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Packin’

by on March 26, 2015

                                                                    Packin’

                                                          by Marco M. Pardi

Note: All comments are appreciated, read, and responded to accordingly.  The comments sections for all previous articles have been opened for use.  I will certainly look forward to your comments. 

“Security is when everything is settled, when nothing can happen to you; security is the denial of life.” Germaine Greer (1939-) “Security,” The Female Eunuch, 1970

Currently ten States are considering legislation allowing K-12 teachers to carry guns on school grounds and in classrooms. Eighteen States already have some forms of this permission, with wide variance in the legal protocol for possession and use and ranging from Kindergarten through college; Utah, Missouri and Texas are, so far, leading the rest in proliferation of guns on campus.

Idaho, Utah and Colorado allow concealed guns on college campuses, carried by teachers and students alike.  Oregon, Kansas, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Wisconsin allow concealed carry with various restrictions. Washington, California, Arizona, Nevada, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Indiana, Alabama, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland, and Alaska leave the decision up to the local school board.  Another nine State allow guns locked in parked cars on campus.

Students for Concealed Carry states as its legend: “Students for Concealed Carry is a student-run, national, non-partisan organization which advocates for legal concealed carry on college campuses in the United States as an effective means of self-defense.”

The issue of violence on campus is not new.  A very popular film in the early 1950’s, “Blackboard Jungle”, portrayed the violence in inner city high schools.  And, the sense that violence could occur at any time filtered down even into elementary schools.  In the late 1960’s Dr. Jules Henry, Dept. of Anthropology, Washington University in St. Louis, received a two year federal grant to study “The Ecology of the Inner City School”. I was one of the researchers involved in that study.  I primarily spent my time at an all-Black elementary school in what was then called the “ghetto” of inner St. Louis.  All administrators, faculty and students were Black.

As the title of the study suggests, the focus was far broader than just violence.  However, germane to this topic I will recall three observations.  In one of the two First Grade classrooms one was greeted upon entry by a large poster beneath the American flag;  Rules of the Room.  Among the ten rules, decided and written by this particular teacher, was one saying: Both feet flat on the floor and both hands on top of the desk at all times. That students entering the first grade could not read these was irrelevant.  I noticed the teacher always kept her rather large purse near her.  And, over time I got her to explain the feet and hands rule; “These children can pull a gun at any time.”  I did not get a look inside her purse, but felt safe in assuming its contents.

The Fourth Grade teacher had advanced Graves’ disease; her thyroid was enlarged and her eyes protruded very noticeably.  One morning, while she was administering “wall to wall counseling” to a student in the cloak room, a 4th grade girl leapt from her seat and extracted from her purse a hunting knife with a 6″ blade.  She entertained the class with her hatred for the teacher, waving the knife around and singing “I’m gonna’ cut her frog eyes out!” Apparently well experienced in the sounds the teacher would make upon returning, she replaced her knife and regained her seat like a charming little pupil.  Being of the school that Anthropologists are observers, not interventionists, I did nothing.  Had she attacked the teacher I would have intervened. I also had student trust issues to deal with since, as I found out, teachers were telling classes that I was from the District School Board to observe which students should be thrown out.

Despite the fact the first floor windows were plexiglass and covered with metal grills there was no practice of locking the school doors.  Thus, it was not surprising when a couple of street toughs carried in a bag of bricks, yanked open classroom doors, and hurled brick fast balls at the seated students. They escaped and business resumed, with a few students going to the nurse’s office.  Elementary school.

Not long after I became a college Anthropology instructor a male student several years my senior approached me after class, in 1971.  He showed me a card identifying him as a member of the John Birch Society.  After voicing dismay about my teaching of evolution and of other social/economic/political systems, he withdrew from his jacket a Marine Corps K-Bar (a Marine issue fighting knife with approx. 6″ of double sided blade).  Maneuvering it near my abdomen he cautioned that my wife and infant could also be at risk.

