Should Teachers Carry Guns?




We all have fantasies of rescue when it comes to a story like Sandy Hook. We all would like to be the one who spotted Adam Lanza as he first lifted his gun at the glass near the school door and, quick-thinking, somehow tripped him up before a single first-grader had to see his face. We would like to be the person in the cartoon who sets up the bad guy’s pratfall. And by all means, if a shooter’s gun jams, if there is a moment, like the one in Tucson, when a woman can snatch the next clip out of his pocket, all of us should be ready to seize the chance. But serendipity and dreams of glory are not policy choices; reducing the number of guns is.

I think that we should be very careful to make policy changes in a post-Newtown world; you’ve already heard from me on that score.  But if we seek to arm teachers, I think that we should consider peak threat vs. average threat.  If we optimize our system for peak threat, we limit ingress to one or two access points, have an armed guard at each point, and arm all willing teachers.  Is that really what we want?  Because I worry about the fact that kids—curious, mischievous kids—are suddenly going to have more access to firearms than they ever had before.  I think that sizing for a peak threat in this case would create an average threat.

My personal aim would be to review all semi-automatic firearms with high-capacity magazines.  I’ve put 25 rounds through a Ruger 10/22 in under eight seconds.  It was fun!  It’s also impractical as a self-defense mechanism and completely useless in a hunting situation.  All of the Bill of Rights come with limits.  [And yes, the linked piece is strident and left of my position.]

Confronting Mental Health Realities

Storm Exposes Fragility of Mental Health System in City

“When you have the most vulnerable folks, all you need is one chink in the system and you lose them,” Dr. Rosenthal said. “Whether they lost their housing, or the outpatient services they usually go to were closed and they were lost to follow-up, they have become disconnected, with predictable results.”

Those predictable results? For the mentally ill who’ve landed inside the correctional system, 2/3 will re-offend.  Frontline‘s “The Released” gives an excellent look at the revolving door of mental health challenges with America’s bursting-at-the-seams prison population.

It’s a public policy problem with no easy solutions, but it’s still one worth tackling.  If it’s less expensive to provide mental health support to convicts to keep them from returning to prison than it is to house and patrol them on the inside, then I think that we have a financial and a moral incentive to make that change.  Blanket public policy changes regarding the mentally ill can have disastrous consequences, but we can try some things.  That’s the beauty of a multi-level governmental system: we get small populations where we can experiment with good governmental solutions.  More of the same just won’t cut it.

In the confusion, some patients lost contact with their families and caseworkers. At Community Access, the same case managers who struggled to get hospital treatment for the young woman with the meat cleaver had to hunt for an elderly female tenant who had been taken to Bellevue by the police before the storm. The police had picked up the older woman for public urination near a schoolyard. But two weeks after the storm, which knocked out Internet access and telephone service at the apartment building, neither the staff nor her sister could find her.

Dorca Rosa, the elderly woman’s case manager, eventually located her at Gracie Square Hospital on the Upper East Side, behind several locked doors.

“I cried when I saw her,” Ms. Rosa said. “I found her in horrible conditions. She was lying in her own feces, she had a fractured leg and the provider could not explain how her leg was fractured.”

Poking the Bear

Yeah, even I’m not terribly thrilled with gas prices these days, previous commentary to the contrary. But the point that I was trying to express back in August 2005 was perhaps better expressed by Robert Reich earlier this week, in his post about how the wage gap is fueled by the gas gap:

Low-wage workers in rural areas are taking the biggest hit, but those who work in cities aren’t faring much better. It used to be that the very poor inhabited central cities and the working class lived in the inner suburbs, but now that the rich are moving back into town, the poor are being pushed outward. Retail, restaurant, hospital and hotel employees who work in upscale cities often must look 30 to 50 miles from their jobs for affordable housing. Their longer commutes mean they need to spend more on gas.

To quote myself from 2005:

But the next SUV driver I see in Madison complaining about gas prices on the local news … well, pardon me if I feel like punching ‘em in the face.

It helps to know that Madison, Alabama is the yuppie suburb of Huntsville, itself an economically prosperous part of an otherwise economically downtrodden state. People around here drive SUVs not for sports utility but for status uplift.

[And if I could go back ten years and read my Weblog now, I’d be stunned that I was agreeing with Reich, too.]