Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Only a gun could have stopped Jeff Weise

The St. Paul Pioneer Press is very worthy of reading these days. Using the paper across the river as an model of what not to do, the Press has hired some conservative columnists in order to appeal to the readers who prefer thought and reason in their articles. In its entirety from Mark Yost:
Only a gun could have stopped Jeff Weise


In the week since teenage gunman Jeff Weise walked into Red Lake Senior High School and killed five students, a teacher and a security guard before killing himself, the usual voices from the usual precincts have been asking: What can we do to keep this from happening next time? How about arming security guards, as well as a handful of administrators and teachers who volunteer to be properly trained?

I can hear the gasps echoing from Mac-Groveland to Crocus Hill. But if we think any legislation is going to stop the next Jeff Weise, we're fooling ourselves. Indeed, the idea that with the right legislation and an unlimited pot of money we can take the risk out of any of life's endeavors is simply wrong.

There's no arguing that Weise had a tragic life. And the search for possible explanations and missed clues runs the gamut. Was it the music he listened to, the movies he watched, the video games he played, the Web sites he visited or the medication he took (the most plausible)?

As for possible remedies, typical were those posited on these pages by Dan Gartrell, a former Head Start teacher at Red Lake. According to him, Weise would have been just fine if teachers "had time to greet students in the morning, easing them through conflicts since the previous day that may be getting them down." He went on to suggest that we need full-time mental health professionals in our schools, from preschool through college.

What's ironic is that Gartrell's advice came just two weeks after another professor — Robin Magee of Hamline University — took St. Paul police to task for carrying Tasers in schools. She argued that police need no more than "a stern command" to control unruly schoolchildren. Red Lake Senior High School security guard Derrick Brun tried that. His funeral was Monday.

Others have pointed to the "common sense" measures President Bill Clinton pushed in the wake of the Columbine shootings, namely more gun control, funding for school safety and limits on the video game industry. I'd point out that the federal Gun-Free Schools Zone legislation first passed in 1990 and that didn't stop the Columbine or Rocori shootings, among others.

The question we should be asking is: Why have school shooters been so successful at murdering our children? The simple answer is that often times no one else in school has a gun. This literally makes our kids sitting ducks.

Shotguns would be the perfect weapon. Unlike handguns, they require little or no skill. Just point and shoot. Looking at the Red Lake chronology, it's clear that a shotgun could have stopped Weise early on and saved a lot of lives.

While security guard Brun was confronting Weise at the school door, another guard, LeeAnn Grant, was alerting students. Imagine if she'd been able to lay in wait for Weise, just inside the door. It all could have stopped right there.

Same for English teacher Neva Rogers. She locked herself inside a classroom and looked on in what must have been sheer terror as Weise broke the glass, unlocked the door, walked in and shot her three times. If she'd had a shotgun and been properly trained, she could have shot him at the door and saved those five students.

"We need to have a candid assessment about what more we can do to try to prevent these things from happening," Clinton said in the wake of the Columbine shootings. I agree, but more gun control legislation or more funding for early childhood education is not the answer. Volumes of legislation and far-reaching social programs have done nothing to stop the other deadly rampages, including the one in Red Lake. What makes us think one more law, one more program, or one more dollar will make any difference?

Indeed, it's an exercise in futility to try to make sense out of the senseless. Things happen and often times we don't know why. Instead of crafting a bevy of new legislation — on top of the laws that already exist — our time would be better spent preparing for the next time a school security guard or teacher is confronted by an insane student.

As distasteful as the idea may be to some, we need to be honest and admit that only one thing would have stopped Weise: a security guard, administrator or teacher, properly trained, and armed with a gun.
What we can't control is what's most likely to get us killed while the control that will be most likely to keep us safer makes most people uncomfortable. We can't control the parenting of others. We can't control whether some kid takes his daily meds. We can't control some thug's desire to mug or assault us. What we can control is the force and method in which we respond.

As Yost mentions, "Gun Free Zones" have only been effective in keeping guns out of the hands of police liasons and teachers. A "Gun Free Zone" sign is like having a sign that says "No spitting on the sidewalk." The people you're trying to pursuade will ignore the sign. If I were a criminal and needed a score, the first place I'd go is a mall or restaurant/bar that has the "Such and Such bans guns on the premises." What better than a bunch of virtuous citizens at an armed disadvantage to prey upon? I feel less safe in those places.

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