Forum, March 14: A Former Marine on the Idea of Arming Teachers

Tuesday, March 13, 2018
Former Marine on Arming Teachers

Following the lead of the National Rifle Association mantra, “Only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun,” President Donald Trump has advocated arming “well-trained” teachers and staff in schools. As a former rifleman in the Marine Corps and a retired high school teacher and principal, I’ve been stewing on how to compose a letter to illustrate the folly of such an idea. Fortuitously, Anthony Swofford, a former Marine and now a teacher, laid out just such an argument in a lucid and comprehensive way in an op-ed piece in the Feb. 25 New York Times. I highly recommend it.

Swofford calls the idea “absurd.” He chronicles the rigorous hours and weeks of training to which all Marine recruits are subjected before they are even allowed to touch live ammunition. In the National Rifle Association’s “fever dream,” he writes, “a high school would concentrate so much firepower in the hands of its employees that no deranged individual with a weapon would dare enter the premises,” but says that this kind of thinking has “no grounding in reality.” People planning such attacks have no thoughts of risk, just vengeance. Losing their lives, he writes, usually is part of the plan.

Let’s remind ourselves of the reality of a school shooting — bullets ricocheting off walls, students and faculty running in panic away from danger, police entering a building, trying to separate “good guys with guns” from “bad guys with guns.” It calls for a calmness and discipline that takes months of training and experience.

So, what’s a just society to do? Ban the sale of assault-style weapons and institute a buyback program from those who have them. Raise the age at which one can purchase a firearm to 21. Require universal background checks, and empower law enforcement to separate dangerous individuals such as abusers and those with threatening behavior from access to firearms.

Stop the madness.

Bob McCarthy


Moment for Compromise on Guns?

Whether we like it or not (I do), we gun owners have come to a turning point along the American legislative road to gun safety. Failure to accept meaningful changes to our laws within the next few months will raise the probable passage of truly restrictive laws relative to the manufacture, importation, ownership and possession of certain kinds of guns, and the ammunition that they utilize. Is that somewhere we really want to go? Or is this a moment for compromise?

For years, gun extremists have deluded themselves with the thought that the Second Amendment is absolute in its defense of unrestricted gun rights. It’s not. Sooner or later, the Supreme Court will accept a case that makes clear what kind of regulation Associate Justice Antonin Scalia was talking about when he spoke of “dangerous and unusual weapons.” We will learn that all kinds of regulation remain available when it comes to those kinds of firearms. We will learn that felons, family abusers and the mentally ill can and should be denied access to firearms. Fully automatic weapons, and the devices that make other guns act like they’re fully automatic, can and should be kept from the hands of private citizens not acting as part of an actual guard or militia.

So what will actual gun owners (as opposed to the National Rifle Association or Gun Owners of New Hampshire) accept as forward motion to protect both our children and our right to own guns? How about real background checks for every gun transfer? A doubling of federal appropriations for mental health? Could we agree to licensure or banning for military-style “dangerous and unusual” weapons? If not for everyone, how about for persons under the age of 30? Can we agree that there are places like schools, hospitals and public buildings where guns do not belong? If not, what can we do? Because we better do something.

One final thing: I believe it is now time for gun owners who do not subscribe to the politics of the NRA and the Republican leadership to find an organization that speaks for us, one with a less absolute but more patriotic voice.

Peter Hoe Burling


The Morass of Partisan Politics

In response to Richard Bell’s Feb. 24 letter (“We Have Met the Enemy ...”), he is absolutely correct. Labeling, partisan theatrics and corrupt politics have sunk us into a sewer of continued internal strife in which we wallow with total disregard for reality and truth. We are faced daily with numerous problems affecting our day-to-day lives, locally, nationally and internationally. Yet, when solutions are offered, they are immediately challenged with partisan rhetoric, setting off a flurry of negativity throughout society. We attach labels to those who support an issue or are against it. We fuel the fire of contention between both parties simply by designating a proposal as being either too progressive (liberal, Democratic) or too regressive (conservative, Republican). As a result, progress is stalled. We play politics with the most pressing issues of our time as if we are engaged in an athletic event, with each party parading their frenzied cheerleaders in front of a captive, frenzied audience. And then, to add insult to injury, these political parties parade a list of unqualified and ineffective candidates before us, demanding that we vote for them regardless of their moral standing. The slogan “Win at all costs” permeates our society like slime from a polluted pond.

Yes, we do need to search for political alternatives to the morass in which we exist. The two-party system does not offer the best method for resolving the issues of today. Multi-party democratic governments have proven to be successful in numerous countries. They provide for formal debate of conflicting issues in their legislative chambers. Our legislative bodies, on the other hand, foster alienation by separating the Democrats from the Republicans in their respective chambers. Maybe it would be better to have them mingle with each other as fellow human beings rather than as partisan gladiators. It’s time for a change.

Jim Minnich


Get the U.S. Out of Syria

It is time to get the American military out of Syria.

The U.S. has created more chaos and carnage in Syria than the president, Bashar Assad, did on his own. By arming “good” rebels, we armed and fueled the growth of ISIS. The ostensible reason was to topple Assad and replace him with a democratic government. This was doomed to failure because there was no prominent opposition or reform leader for the Syrians to coalesce behind. Once Russia sent troops, the only way to success would have been an all-out war with Russia, which would be foolish.

We armed the Kurds to destroy ISIS, which they were doing, but the brain trust in Washington decided to take the Kurds away from that and placed them within spitting distance of Turkey. Right or wrong, Turkey regards any armed Kurds as terrorists, so the two are now fighting in Syrian territory, driving the U.S. and Turkey further apart.

Make no mistake, Assad is a bad man. But for political reasons he has protected religious minorities in Syria, most notably Shiite Muslims and Christians. By endangering the Assad government, the United States and the rebels it supports have forced the Iranians to come in, primarily to protect their fellow Shiites, which means supporting Assad.

It is time for the U.S. to admit it made a terrible mistake and withdraw.

Mark R. Allen


It’s Five Colleges Book Sale Time

For the past 56 years, the Five Colleges Book Sale has been a wonderful way to give books a new home. The sale offers more than 40,000 books annually, with net proceeds from the sale benefiting New Hampshire and Vermont students attending Mount Holyoke, Simmons, Smith, Vassar and Wellesley colleges.

We are pleased to announce that the 57th sale will take place on April 21 and 22 at Lebanon High School. We continue to be encouraged by the support of new volunteers and the widespread community response affirming the value of the book sale to the Upper Valley.

Donations for the sale are being accepted at our site at the Staples Plaza, 254 Plainfield Road, West Lebanon, from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. every day except Sunday through April 11. Small quantities of books and media may be left in our collection boxes at the rear entrances to the Howe and Kilton libraries, the Lebanon Library, and at the Co-op Food Stores in Hanover and Lebanon. Donations are tax deductible with receipts available at the donation site.

We welcome donations of books, manuscripts, prints, maps, memorabilia, CDs and DVDs. We do not accept or sell Reader’s Digest condensed books, Harlequin Romances, ex-library books, magazines, vinyl records or cassette tapes. We also cannot accept or sell home recordings made on videotape, CD-R or cassette.

For directions and more information, please visit our website, www.five-collegesbooksale.org, or email Priscilla@whitemtnkettlecorn.com.

We look forward to seeing you at the sale.

Sarah Biggs and Cindy Heath

Co-Chairs, Five Colleges Book Sale