Guns have place in schools

The arrest of a Florida teacher, in possession of two firearms, raises questions about self-protection.

A Gainesville, Fla. teacher was arrested Monday after he was found to be in possession of two loaded firearms âÄî a small one in his pocket and a larger one in his car. The teacher, Mark Stockdale , was being investigated for a battery charge that allegedly occurred the night before. We have no idea what StockdaleâÄôs motives were, but we do know his crime. He was charged with two felonies for having concealed handguns at his school. My question is: Why are we so concerned about people bringing guns to school? Guns are not bad, per se. Guns are tools of self-protection. Some estimates place the number of times people use a gun for self-defense as high as two million a year. The Supreme Court has ruled that the Constitution protects the individual right to keep and bear firearms. Guns are only bad when they are used to hurt the innocent. Simply having a gun in your possession does not mean that you are planning to use one illegally. Then we come to the question of schools. We remember the horrible tragedies at Virginia Tech and Columbine and want to do everything we can to stop recurrences, so we think that banning guns in school will reduce crime. ItâÄôs already illegal to shoot a gun at an innocent person, so how will banning the presence of guns at school keep us from doing this? If someone plans to commit murder, charging them for gun possession isnâÄôt going to deter them. What a gun ban is going to deter is someone who plans to use it for self-defense. Without good people carrying guns for self-defense, the only people who have guns are criminals. A perpetrator with a handgun can fire the weapon well before police arrive. SeungâÄìHui Cho went on a rampage for nine minutes at Virginia Tech before police arrived. The only way we can stop criminals from using guns is to let good people have guns, too. Concealed weapons permits allow people to carry completely hidden guns on their person for self-defense. These permits require training to obtain, and carriers are highly unlikely to commit a crime (one out of 350,000 carriers was convicted for homicide, according to a study done from 1987 to 1997). But wouldnâÄôt it be unsafe to have thousands walking around with guns in our schools? No. Only those over the age of 21 and trained could carry a firearm. The weapons would be concealed and only used in the event of a true emergency. Criminals fearing for their lives would be deterred just knowing that guns could be present, and if criminals are still crazy enough to start shooting, they could be taken down quickly before they do nearly as much damage as they otherwise may. IâÄôm not sure of the intentions of Stockdale, but just carrying a firearm at school should not be a felony. Trained, wellâÄìintentioned carriers are the only thing that can prevent a tragedy from becoming a massacre. Criminals know this, so many massacres occur in gunâÄìfree zones like schools and post offices. How many lives could have been saved if a trained teacher at Columbine had a gun? We will never know the answer, nor will we see any tragedy prevented, so long as we continue to allow criminals to monopolize guns. This column, accessed via UWire, was originally published in the Independent Florida Alligator at the University of Florida. Please send comments to [email protected]