Littwin: Trump wants teachers who can shoot the apple right off your head

Let’s be honest. It’s hard to imagine a worse idea than arming teachers in the classroom to prevent mass shootings. It’s an unserious idea — a crackpot idea, really — that won’t ever happen, of course. But since the president of the United States is out there pretending to treat it seriously, I guess the rest of us have to as well.

I mean, where would the teachers keep the guns? Do you want Miss Veronica packing a loaded gun in your 5-year-old’s class? What are the greater odds — that a lunatic gunman would enter the classroom or that there would be an accident involving the gun and someone’s kid winds up in the emergency room or worse?

It’s absurd. Or as my sister, the third-grade teacher/education professor, so aptly put it, “moronic.” Or should we now expect kids to hold cookie sales to buy their teachers a Kevlar vest?

“It’s inconceivable,” my sister said, “that a teacher would use a gun to kill a child. I can’t think of a profession more separate from violence.”

It’s absurd. It’s moronic. It’s straight out of the more-guns-mean-less-crime school of non-thinking. It is also, to this point, the president’s bright idea to end mass shootings in the classroom, although, I should point out he’s talking about arming teachers who have been, say, Marines or others similarly trained. He thinks there could be 10-20 percent who qualify and maybe as many as 40 percent, which leads me to wonder how many teachers he hangs out with. I’ve got a sister, wife and daughter who are teachers/professors, and none of them has ever fired a shot. But maybe that’s just me.

I did once have a U.S. history teacher who was a Marine. We used to entertain the rest of the class by arguing, and pretty angrily, about the Vietnam War when we should have been talking about, I don’t know, the Missouri Compromise. He used to tell us when he was a World War II officer, he prided himself on never having taken prisoners. In retrospect, I’m kind of glad he wasn’t armed.

Presumably, Trump is talking about teachers carrying a concealed weapon, although who knows? Is a concealed weapon sufficient to take on an AR-15 from someone coming into the classroom who doesn’t expect to get out alive? We’re told by the president that “a gun-free zone to a killer, or somebody who wants to be a killer, that’s like going in for ice cream.”

It’s an interesting theory. Trump says that the shooters are “cowards,” who wouldn’t bring a gun to school if they knew they’d be met with guns—as if they cared about consequences or were busy looking for soft targets. I wish I could have asked him this: How many of the ice-cream-loving school shooters are either dead or in prison? (Hint: Without doing the research, I’m guessing all of them.)

He also says school shooters are “savage sickos,” but adds in the Parkland shooting: “A teacher would have shot the hell out of him before he knew what happened.” Well, there’s this conflicting evidence from the armed deputy at Stoneman Douglas who apparently chose not to confront the shooter and didn’t shoot the hell out of him. This was a trained Broward County officer who stood aside while 17 kids were killed. He resigned from the force. Trump called him a “coward.” I don’t know. I’m guessing the guy sent to guard schools is not chosen for his gun-fighting abilities.

And, of course, there are all the pretty obvious red flags — serious warnings about the shooter — that various law enforcement officials saw but didn’t apparently think were important. And we’re talking about arming teachers?

Where we can all agree is that there are few things worse than mass school shootings, even if the NRA accuses the media of loving them. (Note: I’ve covered five, starting with Columbine, one as heartbreaking as the next. Only a sociopath would make that accusation against reporters, or anyone else, and actually mean it.) And mass shootings, we know, don’t happen only at schools, but at churches and at movie theaters and at country music concerts.

But let’s get past emotions here and move on to the data. In 2008, The New York Times did a survey of all NYPD shootings from 1996 to 2006. They found cops — the good guys with guns — hit their intended target 34 percent of the time, which means they missed two shots out of every three. And if that’s sounds low, try to put yourself in their place — shooting at actual human beings is apparently harder than you might have guessed from watching TV.

More pertinent numbers, though, were found in a 2006 study from the Rand Center on Quality Policing, which determined that in a gunfight the police hit rate fell to just 18 percent. In other words, firing at someone while someone is firing at you is a hell of a thing to try to do, and that’s for cops who are trained to do just that. Imagine a teacher shooting across a classroom full of students while trying to bring down the heavily-armed sicko savage.

Or consider this: In an FBI analysis of law enforcement engagement with 45 active shooters between 2000 and 2013, the cops were either killed or wounded 21 times.

In other words, this has got nothing to do with ice cream or with teacher training. This has to do with the intersection of disturbed young men and their easy access to high-powered guns. And unless you’re talking about how to resolve that complicated issue, you’re not saying anything that matters.

Photo by Todd Petrie, via Flickr: Creative Commons


  1. The fundamental question as I see it,is one of our core beliefs as a Country. If we believe that “in God we trust”; and that , as Lincoln begged the question in his Gettysburg address”….whether a Nation so conceived in liberty and justice for all can long endure?”
    Technology has given us all the knowledge to make decisions based on the above beliefs; more than ever in the Past.
    It was in the Past, that the NRA became our “god”, grading every single elected official. It was in the Past that the uneducated believed every word out of the Presidents mouth. It was in the Past,that corruption aimed at “using “, the sick the weak, the neglected for personal gain was sown, refined, and readily enacted.
    It is time, now, for each of us to stop being led like sheep to the slaughter.
    The NRA and all other organization need to be abolished; and re-organized according to this day and age.
    Isn’t it about time that we all stand up and think before we speak or act. or electour personnel?
    It’s a very sad commentary for us as a Nation that a tragic neglect of a teen-ager, from birth, who committed a heinous crime is so callously spoken of by our president.
    Technology has given each of us access to knowledge none dreamed of in the Past. Is it fast becoming too late to use it for the common man?

