Why is Congress a Gun-Free Zone but your Area High School isn’t?

Hi Joel,

Remember way back to last Friday, when I wrote

There’s an angry young white man at your area elementary and junior high and high school this morning and he has access to a gun.

Well, it looks like it happened in your town just today. A local high school there announced that a young man had been making “indirect threats” to kill people on Snapchat. Police are investigating, but, if it weren’t for the snow and ice that canceled school, they’d be asking parents there to go ahead and send their kids to school.

Now, we don’t know yet if he had access to a gun, but he very likely does. Kansas has some of the loosest gun laws in the nation. It has no minimum age for the possession of a firearm with a barrel under 12 inches. On February 1, the Kansas House approved a bill that would allow anyone over age 18–about half of high school seniors by this point in the year–to conceal and carry a weapon. Between 18 and 21, they would be required to have a permit.

But a student doesn’t even need to bring his gun to school. In Kansas, teachers can bring it for him. All he has to do is take it away from the teacher. If one boy couldn’t, then two easily could, especially if, like most mass shooters, they don’t care about dying themselves. In the last ten years, 3.5 million guns were stolen from law-abiding people who just can’t seem to keep their guns secured. No reason to think that this couldn’t happen to a teacher at school.

***********

You might be tempted to think that our lawmakers simply don’t understand the danger or ways to prevent it. But of course they do. We know this because

  • Republican leaders and the NRA (A difference without a distinction?) choose venues for their national conventions that don’t permit guns. Surely, if guns keep us safe, they would choose convention centers that permit concealed or open carry in states that do likewise?
  • The Secret Service can–and does–ban the presence of guns when the president is near, even if the state and local laws permit them. Why don’t more good guys with guns increase the safety of the president?
  • Congress has tighter security even as the rest of us have less of it. For most of our history, most of Congress was accessible to everyday people. Not until the 1980s did we start to see metal detectors installed, ID tags for employees, and tickets for citizen-visitors. Even in 1954, when Puerto Rican nationalists opened fire on the House floor, critically wounding Michigan Republican Alvin Bentley, Congress didn’t add new security measures, nor was there a dramatic revisioning of security after the 1971 Weatherman bombing in the Senate. Not until 1983, when a bomb went off near Senate Minority Leader Robert Byrd’s office, did we begin the process familiar to us now: X-ray machines, manual checks of purses and bags, metal detectors, bomb-sniffing dogs, and overall less access for journalists, those seeking contact with their representatives, and visitors.

Image result for house of representatives floor

Above, the floor of the House, where lawmakers were sitting ducks during the 1954 shooting. Kind of like how our students are now. 

In their defense, Kansas state lawmakers do allow concealed guns into the Capitol. They’re fools, but at least they’re not hypocrites. I’m glad that they are putting their own bodies in the same position they’re asking of their high schoolers.

All together, in constant danger.

Rebecca

 

 

 

 

 

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