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Weapons of Faith: The Arming of American Schools

The United States remains a country of tenacious faith. The nature of that faith stretches from the digital pulpits of Silicon Valley, where cool technology occupies the seat of majesty, to the hot Bible Belt of spiritual endurance and suffering, where the good Lord holds sway in stern disapproval. In between, market fundamentalists take time to worship the invisible hand of business and capitalism.

The symptoms of that faith can be extraordinary, almost to the point of caustic neuroses. Faith in the sanctity of guns permits a form of tolerable urban warfare, a type of assimilated frontier violence characterised by high death tolls. For all the rage and mourning that takes place after each massacre, be it in school or in places of worship, the slain are merely the tax paid for exercising a constitutional liberty. As with all freedoms, exercising them comes at a cost.

As a sacred totem, the gun, like ancient god figures drawn from verdant groves and sun-bleached deserts, is an idol to be replicated in displays, shows, and performances. Any chinks in this system of idolatry are put down to the nature of the worshipper, weak of character, questionable of principle. The Uvalde shooter was, in keeping with this view, a mental basket case, detached, isolated, estranged. He was lobotomised by the cruel workings of social media, an outcast, a social vegetable. A suburban family with 50 assault weapons salivating over their next purchase is, by contrast, sanely functional, good citizens going about their business under the double blessing of the Second Amendment and the marketplace.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s understanding of this issue is typical and unblemished by complexity. In the language of a sweetly crafted, and predictable fairy tale, Cruz sees a morality tale in the business of owning guns. To the 19 children and two adults who perished at Robb Elementary School, he had this response: “What stops bad guys is armed good guys.”

Garden gnome psychology is never far from such reasoning. “We know that many of those who commit the most heinous crimes they’re isolated from human contact,” Cruz told members of the National Rifle Association in an address last month. “They’re living a virtual life in the absence of community and faith and love.”

Addressing the medical, pathological aspect – to de-psycho, as it were, the field of ownership – is seen as one answer from the pro-gun fraternity. The other is counter-intuitive and, in its way, truly a matter of faith. To solve the gun problem, more weapons, not fewer, are needed. Spread the fetish, proliferate the means of mass lethality. As certain theorists of security and international relations regard the issue of addressing nuclear weapons, the more countries have them, the more secure the world will be. Terror binds us; terror deters us. If you cannot abolish weapons, then partake of its fruits.

In such mind-numbing logic, schools can solve shootings by flooding the administrative system with guns, arming teachers, militarising the spaces and places of learning. In a 2021 Pew Research poll, 43% of those surveyed favoured allowing K-12 teachers and school officials to carry guns. Of the percentage, 66% of them were Republicans; 24% Democrats. 63% of gun owners supported the measure; 33% of non-gun owners did not.

In response to Uvalde, Senator Cruz, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, are stirring their base. Their suggestions of arming schools are of uneven quality, childish and resoundingly doltish. But they point to a central understanding of acceptable carnage and military permissiveness.

 

 

Attorney General Paxton has been true over the years to the view that a citizenry armed to the teeth, even when going about mundane tasks, is a safe one. In December 2017, he issued an opinion claiming that licensed handgun owners could legally carry loaded weapons into Texas churches with no posted signs banning them. As for what could have been done in Uvalde, the theme is familiar. The key was to make it “more difficult for people even to get in that point of entry” by having “teachers and other administrators who have gone through training and who are armed.”

Such a measure, Paxton argued, was to be encouraged as law enforcement authorities tended to be late on the scene, failing to prevent the shooting. “The reality is,” he explained to Fox News, “we don’t have the resources to have law enforcement at every school.”

Patrick’s statement of June 3 could just as well apply to a discussion about violent insurgencies US foreign policy has tended to foment over the years. “If every member of law enforcement across the state, approximately 80,000 officers, had a bulletproof shield in their vehicle, their ability to respond to an active shooter situation would be greatly enhanced.” (Does he envisage police driving into the active shooter in class?)