Since he was within 18″ from me I could easily have disarmed, disabled and subdued him.  I had military ratings of: Expert – All Small Arms, .30cal LMG on down to handgun; Weapons Instructor; and, Expert – Military Unarmed Combat.  I suggested to him he replace his knife as nearby students might get the wrong idea.  I filed a report with the college administration and never saw him again (his wife being on staff, I suspect it was handled quietly).

So,  I knew of violence, actual, potential, and just feared in schools long before the incidents we are now so horribly familiar with – although Sandy Hook in particular is forever engraved in my heart.  But does that mean we should arm teachers, allow students to carry weapons?

Of the many high school and university teachers I have known only a few were military and/or police veterans.  Of the military veterans, most had never heard a shot fired, much less carried a firearm.  The loudest veterans tend to be the least experienced in actual combat.  And, only a small percentage of combat veterans engaged combatants at less than 100 meters and almost never with a handgun. That police officers are inadequately trained is manifest in the almost daily reports of lethal actions against unarmed persons; in two recent cases a mentally disabled man came to a front door with a screwdriver in his hand and did not respond to the command to drop it. He was shot several times and died in front of his mother (fully broadcast on CNN). Another recent case involved a mentally disabled man running completely naked toward a police officer, who shot him dead in the street.  Part of the training leading to my Expert qualification included the FBI kinetic pistol course; running a course, firing with either hand, re-loading, dropping to various positions while kinetic targets flashed either bystander or assailant.  The police standard of range qualifying on static paper targets is inadequate.  The police do, however, routinely demonstrate their skill at shooting family dogs, even friendly service dogs, with no provocation. Mechanical competence with a weapon does not equate to emotional stability in its use. Shooting a person requires far more than skill in placing a bullet; it requires a deep commitment to taking the appropriate action, and only the appropriate action – including the placement of disabling shots when possible. If you cannot place a bullet where you want it to go you have no business handling a firearm.  A two week course may get Mrs. Beasley qualified to kill a piece of paper; it is unlikely to enable her to decide how to act against a sudden threat from a human, especially when that human is dressed like anyone else and not in a foreign uniform.

All the above, and more applies to students. In the military I was aware of, and nearly a victim of “friendly fire.” Young Air Policemen, around the same age as the average student and repeatedly trained on static fire gun ranges accidentally discharged their weapons, shot each other either by mistake or carelessness or shot themselves.  And this in an environment of continuous training, not a one time short course to qualify for a State carry license.  Now factor in the background to a student’s presence on campus or in class.  Was he or she up all night studying or partying? Either way, decision making is affected.  Where is the focus of his/her mind when an event occurs?  The test they just took, the one they are about to take,  the upcoming date, the hang-over?  Is this person fit to calculate and, if necessary, wait to obtain clear field shots, free of possible consequences to bystanders?  Is this person experienced in the spectacular blasts of indoor shooting without range provided hearing protection?  Not likely.

The sheer logistics of going to classes armed mean long guns are simply inappropriate.  Even handguns with barrels of 6″ are difficult to carry without drawing attention, especially in warm weather.  So, the choices narrow to handguns “ideal” for concealed carry; handguns with minimal barrel length.  Simple physics informs us of two results from such a choice: exponentially reduced accuracy; and, greatly reduced foot/pounds of delivered energy at the target.  Let’s say our savior wants to play an updated “James Bond” and so elects a Walther PPQ M2 (Polizei Pistole Q M2, 4 & 1/16″ barrel) chambered in .40 cal. (BTW, the iconic long barreled pistol Sean Connery held in the first 007 film posters was a water pistol. The PPK – Polizei Pistole Kriminal in .32ACP used in the movies was little more than an irritating pop gun at more than 15′).  In the hands of a certified expert, firing from a sandbag rest at a 25 yard target the PPQ M2 5 shot group distribution (for 3 groups of 5)  is: 2.70″ smallest to 5.91″ largest with an average of 4.46″ deviation from center.  Yet, for a pistol with a 4 1/16″ barrel and 5lb 2 oz trigger squeeze this is a score the industry can be proud of.  Not very inspiring in a moving crowd, especially in inadequately trained and experienced hands.       

