How Joel Myrick Saved Lives by Breaking the Law
by Ari Armstrong
Joel Myrick is a hero. In 1997 this
Mississippi high school principal prevented a psychotic teenager from
killing students at Pearl Junior High, potentially saving numerous lives
and immeasurable grief.
But according to Federal law, Principal Joel
Myrick is a criminal.
You see, in order to stop the deranged teen
(who had opened fire at a high school) from leaving the high school to
continue his killing spree at the junior high, Myrick retrieved a handgun
from his truck, loaded it, and held it on the youth until authorities
could arrive. "I've always kept a gun in the truck just in case
something like this ever happened," Myrick said.
Myrick clearly saved lives. He also
clearly violated the Federal Gun Free School Zones Act (18 US Code sect.
922(q)(1)(A)), which specifies, "It shall be unlawful for any
individual knowingly to possess a firearm... at a place that the individual
knows... is a school zone."
Of course, the Federal law doesn't seem to have
held much sway over criminals. Perhaps Luke Woodham, the murderer in
Mississippi, and Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the Columbine murderers,
simply forgot to review the relevant Federal statutes before they went on
their killing sprees.
Many lawmakers suffer from what Nobel Economist
called a "fatal conceit." (In this case, the "fatal
conceit" is not metaphoric, but is literally fatal to schoolchildren.)
These law-makers believe they can alter the world merely by their God-like
pronouncements. However, these legislators fail to realize that
their social-control laws won't stop criminals but will only lead to
unintended bad consequences, such as preventing law-abiding citizens from
defending themselves and the children under their care.
Fortunately, even though Federal law brands
Joel Myrick a criminal, some have recognized his courage and bravery.
The Boulder-based Soldier of Fortune
magazine presented Myrick with its annual Humanitarian Award this past
As Joel Myrick proved, responsible armed adults
on school property can save lives. If Luke Woodham had expected to
face several armed adults, he may never have even tried to attack the high
school in the first place.
Similarly, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold knew
beforehand that they would face a maximum of one armed guard at Columbine.
(That guard fired a few frantic, un-aimed shots before he ran.)
These killers also knew it would take the police minutes if not tens of
minutes to arrive at the scene. At Columbine, the SWAT teams never got
near Harris and Klebold until long after the two had committed suicide.
Perhaps Cesare Beccaria, the father of modern
criminology often quoted by John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, said it best:
"An unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed
If school officials want to do more than impose
meaningless restrictions on honest students (like metal detectors and dress
codes), they will seriously consider training some teachers to use
firearms safely and effectively. Even under the Gun Free School Zone
Act, school officials can organize a formal "program approved by a
school" (18 USC
922(q)(1)(B)(iv)) in which teachers could carry pistols lawfully.
In Colorado, teachers can also apply to their
local sheriff for a concealed carry permit, and state legislators may
eventually pass a state-wide concealed carry law. (However, in
previous efforts the legislature has threatened to forbid concealed carry
in schools, which again would maintain "criminal safety zones"
In Israel, schools suffered horrible terrorist
acts until teachers and parents armed themselves. School terrorism
in Israel then stopped immediately. Israel also teaches its youth to
handle firearms and defend against violent attacks. In America, the
school officials have done instead left students helpless, while concentrating
on further violating the privacy of their students.
By and large, American schools are "gun
free." That's why criminals are free to murder students there
without fear of facing opposition. The noble actions of Joel Myrick prove
that "gun free school zones" are exactly what we don't need, if
our concern is the safety of our children rather than political
Ari Armstrong is a Senior Fellow at
the Independence Institute, a free-market
think tank in Golden, Colorado, http://i2i.org. He
is also the Editor of Colorado Freedom Report an electronic magazine, http://www.co-freedom.com/
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