He notes that “more training is needed,” but the urgency of having measures in place before the start of the new school year to “better equip our police who respond to these attacks” was paramount. As with any planning for a military campaign, having the appropriate material in stock might be a problem. “There could be a supply-chain issue at present, but we should try to buy every quality shield we can find and order the rest so we are at the front line when more become available.”

Not that these matters solve the problem. To equate armed teachers with safety is a false equation. The Uvalde shooter could still go about his business even in the face of a heavily armed response unit. The “good guys” seemed rather ineffectual to stop the “bad guy” at Uvalde. The National Education Association President Becky Pringle’s statement in response to shootings could only seem peculiar in an environment of gun fetishists. “Bringing more guns into schools makes schools more dangerous and does nothing to shield our students and educators from gun violence.”

Dispirited about such responses, Daniel Siegel, a 23-year-old middle-school teacher from Houston, suggested something disturbingly radical. Give schools more resources, not in terms of weapons and defences but on matters of learning and the nurturing of students’ emotional wellbeing. Sadly, that horse, saddled by the Second Amendment, bolted some time ago.

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18 comments

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  1. Douglas Pritchard

    I am waiting for a cinema shootout in USA. Several hundred patrons, all “carrying”, when a shot rings out from the screen and all the patrons react in total darkness.
    The body count only starts when the last round has been fired.
    The USA is a fascinating place, and I wait to see this event in the mix.

  2. L. S. Roberts

    Child sacrifices to the God Manon.
    Primitive societies have similar ceremonies.

  3. leefe

    Equipping the police is not the answer. The cops who waited outside while the Uvalde shooter went about his business were well armed. What is needed is better selection and better training and some soort of reasonable gun law reform.

    But that won’t happen while the USA is so deeply mired in its Wild West mentality.

  4. GL

    L. S. Roberts,

    The God Manon? The same Manon who is a fictional creation from that stupid movie The Craft? You might want to rethink that first sentence.

  5. New England Cocky

    In regional Australia we send our kids away to the metropolitan cities to get education and jobs. In the USA (United States of Apartheid) they save the fares by simply shooting any kids attending schools. Now THAT is a market solution!!

    To build on that, now arm all teachers and school administrators ….. but who determines who is the ”enemy”? How about an in-house teacher on teacher shooting, or better still, a fatigued & frustrated teacher provoked by kid insolence sorts out the problem with deadly force and, standing at the door preventing ”escape”, reduces English literature to a scene from ”All Quiet on the Western Front”.

    Naturally, the market responds by arming kids ….. so playground bullying becomes a ”shoot out at the Ok Corral” a too practical real life exercise in emergency where some of the responders may be picking up bits of their own kids.

    Somehow, learning at home during COVID looks a better solution. just establish a multi-channel tv network dedicated to all years of education ….. and think how much you will save by making 80% of teachers redundant and realising the real estate value of now empty school premises.

  6. wam

    The gun lobby uses bullying tactics and throws money around, at every shooting. Yet it is frightened of public debate because there is a risk of the words of the amendment being understood and being rescinded.
    I think if biden were to threaten a joint sitting and ‘necessary and expedient clause’ in term two he would win the mandate to prevent the production and sale of war weapons and ammunition.
    In the meantime, the democrats could be explaining the meaning of a militia and its role in preventing a standing army.
    Still, they could just say it is god’s will and we must pray harder.
    ps
    douglas shooting blind would be mayhem. Imagine the fire if anyone opened the exit door and was silhouette target?

  7. A Commentator

    Comment removed by moderator.

  8. Stephen S

    If this were a Monty Python sketch, the classroom erupts in gunfire, and a shootout ensues, among several confusing varieties of armed cops, plus armed teachers, armed parents, even armed kids. The last two left standing – they kill each other. But, in reality, no satire can do justice to the grim farce of Uvalde. The good guy dropping his radio and fiddling with the keys for an hour. Other “brave” cops outside monstering the anxious parents. The bad guy leisurely completing his state-sanctioned military slaughter, blasting little kids into hamburger mince, aided by the “protective” classroom door and “protective” lights out.