In sum, the idea of arming teachers and/or students is sheer idiocy.  In a country in which substantial portions of school budgets are expended for activities having little to do with learning it should be possible to re-assess such resource distributions to hire and provide well trained, experienced Safety Officers who are competent and equipped to address crises in non-lethal ways when possible and safe lethal ways when necessary. 

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12 Comments
  1. diannejoydiamond permalink

    “In sum, the idea of arming teachers and/or students is sheer idiocy.” I couldn’t agree more. What a sad commentary on our country that many people think this is a solution to school security.

    • Thank you, Dianne. We too often find ourselves “solving” a problem by making more of a problem.

  2. Marco, this is a very interesting and informative piece.

    Having a son living on a college campus in midtown Atlanta, I have given thought to the idea of armed students. It isn’t a solution, however, even though I have had two friends who live in midtown get mugged by crackheads in broad daylight. I have requested a mother/son (and daughter) “need to know” information process. Finding out he was going on midnight several-mile runs is not what I needed to hear.

    I heartily agree with your safety officer plan, although I would rather that they (or at least the majority) work covertly.

  3. Thank you, Dana. As you know, I stay out of Atlanta entirely. I agree that covert officers would be best.

  4. Rebecca Work permalink

    Marco,

    This is most apropos to an earlier blog you posted re: the reality of using a gun, a knife and other weapons to maim/kill WITH appropriate training. It was educational and an eye opener for me. Would you please post that again? From my perspective, to compare and contrast the two would be beneficial to many, myself included. Thank you

    • Thank you, Becky. That earlier post was “On Target”, and can be found in the archives for this site. Your suggestion is a good one, but I don’t know how to display the two side by side. I’m sure you know that far more detail is possible in each of these two posts, but I think the readers can draw their own conclusions.

  5. Having treasured grandchildren in school, I find this subject very disturbing. It’s frightening that we even have to consider a safety officer for more than breaking up fisticuffs, much less worrying about whether or not they should be armed. I do agree that covert officers are the best solution, making the assumption that they are properly trained in the how and when of firearms usage. My concern is that, no matter how well trained and psychologically fit they might be for the job, they can’t be everywhere. I fear for our children’s future, and for their present. Rose

    • Thank you, Rose. I share your concerns. And, I also have reservations even about safety officers. This problem will likely not go away.

  6. Khalid permalink

    I think the best weapon is education in values and respect. As for real weapons, oh my, it’s not my area of expertise, I cannot even give an educated guess. The only thing I know is that we human beings are quick at pulling the trigger, and this means Chaos and suffering. In my opinion weapons should only be handled by police officers and security professionals. Maybe, better than an armed teachers more recruited security guard. I really don’t know !

    • Thank you, Khalid. As I may have portrayed, I do not think the average police officer is suited for this task. And, education is only as useful as its ability to reach people. I have doubts about that as well. In our current climate of budget cuts aimed at enriching the already rich, I doubt funds will be available for either quality education or for the kind of educated, trained, and dedicated security professionals we may well need.

  7. Your starting quote by Germaine is thought provoking and true. Security is often misunderstood in life, because we fail to realize its fleeting nature during the time it is most needed. That sickening feeling in the pit of the stomach, as it begins to drain away, makes a lot of people melt in a pool of fear. (Without going into details one’s bowels sometimes loosen leaving them helpless.)

