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Letter: Safer Schools, Not More Gun Control, Equals Better Schools

Wheaton attorney, Glen Ellyn resident challenges Naperville teacher's letter to the editor. He writes that safer schools, not better gun control, will result in better schools.

Wheaton Patch accepts and publishes letters to the editor emailed to Local Editor Charlotte Eriksen at Charlotte@patch.com, or sent as a message through the Wheaton Patch Facebook page. Please note in subject lines the message is a Letter to the Editor.

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In her Letter to the Editor entitled, , Ms. Sayeed has an understandable and admirable desire to both make sense of the horrific Sandy Hook tragedy and to suggest constructive solutions to ensure that it never happens again. Sadly, what Ms. Sayeed instead offers are failed policies, gauzy sentimentalism, and--especially for a Harvard doctoral candidate--a shocking lack of logic, fact-based knowledge, and critical thinking skills.

READ LETTER TO THE EDITOR: GUN CONTROL EQUALS BETTER SCHOOLS

Ms. Sayeed is addressing the symptoms rather than the root cause of these problems. She is also conflating two distinct tragic circumstances. The risks Chicago teens take in going to school are very real. However, the under-18 gun deaths she cites are caused primarily by gang violence, domestic violence, or parental neglect. These problems are predictable, sadly widespread in particular neighborhoods, and contribute significantly to the persistent challenges of the American underclass. The Sandy Hook tragedy represents a different challenge:  "How do otherwise safe communities address the very rare but terrifying possibility that a monster will decide to unleash his inner turmoil on multiple innocents in a public act of unspeakable violence?"  The first scenario is largely due to the breakdown of a functioning family support structure and failed public school systems in major American cities. The second pertains more to mental health policy, efficient threat identification, and the difficult balancing act between safety and civil liberties. Both are exacerbated by a culture that glorifies violence.

But neither problem will be solved, as Ms. Sayeed suggests, by more restrictive gun laws.  She is wrongly equating gun control laws with safety. 

Until the United States Supreme Court recently struck down the laws as being unconstitutional in McDonald vs. City of Chicago, Illinois (and Chicago more specifically) had some of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation. The state of Connecticut also has particularly restrictive gun laws, and Sandy Hook was deemed a "Gun Free Zone".   Yet, gangsters are by definition lawless: they will not heed a gun law simply because it is on the books. Similarly, a madman who murders his own mother to illegally obtain weapons will not then heed polite requests to kindly check those very same weapons at the door. As a result, Ms. Sayeed's suggestion that we double-down on restrictive gun laws is astonishingly naive. Her suggestions are very well intentioned, but they are not very well considered.

This isn't to say there should be zero gun control laws on the books, but the knee-jerk reaction to blame the NRA and to push for even more gun control will not improve the current situation. Even worse, passing feel-good but ultimately feckless policies will create a false sense of security...until the next mass shooting tragedy kicks off yet another round of shock, grief, and heated political debate. The problems affecting inner city communities are complex and cannot possibly be addressed properly in a simple letter to the editor. Nor can the issues underlying the Sandy Hook tragedy. But as a start, when it comes to school safety, what about borrowing one idea from the transportation sector: Federal Air Marshals?  Nearly every airline passenger is grateful for the peace of mind provided by strategically placing undercover armed officers on select flights. Why can't local school districts voluntarily implement a similar framework on a civilian level? If a few responsible adult employees in each school (perhaps some of the more burly male teachers or building custodians) became the designated concealed carry officers of a school building (and even then only after undergoing a thorough background check and safety training), it would create a significant chilling effect for would-be violent gunmen.

To save lives and to improve communities, what matters are not good intentions and inputs; what matters are actual results and outputs. Before we rush to slam the proverbial barn door shut after the horses have already bolted in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, let's all take some time to clear our heads and consider the likely consequences of specific policy proposals before implementing them.

Larry LaVanway is a practicing attorney in Wheaton and a resident of Glen Ellyn.

Aaron Camp December 26, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Well said, Larry. Thank you for some clarity in this conversation.
kerry mansour December 26, 2012 at 10:29 PM
As a former teacher in District 200, I can say with a great deal of certainty that most my fellow coworkers would not tolerate working conditions that included concealed guns--it violates the very atmosphere that we work so hard to create within a school, as well as the nurturing and peaceful nature of most of us who work within our schools. But staffing a school might not be a problem since enrollment will likely diminish drastically, as most parents, myself included, wouldn't dream of sending their children into a school that allowed guns on the premises, not to mention the fact that this critical responsibility would land in the hands of the "responsible" adults in the school, the "burly male teachers or building custodians." To me, the tone of this letter is most indicative of the real problem here--in order to have the conversation about what can be done, we must be able to engage in a debate that doesn't result in insults, name-calling, and an overall condescending attitude. We all need to work together to make our schools and our communities safer for all--the innocent, the mentally ill, the gun-owners--without throwing up our hands and saying nothing can be done!
Hank Beckman December 26, 2012 at 11:07 PM
The only thing that the gentleman writes that could be even vaguely interpreted as an insult was to call the teacher "astonishingly naive." I've heard George Bush called worse during college lectures and nightly newscasts. I think that what Ms. Mansour really means when she calls for conversation and debate about gun violence is that she wants to be free to express her opinion without hearing any contrary evidence. Good luck with that.
Larry LaVanway December 27, 2012 at 06:46 PM
My goal wasn't to insult Ms. Sayeed, my goal was to cast doubt on her views by pointing out holes in her arguments. The point of public discourse is to engage in conversation--and presumably hold one's views up to occasional criticism. If perhaps I was too rough for some people's sensitivities, well as I said that wasn't my goal. Criticizing policy views is not the same as attacking the individual person. It's important to not conflate the two. As an update: the letter was submitted before the NRA held the press conference on Friday afternoon. This was not a simple parroting "me too" from that news conference. I am not a gun owner, nor am I currently a member of the NRA. I do not agree with Mr. La Pierre's idea of a mandatory federal level law requiring all schools having full time armed guards. I think that's a decision that should be done on a case-by-case, district-by-district basis, with the input of parents, teachers, and school administrators. What might be right for Wheaton might not be right for Glen Ellyn or Lombard. We should trust the adults in each community to make their own choices for their own kids, not jam through a one-size-fits-all law from DC or Springfield. However, I do think having some type of immediate on-site response in case of an attack is worth considering. The amount of damage that can be done even with non-semiautomatic weapons is considerable if unopposed. Waiting the 10 minutes for police to arrive is far too long in such a circumstance.
Brian Howell December 27, 2012 at 08:39 PM
Having air marshall-type security in schools could be a good idea. (but "burly male teachers"? Really? It was the dainty female principal who reported rushed the gunman in Newtown). This does not negate the importance of a ban on high-capacity magazines and assault weapons. Of course a Chicago-wide restriction doesn't work. Indiana is literally next door! The ban must be at the federal level to have any effect, and, unlike last time, it must close the loopholes the NRA pushed so hard to open. Let's use every reasonable measure to make our society safer.

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