“Bruce Frohman on Guns, Guards, and Schools,” by Bruce Frohman


The American Way

As a result of the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Valley citizens are talking about improving security at public schools. Will we be able to eliminate the possibility of violence that everyone dreads?

What Gun Owners Say

The consensus among gun owners seems to be that they need guns because the government can’t protect its citizens.

Many gun owners live with a fortress mentality. They keep a number of guns at home because they think their home will be attacked by a faceless mob and that all of their prized possessions will be taken. Or worse, home invaders will come in and shoot them for no reason. Furthermore, a foreign enemy might land and if everyone has a gun, we can defend ourselves.

Ironically, gun owners don’t take all their guns with them wherever they go. Instead, all but maybe one gun remains at home when they leave the house. Oftentimes, burglars break into the home while the owners are out and steal the guns. The guns end up being used in crimes that wouldn’t have been possible had the gun owners not had the guns in the first place.

Armed Guards at Schools

The latest proposal is to station an armed guard at each school and maybe arm the teachers. A Hughson elementary school allowed a former Marine to stand out in front of the school to protect the kids, but he wasn’t armed. The scary thing about that event is the principal didn’t do a background check on the guard before she allowed him to assume his post. Journalists discovered he had misrepresented his past. Only after the press did an investigation did the principal find out his real credentials and then tell the guard to leave. He’s recently returned and most likely harmless as long as unarmed.

For argument’s sake, let’s assume that teachers are armed and that at least one armed guard is posted at each school. How often are children killed or injured by the accidental discharge of a fire arm? Is the daily risk of an accident at every school in the country greater than the deterrence created by the presence of an armed guard? The logical answer: Keep firearms out of the presence of children.

During my tenure on the Modesto City Council, eleven year old Alberto Sepulveda was shot and killed by a fully trained Modesto police officer via the accidental discharge of the weapon. If this can happen with a fully trained officer, what is the likelihood that amateur gun-wielding teachers and under-trained guards will accidentally kill students?

Can We End Mass Murders?

As long as there are weapons available capable of harming large numbers of people, the killing can’t be stopped. The big question is whether we want to remove these tools of destruction from public access or preserve the freedoms that allow dangerous people to obtain weapons of destruction.

The average citizen has no access to nuclear weapons because of the destructive capability. We need to reassess where we want to draw the line regarding possession of weapons that serve no purpose other than to kill others. Because it’s impossible to predict who will become violent, the lowest common denominator of no guns is a logical place to draw the line.

But the insecurity that the lack of guns would create among gun owners could exceed the benefits of a ban. In short, many people would prefer deaths from guns rather than to eliminate guns. If this weren’t true, three year olds wouldn’t keep getting accidentally shot by loaded guns left around the house.

Pro-gun ownership groups make logical points about why a total ban on guns might be counter-productive. A ban will create a black market of gun sales. Only criminals will own guns. Guns are needed for self-defense against other people with guns.

We can’t create a society entirely free from risk. The best we can strive for is a society that minimizes risk. Above all, we must avoid hasty reactions that will increase risks.


Eric Caine
Eric Caine
Eric Caine formerly taught in the Humanities Department at Merced College. He was an original Community Columnist at the Modesto Bee, and wrote for The Bee for over twelve years.
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  1. The intransigence of my NRA pen pals in the wake of Newtown is appalling. Their answer, most simply, is more guns. Yeah, if a first grader threatens a playmate with a rock, give every kid a rock.

    It is surely time to repeal the second amendment, but barring that, limit the arms in private ownership to the single shot muskets, requiring 15 seconds to reload, we had when the dreaded amendment was written.

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