There’s a scene in 2011’s Rango, where our titular hero is being fitted with his new “Good Guy” outfit, as befits his appointment to sheriff. He is asked by one of the town’s children to sign an autograph. Initially surprised, Rango draws his revolver on the child. Then, realizing that the kid only wanted an autograph, Rango hands him his revolver.
The child then proceeds to handle the gun in all the ways you wouldn’t want a child, much less an adult, to handle it. But somehow, in the logic of the NRA, the equation merely has to be about whether or not the person handling the weapon is good or not. That’ll be enough to keep him or her safe. At today’s benchmark press conference, the NRA’s first public pronouncement about the shootings in Newtown, CT:
What happens, though, if one Good Guy faces another Good Guy?
One of my favorite films of the 1980s, Rustler’s Rhapsody, actually addressed the question. In the film, Tom Berenger is a stereotypical good-guy cowboy, Rex O’Herlihan, who is drawn out of a black-and-white film and transferred into a more self-aware setting, an updated cowboy movie, but with the idea that the Good Guy now realizes that he’s caught in the same story arc, albeit in a different setting each time. All of the features of the classic 1930s/1940s Westerns remain, in that the Good Guy always wins the shootout against the Bad Guy.
Eventually, the Bad Guys also become self-aware themselves, and decide that the only way that a Bad Guy can kill a Good Guy is to hire a Good Guy to fight another Good Guy:
“Now hold on there little Buckaroos. You can’t be hearing language like that. Get on back to school. Obey your teachers and study really hard.“
And if the NRA has anything to do with it, at that school, there’ll be Good Guys patrolling the hallways looking for shooters, the Bad Guys.
But the problem is what’s going on in the head of the Good Guy. Alex Sietz-Wald in Salon:
The truth is that it’s extremely difficult for anyone, let alone a lightly trained and inexperienced civilian, to effectively respond to a shooter. The entire episode can take a matter of seconds and your body is fighting against you: Under extreme stress, reaction time slows, heart rate increases and fine motor skills deteriorate. Police train to build muscle memory that can overcome this reaction, but the training wears off after only a few months if not kept up.
Or, of even greater concern to me, is when you have armed Good Guys wandering around the campus, in the dark, in search of the one or two armed Bad Guys. It then becomes a matter of dumb luck that someone doesn’t get killed in the chaos that might ensue, or worse, when the armed police assault team arrives, the police now can’t differentiate between who is a Good Guy and who is a Bad Guy.
While not quite a circular firing squad, how that manages to save lives in such a situation is beyond me. In light of such advice from the NRA, perhaps the suggestion that we train unarmed kids to bum rush shooters makes far more sense, no? Of course not.
Arming teachers isn’t the answer. Scapegoating teachers isn’t the answer. Supporting teachers, making sure they have adequate security, an evacuation plan, enough teachers’ aides and a manageable class size is about the best anyone can do. For all of the stories of tragedy told over the past few days, there are also stories of heroism, of teachers shoving the kids into bathrooms and closets, keeping them safe and shielding them with their bodies.
This is what teachers do. It’s what they’re trained to do. It’s why they’re teachers. Arming them is not the answer. Supporting them is.
Yesterday, at our staff Christmas party, a colleague suggests that perhaps the idea of arming teachers is the right idea. For my part, as the school’s Union Rep, I try to gently suggest to her how wrong-headed such thinking might be, not to mention potentially harmful, to anyone involved. I also try to point out that in the midst of unmitigated budget cutting in an era in which teachers are derided as being overpaid, yet are expected to produce magical testing results, to demand that we undertake weapons training, when we’re still trying to maintain a semblance of middle-class living at home, despite furlough days and pay-cuts, is certifiable. Too many power brokers are content to cut those things necessary to achieve basic academic competencies among our students, yet they would somehow find the funds to pay for armed guards, or, absent that, weaponry for school staff?
Somehow all of that race through my mind to try to be eloquent enough to debunk my colleague’s assertion. But I also realize it’s a holiday gathering, and discerning quickly that my argument was falling on deaf ears, I was glad that the waiter showed up to cause the subject to get changed.
Yet there it was, in an El Torito, Good Guy turning on Good Guy. I suppose that this was what the NRA wanted to see happen, in order to obfuscate real issues with the nature of the American gun culture. My only hope as far as eternal punishment for the likes of the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre lies with this unattributed quote:
If the devil punishes all the evil people, doesn’t that make him the good guy?