns in classrooms are careful, have the safety on, and are likely not to shoot themselves by accident. I think there is a possibility that the best-case dream scenario of the gun lobby could happen: an armed person could enter the school shooting and a brave teacher with a concealed weapon could use that weapon to stop the rampage.

But because of the nature of the universe, that the best-laid schemes gang aft agley,*** then there are bound to be some other events that will happen, and probably before rather than after the best-case dream scenario. I don’t need a gift of prophecy to foresee the potential of one or more of these things happening:
A teacher's gun will be stolen by a student, then used on the teacher or other students.****
A  paranoid teacher will use the gun against an innocent person on school grounds.

A jealous teacher will kill another teacher over a relationship.

A teacher’s gun will discharge by accident, killing a student. 
I wonder if when dreaming up their schemes did legislators really consider the liability incurred by a school district for having armed teachers in classrooms?

*In case it went over your head that last sentence was a joke.

**The paranoia of the “camel’s nose in the tent,” that there is a direct line to a tweaking of existing laws and confiscation of all firearms is sheer fearmongering by the NRA. It has become something of a religious belief by rabid supporters of the Second Amendment, but has no basis in reality.

***“To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough” by Robert Burns (1785).

****I’m not counting the derelict parents and foolish gun instructor who allowed a 9-year-old girl at a specialty gun range in Arizona to fire an Uzi machine gun which went quickly out of control and killed her instructor.


Kirk said...

You have that much crime in Utah that teachers feel they need to carry guns? I was under the impression it was one of the more crime-free places to live.

Postino said...

It is the perception of danger that fuels the need to self-arm.

We have as much crime as anyone I guess...gangs, drugs, etc. But there is also a large influx of minorities and it also causes paranoia. Utah has gone from lily-white to diverse in just the past 30 or 40 years, and some people feel that is alarming and dangerous to their persons.