A True Tale of Danger in an American Classroom
“The laws that forbid the carrying of arms . . . disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. . . . Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”
—Thomas Jefferson (quoting 18th-century criminologist Cesare Beccaria, whose original, much longer quote can be found here: http://quotes.liberty-tree.ca/quote_blog/Cesare.Beccaria.Quote.E215)
The following story is true, with the exception of the boy’s name, which I have changed to Eitan, out of privacy concerns:
During the 2002-2003 school year, I was teaching fifth-graders in an outside bungalow classroom—a small building akin to a trailer home—at an elementary school in Houston, Texas. One day, the loud speaker sounded, commanding all teachers to go into immediate lockdown mode. It was not a drill. There was a gunman on campus.
I closed the blinds, while the students went about executing the drill we had practiced for such an emergency. One of the girls turned out the lights. I checked the door, hurriedly opening it, just long enough to try the knob to make sure it was locked, and closing it once again. Furniture was overturned to create a circular barricade, for whatever protection it might afford the children, in anticipation of bullets that might come sailing through windows or walls during a possible shootout between the gunman and the police. Everyone settled down and became quiet.
As we all shared in the silence, awaiting the all-clear signal, there suddenly came a frighteningly desperate rattling of the classroom doorknob, followed by a thunderous banging on the door! I pressed my finger to my lips and shook my head as a signal to maintain absolute silence.
A boy named Eitan, who was sitting next to me, pressed close to my ear and whispered, “Why don’t you get your gun ready, Doctor?” The banging on the door continued, and I responded by pressing my finger to my lips and then to Eitan’s. He became quiet and still.
Then the sound of a helicopter drew near, and the banging stopped. A police helicopter! I moved carefully to the window and peered out. The armed intruder was scurrying away from our bungalow, darting to and fro, as if he feared a gun shot from above. Before long, he disappeared from view.
It was at this point that I fired a question in the direction of Eitan: “Where have you been going to school that teachers get to carry guns, I’d like to know?”
“Israel!” he shot back.
“Israel!” I echoed his reply.
“Tel Aviv,” he added.
“Israel rocks,” I said matter-of-factly.
“Why do the bad guys get to come to our school without any teachers here who can stop them, Doctor?”
“You know, Eitan, that’s an excellent question,” I nodded my head approvingly.
Eitan then said, “In Israel, we’re safer, because there are lots of guns around.”
“Go on,” I said, wanting Eitan to finish his thought.
“Well,” Eitan continued, “guns make a place safe, if good people have them. Then the bad guys can’t hurt anyone, or they’ll get hurt. If you had a gun, we’d all be safe, right? No worries, because then you could shoot the bad guy, if he got in, right? Without a gun here, we have to wait for someone else to come with one, which is bad. Today we were lucky the bad guy didn’t have time to shoot the door open. They should give you a gun before next time comes.”
I will never forget Eitan. What a wise child! I can still picture him sitting there on the floor, speaking words that were much wiser than the words of many adults. This deep-eyed child wore a black fedora, a white shirt, black pants and shoes, and he sported dark, curly earlocks.
“Who knows,” I said at length, “maybe someday Americans will wise up and allow teachers to protect children better—as they do in Israel.” It was a reassurance meant for a child, but I think I found the idea to be just as much a source of hope as Eitan did.
“Yeah, bad guys don’t kill kids at school in Israel. If they try, they’ll get killed by a teacher or a principal. Not letting teachers bring their guns to school is bad for the kids, Doctor.” The other children nodded their heads.
“Yes, Eitan, we would have been safer just now, if I had had a firearm to defend us. If the helicopter had not come, and the man had broken in, it would have been nice if I had had a handgun with which to handle the situation. You’re right in your assessment that I was not as properly equipped, Eitan.”
“So, having a gun is better,” Eitan concluded.
“Yes, having a gun is better,” I agreed.
Read about armed Israeli teachers here: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/12/30/armed-teachers-guards-key-to-school-security-in-israel/.
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