  2. Well said, Mike Littwin. I hope this column makes its way to state legislators across our nation and to our congressmen in Washington. People have been looking for simple answers since the Columbine tragedy in 1999. Nineteen years later, we still don’t seem to be astute enough as a nation to recognize the complexity of the problem or to take the numerous proactive measures required to stem the bloody tide.

  3. Well, permits and all that sound good but are irrelevant. To get to basics: A long, long, long time ago, my father’s friends included several Chicago police lieutenants and sergeants. Their view was that civilian gun ownership should be limited to singe-shot, double barreled or bolt action, 5-shot, rifles and shotguns —- with the police carrying, at most, pump action shotguns; NO handguns for *anyone.* A couple of New York city policemen that I knew would limit civilians to single-shot rifles and shotguns and, also, NO handguns for *anyone.* Very sensible, if impossible, here and now.

  4. Elections have consequences

    “Hiding news that doesn’t fit an ideological or a partisan agenda is perhaps the worst form of media bias. And it’s one more reason the public holds the press is such low esteem.” – Investor’s Business Daily

    “(Mr. Trump) won’t be president. He was sliding in the polls before the video, and the video now means that he has no way to climb back. Which independent voter, which suburban woman, which Main Street Republican on the fence is going to vote for Trump now?” – Mike Littwin

    Magical thinking: The belief that one’s own thoughts, wishes, or desires can influence the external world. It is common in very young children. – Radiotherapy

    President Trump 306 Electoral votes
    Hillary Clinton 232



    In order to sell his guns-are-the-problem narrative Mr. Littwin had to put on his heavy duty blinders to avoid seeing what can only be described as a monumental FBI failure to act on warnings about the threat posed by Nikolas Cruz.

    First, the FBI failed to act on a “see something, say something” warning about Cruz that, according to Buzzfeed, it received from 36-year-old Mississippi bail bondsman Ben Bennight last September when he emailed the FBI a screenshot of Nikolas Cruz’ threat to become a professional school shooter.

    Then, as reported in the New York Times, “The F.B.I. failed to act on a tip in January from a person close to Nikolas Cruz warning that he owned a gun and might conduct a school shooting, the bureau acknowledged on Friday, an admission that prompted Gov. Rick Scott of Florida to call for the bureau’s director to resign.”

    Two opportunities (t-w-o) to prevent the slaughter of 17 innocent students and teachers and twice (t-w-i-c-e) the FBI failed to connect the dots.

    Remarkably, Mr. Littwin mentioned only one of those two failures and devoted less than one sentence to that one. That’s right, less than one sentence devoted to the fact that twice (t-w-i-c-e) the FBI could have, but failed to, prevent the deaths of 17 students and teachers.

    What makes Mr. Littwin’s intentional avoidance of FBI malfeasance so conspicuous is that he once wrote an entire column on an eye-roll. That’s right, an eye-roll. You could look it up. Yet he devotes less than one sentence to two FBI failures that could have prevented the slaughter of 17 students and teachers.

    You can’t make this stuff up.

    And here’s something else you can’t make up: According to the New York Times, “Mr. Cruz, 19, himself called the authorities just after Thanksgiving, describing how he had been in a fight and was struggling with the death of his mother. “The thing is I lost my mother a couple of weeks ago, so like I am dealing with a bunch of things right now,” he said in a childlike voice, sounding agitated and out of breath.”
    That desperate cry for help, sadly and tragically, went unheeded by authorities and the story of that call was shamefully ignored by Mr. Littwin.

    Here’s how CNN’s Michael Smerconish described his review of all the reports about prior warnings about the Florida school shooter: “Let me say it flat-out: the Florida school shooting was an epic intelligence failure. It should have been stopped. It never should have happened.”

    Mr. Littwin claims, “Let’s be honest. It’s hard to imagine a worse idea than arming teachers in the classroom to prevent mass shootings. It’s an unserious idea — a crackpot idea, really” But, amazingly, despite Mr. Littwin’s unquestioned expertise on unserious, crackpot and absurd ideas, reports , “We could do what Israel’s been doing in large schools for decades after terrorists killed scores of children in an attack. Lock the doors. Train and arm a few unidentified teachers to conceal-carry.”

    But I do find myself in agreement with Mr. Littwin’s sister when she says, “It’s inconceivable that a teacher would use a gun to kill a child. “ But the real question here is this: Would a teacher use a gun to save a child?

    I also find myself in agreement with Mr. Littwin when he says, “And unless you’re talking about how to resolve (the problem created by the intersection of disturbed young men and their easy access to high-powered guns), you’re not saying anything that matters.”

    And Mr. Littwin hasn’t said “anything that matters” in a long, long time.

    November 08, 2016

    “’Cause I don’t have no use
    For what you loosely call the truth” – Tina Turner

    Flags of Valor
    Folds of Honor
    Special Operations Warriors Foundation

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