The Grumpy Giraffe

Critiques on social and education issues

The gun is mightier than the pen

The tragic Sandy Hook shooting has propelled the world into a flurry of discussions, particularly about gun control. It is expected: the perpetrator, Adam Lanza, 20, fatally shot 20 children and 6 adult staff, and injured 2 people with a gun. This crime involves two of America’s most valued and cared-for objects of affection: guns, and children.

Texas has been on top of this issue since 2008 by proposing that teachers be armed with guns.

Recently, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst hashes out the same proposal again in response to Sandy Hook. South Carolina, Oklahoma, Missouri and South Dakota are also considering this option. A rural school district in Ohio is even thinking about arming its non-teaching personnel, such as janitors.

It isn’t too difficult to understand how these stances came to be. In a country that embraces gun culture (with an actual government association to advocate it, i.e. the NRA), it is easy to have a gun at home or in your handbag legally. The process to obtain a gun isn’t as rigorous as Canada’s.


Having guns in schools sends a rather unethical message to our students. “Got a problem? Shoot!” (I apologize for my morbid humour.) School is supposed to be a safe place. And what do we teach our children? We teach them to solve problems and conflicts by talking it out, not by shooting it down.

I understand that talking to a crazy gunman is not exactly the most effective option in the book.

So why don’t we teach children that communicating with words is the preferred way to resolve conflicts? Why don’t we integrate that in everything we do? It’s quite similar to rape culture: instead of only teaching girls how to prevent being raped, why not teach everyone that raping is not the right choice? I have quite a handful of opinions in regards to rape culture, but that is an idea for another post.


To be pragmatic, where would teachers put their guns? In the staff room? Behind their desk? Strapped to their backs? In a holster on their belt? I’m not sure if having a gun in a place kids can see is a moral message to send to impressionable students. And if teachers do not have the gun on their bodies, how fast can they really retrieve it and to use it effectively?


Teachers are humans too. We misplace our glasses, our headbands, our chalk, our pens, etc. Surely teachers in Texas would not be armed with a rifle and a sash of bullets, so they’d be carrying a small handgun. What happens when that becomes misplaced, and a student has their hands on it?

Additionally, teachers can be grumpy and cranky too. There are already cases of teachers beating students up here, here and here, teachers bullying autistic children here and talking inappropriately about her wine night. What happens if a teacher loses his or her temper? When we are in the heat of the moment, we don’t think rationally. We don’t think, “I am holding a gun, and this has a high chance of ending someone’s life.” We look for the quickest solution, whether the solution is overkill or not.


Aside from the gun supporters, there are also gun naysayers who propose a ban instead.

A ban isn’t what America needs at the moment.

Many arguments flock in whenever I pop that statement in casual conversation, and suddenly the room gets hotter by 8 degrees Celsius.

The reason for my stance is because America is so rampant in guns. This infographic from Huffington Post illustrates the amount and types of guns Americans own. This infographic from Care2 leans on the usage of raw numbers, which I don’t particularly like, but it shows that there are 90 guns for every 100 Americans. To simplify it, that means for every 10 Americans, 9 have a gun, and 1 doesn’t.

When such a vast majority has guns, you’d obviously want to protect yourself. That’s valid reasoning. Why create a disadvantage for yourself? Similarly, if everyone has a BA, you’d want a BA so you can at least level the playing field.

Which is exactly why a gun ban is not the solution America needs right now.

Laws are for law-abiders. A person with the intention to commit a crime, say, steal some jewellery, isn’t going to think, “Oh, I shouldn’t steal. The glass is double-paned, and the door has a lock. That means I am not welcome in the store at the moment.”

Criminals are not entirely stupid. In fact, some are quite intelligent because they are still in our society, living in a middle-class suburban house, working a white-collar service job, and still goes to Mass on Sundays. Obviously the smart ones have not been caught.

Criminals tend to follow the rational choice theory: they weigh out the benefits and consequences, and commit said crime when it seems like there are more benefits than consequences according to their system of values and beliefs. Many people get stuck at the part where criminals believe the benefit of stealing a necklace is better than ending up in jail, thinking, “Why would anyone want to risk a criminal record over a piece of gold?”, hence the clarification of judging by their value system.

