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Guns in Schools

AT this late hour violence in America - particularly in urban areas - has become far too prevalent and accepted. The inner-city culture of children and guns is an outrage; it is wrong that kids anywhere can easily find weapons. Everyone agrees. As Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan notes in the latest American Scholar, referring to the general tendency of the public to excuse what used to be thought of as criminal or deviant: "We have gotten used to a lot of behavior that is not very good for us."

But one place where every public official ought to draw the line on street violence is in the schools. There is no reason why, as the American Federation of Teachers noted last week, that each day in America kids should bring some 100,000 guns to school. The figures are corroborated by 1991 Justice Department studies.

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Last week those studies were tragically illustrated at Fairfax High School in Los Angeles. One student was wounded and another killed when a fellow student, carrying a gun because he was reportedly worried about gangs in the school, reached into his book bag while in class and pressed the trigger by mistake.

That society's ills can't easily be stopped at the school door is partly true. But as an excuse it is a tired one. It is no great insight that schools reflect social problems. The question is, what will be done? Something must.

Unlike streets, schools are discreet and controllable places. It is a sad thought that youngsters would have to "check their guns at the door," as if public schools were like saloons in the Wild West. But if guns continue to be found in coats, lockers, and bags, more inspections should take place. There is no place in a school for guns. None.

Children and teens ought to have the educative experience of living and moving in places protected from the excesses of the "larger society." Schools ought to give them some sense of the civilized. Taking away guns sends a powerful, right message to all - teachers, students, parents.

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