  9. Canguro

    I missed the comment removed by the moderator, but point #5 of the Disclaimer seems salient in the context of the “administrators or authors of this blog reserve the right to edit or delete any comments submitted to this blog.”

    ‘Comments posted with the clear intention of diverting or disrupting the topic’.

    I was once, aeons ago, forced to share a house with an extremely unpleasant character by dint of employment and on-property accommodation. It’s fair to say we detested each other.

    He was much larger than me, brutish, dumb as a bag of bricks, and prone to aggressive outbursts when he wasn’t flubbing his lips and drooling.

    I said to him one morning, foolishly baiting the bear, ‘What’s the matter Bill? You look like you’ve got a bee in your bonnet?’

    And he replied, ‘You’ve got a bee on the end of your f*cking nose, and I’m gonna knock it right off.’

    It would seem that bees in the bonnet are still a thing, as exemplified by the ongoing disdain directed towards Binoy Kampmark, whose essays, by and large, seem, at least to this reader, balanced and objective.

    I’m curious as to whether the disdainer has ever apprised himself of Binoy’s background and profile? It mentions his membership of the Australian Institute of International Affairs, the American Historical Association and the British Association for American Studies, but I see no reference anywhere to any affiliation with anything remotely resembling Russia.

    Seems a bit like the current kerfuffle with the Google software engineer who fell for the delusional conviction that a piece of AI algorithm was actually sentient, just demonstrating, yet again, that apparently intelligent people can believe whatever they wish to if it fits with their cognitive biases.

  10. A Commentator

    I’m entirely in favour of consistently applied rules.
    And I think it’s fair to say that there are plenty of examples here of people being rigorously held to account for comments they have made and theories they have advanced.
    That’s particularly the case when the passage of time demonstrates they were incorrect.
    It seems that those standards don’t apply to people like Binoy

  11. GL

    AC,

    I think it has more to do with your almost obsessional dislike of just about everything that Binoy posts here. You keep seeing things that nobody else does about Binoy being pro-Putin/Russia and it has become fucking annoying.

    This time I’m guessing you once again overstepped the boundaries and the moderator(s) decided enough is enough. If you don’t like it then go somewhere else.

  12. Michael Taylor

    It baffles me that in the USA a bloke can legally own a killing machine more deadly than was standard issue for me in the Aus army.

  13. New England Cocky

    Aw shucks ….. you mean that piece of mine that has ”become lost” was edited?? So I suspect that my more pointed raves have met the same editorial fete?? Bother ….. and here’s me thinking that there was no editor at AIMN!! C”ést la guerre !!

  14. Fred

    MT: I’m equally perplexed – even worse is that there is no limit to personal arsenals – one family had 47 assault rifles and there are around 600,000+ machine guns in private hands in the USA.

    DP: Cinema shooting – a challenging hypothetical – my analytical side went into overdrive. The number of casualties caused by a high percentage “carrying good guys” shooting back could exceed those caused by the shooter. The different attack modes/lighting conditions make for a range of scenarios.

  15. Phil Pryor

    Brainless, obsessive, repetitive assertion is not worthy comment. We should avoid that. Let us be factbased and positive.

  16. Phil Pryor

    My apology for carelessly and hastily using “brainless”, instead of, say, hasty and thoughtless. Let us give and take in commenting…as long as we state more than a mere assertion.

  17. A Commentator

    Most people that comment here seem to be willing to be reminded of their past opinions and assertions.
    They retract, modify or continue to defend themselves.
    It seems though, that standard doesn’t apply to Binoy.
    And while I won’t bother to go through the record of inaccurate assertions he has made, it is worth pointing out that he hasn’t made any further comment about Russia.
    This is telling in the context of Putin’s admission that his invasion isn’t about defence, it is about restoration of prestige and expansion

  18. GL

    Binoy…click…Russia…click…Binoy…Putin…click…Binoy…ad nauseam.

    Give it a bloody rest!

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