But I digress. The point is that laws are made for people who already follow the law. It’s preaching to the choir, so to speak. Those who want to break the law will eventually find a way, and be able to convince themselves that the trouble is worth it.

Moreover, there are many guns that were illicitly obtained. When you ban the legal possession of a gun, you only have black market guns. The black market will receive a higher demand, and thus illicit selling and buying of guns will be even more rampant due to the gun ban.

So how do we fix it?

There’s no quick fix solution. America is so saturated in gun culture that the nation needs an overhaul on their social values. Gun culture needs to be deconstructed bit by bit through education and outreach while retrieving the illicitly owned guns through specially tailored programs like Operation Ceasefire.

Culture deconstruction can transcend several generations. It definitely requires longer than a presidential election, which is probably why nobody has heard of this option during presidential election speeches. Very typical.

Culture deconstruction will take generations to be effective because it requires debunking the values associated with owning a gun, such as power, authority, masculinity, wealth, class, etc. Society needs to see which concepts to dump, and if they want to keep the concepts, they need to figure out a less harmful way to sustain these values without a high risk of harming others. Doing a value overhaul is tiring and chaotic. There will be trouble and there will be protests.

Secondly, people need to be educated about the Second Amendment. There is still a large handful of Americans who throw in the Second Amendment as a shield against gun naysayers, resulting in embarrassment when their opponent elaborates on the history of said Amendment.

I’m no fan of history, so I will keep this brief. The Second Amendment was put in place so citizens can form their own militia if the British decide to invade the States. There weren’t many police officers back in the day of no Internet, and duties of a policeman were much more vast than law enforcement and protection of citizens.

Britain and the US still have a slightly tense relationship (think of a mother and a rebellious teenage son), but Britain has no plans at all to invade the States again. There is no need for citizens to grab their rifle.

And then we can begin to discuss a gun ban.

The main part of the problem is gun culture. Culture is internalized within all of us, so it is much more difficult to root it out, but root it out we must. America is gun-crazed; let’s admit it. We need to figure out why it is gun-crazed, and how we can help America be the Land of the Free without being harmed.

America should not feel alone in their quest. As global citizens, it is up to us to provide the support America needs to progress to becoming a safer nation.


13 comments on “The gun is mightier than the pen

  1. lonelyscientist
    January 21, 2013

    I had a good read.

  2. aldabaran88
    January 21, 2013

    I’ve gotta say, I’m a gun supporter. Criminals don’t follow the law, and if guns were to be banned, guess who would still have them? The criminals. And guess who would use them? Criminals. I want to be able to defend myself if the situation arises. Can I do that without a gun? Yes. Will I be successful if an assailant has a gun and I don’t? Probably not. Here’s a story for you: I know someone who is a college professor. One of his students was at an ATM one night (ATMs usually have security cameras and are well-lit). A car pulled up behind her. One of the men in the car got out, walked toward her, and pulled a gun on her. Now, the city in which we live has the 7th highest murder rate in the US in 2011, and the 1st ranked city is no more than an hour away. With those statistics, would those men have killed her? I don’t know, maybe. But her life was in danger, and she wasn’t doing anything wrong. If you have the barrel of a gun pointing at your face, would you rather have a gun or try to defend yourself bare-handed? I can tell you that this law-abiding citizen survived. She had a conceal and carry permit and a gun in her car.

    • The Grumpy Giraffe
      January 21, 2013

      But that’s what I’m talking about. I’m not saying to ban all guns tomorrow. I’m saying that the gun culture needs to be dissected and broken down before we have any policies in place. To implement a gun ban immediately would only harm society.

      Canada (where I live) has different social associations with guns, and different values. That’s why we don’t place such a huge emphasis on owning a gun, and we don’t associate power with it. We trust the state to protect us; a social contract.

      I’m suggesting here that the gun culture be broken down in America. Figure out what makes the gun culture tick. What concepts are guns associated with? Why have the persisted? How useful are they? How often do citizens use guns to protect themselves, and how many times were there other alternatives to using a gun?