    It brings to mind another quote shared with me by the chief security officer for a global well-known office equipment company. I was managing street level property under a large hotel where I had assumed the General Manager’s position. Part of that responsibility was leasing several large suites for a variety of businesses with the equipment company holding all of the front street portion. One evening a street gang spray painted figures on all of the windows. I was unfamiliar with the symbols, but guessed it may be understood by other gangs. Following incidence protocol the branch manager reported it to me, as well as, his security officer. Within minutes I got a call from this lady identifying herself as the chief security officer. She stated she was already on board their corporate jet scheduled to arrive soon. Naturally, I met her at the gate, when after a brief greeting, she asked if I knew the seriousness of this. Replying, I said I would handle cleaning the windows. She stopped me saying that is the least of her issues. Puzzled, I assured her I had an adequate private security guard [sans a hard uniform] who will be doing extra time patrolling that area. Furthermore, telling her that their safety was in my hands, where it is well under control. She looked me in the eyes, moving closer to my face, telling me that safety was only an illusion. Nothing more, nothing less! A false idea…

    It turned out the symbols were threatening to a rival gang; basically throwing down a gauntlet, in front of their location. That quote about safety being an illusion, remains in the forefront of my mind.

    I lack your level of qualified/certified certification in protecting myself and those around me. However, not having the bona-fide armor as yourself, I have always managed to keep my cool when thing appear moving upside down. I refuse to be punk’d by simply switching fear to anger. Fear brings the tail up between the legs and Jell-O to the muscles. I prefer to have a shit-load of anger depositing copious amounts of adrenalin pumping in my veins! All the while sucking air in my lungs, allowing me to move with precision, searching for any and all weapons planted anywhere in sight.

    At night, my sleeping quarter’s constant friend is a Walther PPK/S 9mm kurz tucked in beside me, crammed with nasty tumbling ammunition eager to do my bidding. Practice amply provides me the confidence to release a staccato report to my target ensuring multiple burning stings. Afterwards, I don’t want someone calling for an ambulance. I want someone calling the coroner’s office. During this melee, if danger still appears, I simply roll off my bed swiftly reaching for my Springfield 1911 A1. [Did I fail to mention I’m ambidextrous?] This particular piece of ordnance, is well suited to my needs, because I have large hands allowing me to use one hand on my weapon, while tightly gripping a small pouch filled with magazines in the other. This of course, if only an extended course of action, would be calling for further security control.

    My self-training was largely due to forced living for an extended period of time, during a state of extended penury, in a dying old crack-house hotel on the wrong side of town. On one particular evening around 3 am, while most people slept, I heard a commotion with loud beating on my door. Living on the 4th floor with outdoor corridors, I knew that if I opened that door, all hell was going to break loose. Not knowing how many, how long and how strong my battle may be; I decided to just grip my weapon and cover my head. My responsibility was only on my side of the threshold. After all, I had an early wake-up and was badly needed at work the next morning. I mustered all my courage and forced myself to sleep. The noise ceased within a moment, as I heard multiple feet going in the opposite direction down the stairs (no elevator service, it was a walk up). I called 911 the next morning saying there was someone looking dead blocking my doorway. Safety is an illusion, just as security is the denial of life.

    I live not with fear about the future, as it pertains to people carrying weapons, especially with my personal multiple levels of experience; but more with grave concern, when trained police officers are discharging weapons on unarmed citizens. I cannot say how I may react when danger is lurking in the heart and mind of angry, frightened people charging at me. I would believe, I would try to subdue at first, but as I said earlier: Unless you know exactly how many, how long and how strong the battle may last. I would try to protect myself at all costs.

    Being unable to support the distribution of weapons among students and teachers is not something new of late. I doubted the wisdom of arming pilots to combat terrorists for the same reasons. Like you stated, unless you have faced danger from many levels; by carrying a weapon, you are more than likely going to injure someone around you, including yourself, especially if you have never shot and killed anyone or seen anyone shot firsthand who is dying from the fury of a gun!

    • Thank you, Jerry. Your mature and measured consideration of the variables applies to many situations besides just campus concerns. It is hard to say this without someone misinterpreting it, but I think you make it clear that a person with average life experience has a steep learning curve before becoming as qualified as you. Unfortunately, some in this society seem all too hasty to assume they can bridge that chasm with “on the job training”.

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