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Atty. Ralph D. Sherman

130 West Main Street • New Britain, Connecticut 06052

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Let adults carry guns in school

"Op-ed" article

published in The Hartford Courant

April 30, 1999

by Ralph D. Sherman

The 18-year-old murderers in Littleton, Colo., were neither stupid nor hasty. They planned and prepared for their massacre with care. And they knew their targets would be utterly helpless - thanks to “gun control” laws.

Colorado laws make it a crime to bring a firearm onto school grounds. The same is true in Connecticut, even for a law-abiding adult who has passed a background check, taken a safety course, and obtained a gun permit from the police.

So any monster who chooses to ignore the laws and commit murder at random knows he will find no opposition on school grounds, until police arrive.

The “gun control” crowd likes to refer to schools as “safe zones.” In reality, they’re “defenseless zones.” The “gun control” crowd has made sure no responsible adult civilian could defend the innocents at Columbine High School in Littleton.

Would the result have been different in Colorado if a teacher or school administrator had access to a gun? That was the case in October 1997 in Pearl, Miss. There, an alienated 16-year-old used a rifle to murder two students and wound seven others. Before he could inflict further harm, however, he was stopped - by the assistant principal, armed with his own small handgun. No shots were fired by the assistant principal; the murderer surrendered when confronted by the armed adult.

In April 1998 in Edinboro, Pa., a 14-year-old brought a gun to a school dance. After revealing the gun and murdering a teacher, the student was stopped by the owner of the restaurant where the dance was held. The restaurant owner, armed with his own shotgun, fired no shots to stop the murderer.

Minors and convicted felons have no business possessing or carrying firearms. That’s been federal law for decades. In reality, however, no law will stop those who are intent on committing public mass murders for the purpose of gaining attention. The threat of punishment does not deter monsters who plan to use suicide to end their 15 minutes of fame.

Yet Connecticut law prohibits good people - parents, teachers, school administrators - from carrying a handgun on school grounds, even with a gun permit, even with the gun so discreetly concealed that no one knows it’s there.

Counseling for troubled students is an excellent idea. So is parenting instead of letting TV raise your children. But these are long-term solutions that do nothing to enable innocent people to defend themselves in a life-or-death emergency. If another wicked child somewhere is now planning the next school massacre, the long-term solutions may not stop him.

John Lott, a professor at the University of Chicago School of Law, has shown in his recent book (More Guns, Less Crime) that criminals are deterred by the general presence of firearms that are carried concealed by lawful permit-holders. In a paper published on the Web just this month, he shows that even those who might commit public mass murders are deterred, because they recognize that they might be stopped before they can accomplish their terrible mission.

Nationwide, civilians use firearms lawfully for self defense 2.5 million times per year, according to studies by Gary Kleck, a criminologist who first investigated the subject because he favored banning guns. Eighty percent of these “defensive gun uses” involve handguns.

In Connecticut, about 140,000 adults possess handgun permits. Many permit-holders discreetly carry a handgun every work day, to protect themselves when they carry their restaurant receipts to the bank, or when they have to install utility wiring in a bad neighborhood. At their place of business, they think of the gun as another safety device, like a fire extinguisher. They don’t expect to face a fire, but they have taken steps to protect themselves.

If Connecticut schools had no fire extinguishers, parents would think twice before sending children to school. Can you imagine a law that actually banned fire extinguishers on school grounds?

It would make no more sense than our current prohibition against law-abiding adults with gun permits carrying a practical self-defense tool on school grounds. The time to repeal that prohibition is now.


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