A Teachable Moment

Former local teacher union pesident Morty Rosenfeld periodically attempts to make sense of the increasingly senseless world of public education.

Guilt Tripping Gun Owners

We have an advertising industry capable of selling Americans almost anything. If that industry is capable of selling bottled water from Fiji, why can’t they develop a series of public service videos on the dangers to all of us from a society awash in guns? Where once smoking was fashionable, a public campaign on the dangers of smoking has made smokers feel almost like criminals when lighting up. Can we not make a vast majority of Americans feel similarly guilty and foolish for exposing their families and the rest of us to the dangers of gun ownership? Can we not force them between innings of baseball games to be reminded of the American children lost to senseless gun violence?

Here is an ad I would love to see bombarding the airways. Little Johnny is at his friend’s house where he asks his friend’s parents, “Do you have guns in this house?’ His friend’s father responds, “Yes, we do.” Johnny, obviously saddened to the point of holding back tears says, “Then I can’t come here anymore. My parents won’t let me go to houses where there are guns. They say it’s not safe.”

Of course I know that such ads would drive the NRA crazy. That may not be such a bad thing. To the extent that we can force them into increasingly extreme positions, owning guns should become increasingly uncomfortable.

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Yet More Gun Violence

Eighteen incidents of gun violence in our nation’s schools in less than two months of this year. EIGHTEEN! The President and Republicans in Congress tell us that this is not the time to talk about the epidemic of child slaughter. Our seeming indifference to this lunacy prompted a black humor artist on Twitter to suggest that we start calling school “uterus” so that Republicans will be concerned with the carnage going on inside them.

In the latest incident, a young man recognized by his peers as likely to shoot the school up, found himself in a society that rather than provide him with the psychiatric care he so obviously needed instead facilitated the actualization of his homicidal fantasies by making weapons of mass destruction easily accessible to him . Millions of dollars have been spent hardening entrances to our schools, when the real danger almost always is within. We have metal detectors in many schools to screen students for weapons but provide few professionals to screen for serious mental disturbance. A screening of any American high school for clinical depression alone would wake the country up to the mental health needs of many of our students.

Our political leaders offer prayers and condolences to what are becoming routine events. It should be obvious to all that God is not answering these prayers. If we are to get control of this epidemic, it is we who will have to find the courage to stand up to the lunatic fringe of gun worshippers and the NRA. Perhaps it’s time to send a message to our elected leaders that we will not vote for anyone who takes NRA blood money. Is it not finally the time to take common sense steps to keep firearms out of the hands of people who can predictably be expected to abuse their constitutional right?

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Toting Guns to Feel Alive

Have you noticed how Tuesday’s school shooting in Kentucky has disappeared from our ever shortening news cycle? We are becoming increasingly inured to these events, politically anesthetized, as we continue to lose more Americans to gun violence than were killed in the Viet Nam War. We’ve reached the point where most incidents of gun violence don’t even get press attention, so routine have they become. Have you heard from any of our political leaders on the Kentucky shooting? Heard any suggestions of how we might get out from under the constitutional right to slaughter one another? The only thing I heard was some Kentucky Colonel mellifluously intoning the NRA’s mantra that the solution to our problem is arming the adults in our schools.

Quite coincidentally, I met two friends, each of whom with expressions of disbelief, told me of a mutual friend who retired and moved to Florida, a concealed carry state. While we worked with him here on Long Island, he was a very decent fellow, a school administrator who was appreciated by faculty and students alike. Imagining him toting a six-shooter around under his coat and spending hours practicing his shot is almost impossible for me to imagine this man whom I have known for thirty years doing. Yet, I’m told, finding himself in a gun friendly environment, he has taken to gun ownership with an unimaginable passion.

How does that happen? I’ve been wondering. I’ve been wondering too about our increasing fascination with guns and how in some bizarre way these senseless deaths we experience almost daily from gun violence cause us to buy more guns rather than taking steps to address our problem of a country literally saturated with guns. Is there something about gun-toting in anticipation of danger that makes people feel more alive – living on the edge?

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