      • aldabaran88
        January 25, 2013

        It’s not that I don’t agree with you–I completely agree and I really wish it was possible here. I just don’t think it’s possible. I don’t think that–even if gun culture were to be broken down and less emphasis was placed on it–some groups would comply to that mindset–namely criminals and the government (the President is the Commander in Chief of the military, which is constantly developing new firearms in the name of self-defense). This would leave those who did comply at a disadvantage in instances of abuse. From a tactical standpoint, guns are cheap, reusable, can be used from a distance, and are extremely deadly. Even if less emphasis were to be placed on it, people would still use them because they provide that tactical advantage–a one-up against opponents, which is why they were developed in the first place. You can’t deconstruct that. I think part of our gun culture also derives from our distrust of the government. It seems like you have faith in your government (Canada has always seemed like a great place to me!), and I wish I could say the same. But for many Americans, there is an inherent fear of it (see ajfeight’s comment below). Honestly, I would be suspicious if a campaign for deconstructing gun culture was started. My first question would be: “What are they planning on doing to us?”

        Perhaps this is ridiculously paranoid of me, but I’ve had done some extensive studies in history, and it’s frightening to me what people will do to others just because they’re told to do it. Historically, governments are more dangerous than guns. Who wanted guns developed in the first place and what was the purpose? (Power.) And how many governments have abused the people that relied on them? Too many to count. We have guns because we’re afraid of what might happen if we don’t. So I guess the answer to your questions is this: because we’re afraid. They’re useful in combat. And a lot of people use them in both self-defense and in offense. And I can’t see any other alternatives, at least in the instance I’ve illustrated. If you can think of some, please share! :)

  3. Bill Hayes
    January 20, 2013

    Great piece. Just one thing you said…”In a country that embraces gun culture (with an actual government association to advocate it, i.e. the NRA)” The NRA is nothing to do with the government. They were orignally set up to help riffle owners become shots & safer gun owners. Somewhere along the way the NRA became a lobbying group to advocate the distributuion and ownership of guns by the public.

    If a representatvie tries to campaign on an anti gun ticket then the NRA will spend literally millions to sponsor an alternatvie cadinadte in the same district. Half the American politicians are scared to go up against the NRA for fear of losing their seats. They are moral cowards and would rather win than do what is right.

    Here’s a thought: 50 per cent of the world’s hand guns are owned by A,ericans a mere 5 per cent of the world’s population.

  4. ajfeight
    January 19, 2013

    I have just found your blog and have enjoyed reading a few of your posts. This one has inspired me to add a response. Your thoughts are laid out very well, but you don’t achieve the completely logical conclusion I think you were looking for (this does not necessarily mean I disagree with your conclusions).

    First, I am a teacher (inner city school with drug and gang problems) and I am a firearm owner (I legally own one hand gun, I have a concealed carry permit that tested my knowledge and proficiency, and I have received significant training). There has been a lot of talk about arming teachers, and someone always makes the point you make. “Some teacher will get really angry at a kid and shoot them.” Here is my issue with this comment… When people make this comment (including teachers) it really does not portray how (good) teachers work or operate and it assumes that we will be strapping a gun to every single teacher. Is it true that some teachers loose it and harm students? Yes it is. You even posted links to support your comment on this. However, following this line of thinking, we should be taking guns away from cops. Cops are human, they can get frustrated (dealing with the exact same kid the teacher was dealing with), and they might shoot a 12 year old in the head. But… no one wants to take guns away from cops. The argument I have heard back from this is that “cops are trained”. No joke, of course they are. Guns can be used to kill people. People who carry guns should be trained. But, if certain teachers (who pass the same mental health checks cops do) are then trained and re-trained, then this argument really does not hold up for anyone who isn’t buying into the current anti-teacher culture that does everything it can to tear down professional educators (sadly, even a lot of teachers, and seemingly the author of this article, buy into the anti-teacher culture).

    Second thing I want to address is your comments on the 2nd amendment (I am a fan of history). I am pretty sure you are wrong and this is why… Prior to the current Constitution there was the Articles of Confederation. This was a terrible document that did not give the government the power to effectively do two very important things: collect taxes and build a military. So, the Constitution (powers the government could have) was written (by the Federalists) giving the right to do both. The Anti-Federalists’ response to this was the Bill of Right (rights the people have that the government can not/should not regulate).

