Kids and Guns at School
by L. Neil Smith
Somebody has to be the first to say it -- and I was, 16 years
ago, when I wrote my first novel,
The Probability Broach.
In that book, an American policeman is suddenly plunged into
an alternate world where dropping a weapon in your pocket every
morning is as ordinary and unremarkable as doing the same thing with
a wallet, and even children carry guns.
Of course what I meant, writing that part of the book, was that
children especially carry guns. They're little, not very strong,
and they need guns more than big people do.
In the wonderful world of
The Probability Broach, there weren't
any public schools, and not only were administrators -- that is, the
owners and operators -- of various private school systems not disturbed
at the prospect of their little charges toting magnum semiautos to
class, they offered courses to improve the kids' proficiency with
them, just as their parents deemed proper.
The customer, after all, is always right.
Look: in our world, in the 19th century and well into the
20th, kids and guns went together like ham and eggs. Boys could be
seen everywhere, every day, wandering the countryside with .22
rifles dangling from their grubby little fingers. True, times have
changed, but only to the extent that it should now be something better
than a .22 (the likeliest game being bigger and meaner than the
squirrels, rabbits, and rats of an earlier era), and little girls
should carry guns, as well.
Should anyone argue that these rifles and their owners belonged
to a rural period of history, rather than the urbanized America of
today, I'll concede, adding that this seems like an argument in favor
The only thing wrong with kids bringing guns to school is that
the wrong kids bring them, for the wrong reasons. Moreover, the
solution isn't metal detectors in doorways, locker searches and
seizures which make it tough to teach the 4th and 5th Amendments, or
the mandatory expulsions for a year which even Rush Limbaugh
advocates -- it's simply rearranging things so the right kids bring
guns to school for the right reasons.
Everybody's basic, human right.
I know that all liberals, the majority of conservatives, and even
many libertarians are going to have trouble with this concept --
once they awaken from the apoplectic coma it sends them reeling
into -- though it wouldn't have troubled science fiction author
Robert A. Heinlein (who turned out to be right about so many other
things, as well) even 30-odd years ago, when he wrote
Red Planet, a novel that concerns itself with this very subject.
The same people -- liberals, conservatives, even many libertarians --
often have trouble with an even simpler idea: freedom works.
Any time, any place.
Consider: in Orlando, Florida, as we know by now, a massive
increase in the number of rapes was halted and reversed by the
expedient of offering classes in firearms-handling to several thousand
women over one long, hot summer (see Paxton Quigley's
Armed and Female for details even I had never heard before).
We also know, in general, that wherever ordinary people
exercise the Constitutional right to arm themselves, crimes of
confrontation diminish, whereas exactly the reverse is true wherever
that right is narrowed or suppressed.
So I ask, why not take that valuable lesson to school where it
belongs? Why continue to maintain the public school system as a sort
of holiday camp away from reality, if reality is what we're interested
in conveying to our children?
Unlike liberals, conservatives, and many libertarians, I don't
believe the Bill of Rights begins to apply to an individual only when
he or she reaches some arbitrary age of legal majority. In my
experience, adults have just as much difficulty exercising their
rights intelligently as children do. In fact, children seem to
understand rules -- such as "No one has a right to initiate
force against another human being for any reason" -- better
than those who have simply grown bigger and older without getting wiser.
As long as public schools exist, they should be required by law
to offer mandatory courses in safe and effective gun-handling. It is
an historic fact that hoodlums, for the most part, lack the
self-discipline to shoot well. So, over the course of time, they'll
be out-classed -- and out-shot -- by kids capable of learning the
shootist's craft, and the problem will be solved.
Or until people forget the lesson and have to learn the hard way all over again.
I do have lingering doubts about the schools' ability to teach
anything -- let alone safe and effective gun-handling -- to anybody,
and the real answer is to abolish public schools altogether.
But that's another story.
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