    You said that there was fear that the British government would return and that the 2nd amendment was written to maintain a militia to protect against that. You were right about the fear of the British returning, and they did in 1812 (War of 1812). But it was the military established by the Constitution that fought the war, not a militia (militias are actually really bad for governments and no sound leader would design a government that would rely on protecting its interest by establishing a militia). In addition to this, the Bill of Rights cannot be understood unless you understand the politics and mindset of the people who wrote it. Many of the ideas in the Bill of Rights were developed well before its writing by British political thinkers. For evidence of this, look at John Locke’s (no, not the guy from Lost) Two Treatise of Government. In this document, Locke discusses the idea that governments are inherently bad and need to be kept in check, and that the citizens of any government should have/do have the right to revolution. This is what inspired the 2nd amendment. The Anti-Federalist literally wanted the US citizens to own guns as a way to keep the federal government from become tyrannical, not to establish a military because that was already done in the Constitution.

    Now, does this all mean that we need to have unbridled access to guns in the US? I don’t know…
    Do I feel that the US needs to look at how its culture sees/uses guns? Absolutely…
    Should every teacher carry a gun in a school? No…
    Should there be some teachers (that meet certain qualifications) that can carry guns in schools? Maybe, it’s a discussion that is worth having.

  5. RightFromYaad
    January 18, 2013

    Well balanced argument…I will keep and eye on you Grumpy Giraffe!

  6. explorethegap
    January 18, 2013

    I have no real statistics, but I get the sense that those who are the strongest gun advocates are also the ones who speak most loudly about keeping the moniker “In God we Trust!”

    This is an example of a certain human principle of seeing in the information/data that comes to us only that which matches our model.

    A second principle is that when one encounters a contradiction–which I label anomaly–we have a “definitional dissonance.” That is seemingly what Romton is feeling when he shares with this video. He is looking to the contradiction and human mistakes, to give justification for continuing to look to The Almighty Gun as Savior, the Second Amendment as Holy Scripture.

    The contradiction here is that the spokesperson for Christianity had an entirely contradictory view of the gun–which was the sword of his day. He stated, when about to be arrested, “Those that take up the [gun] sword, die by [gun] sword.”

    So people who DO trust in God, have a chance to speak out for faith values, rather than human values:

  7. romton
    January 16, 2013

    Well stated. Poverty is a huge motivator of much of this kind of violence.

    As a somewhat related topic, watch a video on a different perspective on how tragedy might be used to propegate political agenda:

  8. clairafication
    January 15, 2013

    Great article!
    As a student, I find confronting a teacher, and sometimes even asking a question, to be very intimidating, despite my normal confidence. I think that having teachers armed will make many students feel uncomfortable to disagree in the classroom, and may take away from the academic intimacy necessary for profound educational influence.

  9. Samantha
    January 15, 2013

    …I can’t believe Texas suggested having teachers carry guns. What you mentioned about teachers having bad days is immediately what I thought of, that’s a terrible idea!

    You’re right, a gun ban is not what is going to help this country move toward a better gun control solution. I was reading a post a couple of days ago comparing countries that had almost no restrictions on guns, had some restrictions (like Canada and the U.S.) and one that was completely banned. The one where there were hardly any restrictions had the least amount of murders, etc. while the one where guns were banned was where a disturbing amount of citizens were being killed by gunfire. It goes back to a criminal is not going to follow the law, when breaking the law is what makes them a criminal in the first place. Banning guns puts the law-abiding citizens at risk.

    Society needs an overhaul, and it will definitely take time. I am sick of the country thinking there is a quick fix for everything, when there is almost no quick fixes for anything.

  10. jcmarckx2009
    January 15, 2013

    Brilliant analysis. I am a teacher, and I always say that making me an armed guard is well beyond my pay grade. I love your line, “School is supposed to be a safe place. And what do we teach our children? We teach them to solve problems and conflicts by talking it out, not by shooting it down.” I think that is they very nexus of the problem. Violence begets violence, and it can continue forever unchecked. Let us instead, as you say, “deconstruct the value of guns” for generations to come.

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This entry was posted on January 15, 2013 by in education, politics, school, society and tagged , , , , , .


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