Sorry Cadet Bone Spurs,

the only things I’m carrying into a classroom are books and lesson plans.

I suspect I might have been qualified to carry a pistol in the classroom while teaching. A 45 was my assigned weapon when I served as a Mortar Platoon leader in Vietnam, though I usually grabbed a “greasegun” from one of the tracks when we came under direct fire. In truth, I would rather have had anything but a 45 in Vietnam because it’s notoriously hard to shoot accurately for any distance with a pistol.

When I bought a Glock a few years ago, I took a class to refresh my skills and the pistol instantly felt right in my hands. In fact, I was more proficient in shooting practice than I had been with my 45 years ago. Having been put in the position of trying to kill Viet Cong for an extended period of time, I’m convinced that confronted by someone with a pistol I wouldn’t hesitate to kill them. I suspect most teachers WOULD hesitate. Few teachers are combat veterans. Hesitation will get you killed, which is probably why police sometimes kill innocent people or people who aren’t really a threat.

Despite the fact that I am accomplished with a pistol and feel comfortable wearing one while out car camping, I would never have agreed to carry one in school. I know just how dangerous they are from experience — especially for those who aren’t well-trained. I didn’t have to do too much weapon training to fear those who had little or no experience with weapons. It’s amazing how stupid some people were on the firing line with live rounds in the barrel of their rifle. They finally took weapons away from the engineers we were guarding in Vietnam because of accidents. In other words, loading and unloading their own weapons turned out to be more dangerous to them than the Viet Cong.

One of the scariest moments of my tour in Vietnam was when I accidentally discharged my 45 while clearing it in the dark right after we’d been hit with a hand grenade thrown off the front of a track. Luckily, I knew enough to be pointing the gun at the ground away from myself and others while clearing it. Everything I’d been taught said that gun shouldn’t have gone off because my finger was nowhere near the trigger, but it did. I can’t imagine the trauma of having that happen in a school setting.

Equally important, I have a pretty good idea just how many bullets miss their target, landing only God knows where. We fired an awful lot of bullets at snipers firing at us from the village without ever getting a confirmed kill, other than livestock we reimbursed a villager for. When somebody is shooting directly at you, you don’t always (like NEVER) take the time to ensure that no one is behind them that might accidentally get hit. Self-preservation is a really strong instinct, much stronger than common sense in most cases.

Despite coming under fire regularly during my tour of duty, I was always amazed at the adrenaline rush after a firefight. It took me hours to come down from it. Does anyone think that a teacher confronted with a shooter for the first time in his life is likely to shoot accurately? The most you could hope for is that the intruder would flee if they saw a teacher with a gun in their hand.

After 30 years of teaching, I would be terrified that a student would find it a challenge to get his hands on my gun just to prove he could. Kids love challenges almost more than anything, and it’s even better if it’s a really dumb challenge. I would probably be so paranoid about the gun I was carrying that no student would ever get near it, but paranoid isn’t a great state of mind for teachers or kids. I’d rather be worried about kids getting harassed by other kids or wondering how I could help a student who is struggling with his schoolwork.

7 thoughts on “Sorry Cadet Bone Spurs,”

  1. Your experience as both a soldier and teacher is so incredibly informative. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that you wrote this down. It’s a perspective that not many people have and is absolutely vital for understanding what may be asked of teachers in a scary, violent moment. Thank you so much for this, Loren.

    1. I’ve been trying to make this an oasis away from on this political stupidity, but I finally had to say something. I was damned tired of hearing this suggestion from people who had no sense of what it might actually entail.

        1. I’ve shared it here and on my facebook page, just not sure how I would share it “more widely,” benturn. I know a couple of better-known writers have also shared it on Facebook.

  2. Amen, Loren! Thanks for the straightforward wisdom you’ve shared here from personal experience; and ditto to Robin Andrea’s comment. (You also had me at the salutation “Cadet Bone Spurs” — or, as Benturn pointed out, “Cadet B.S.” — love it!) I agree that your intelligent, well-informed observations as a longtime teacher, a Vietnam vet, and a responsible, knowledgeable gun owner should be shared more widely — so I will be posting a link to this excellent blog entry on my Facebook page.

  3. Thank you for sharing this. I had wondered what someone with both teaching and combat experience would think of this idea. I am trying to imagine how much stress this could add to an already stressful environment. And you are right about students taking the presence of a gun as a challenge, not only to try to see if they could acquire it but in provoking the teacher to display it. Not all teachers work in friendly stable environments. I also agree that in an sudden life threatening emergency that panic and and fear make people unreliable shots with a pistol. You would regularly have to train as police or soldiers do, and what teacher has time for that on top of the full schedules they already have.

    This is one of those ideas that might sound great as a talking point but would run up against too many stumbling blocks in the real world, of which our president has little experience.

  4. I once witnessed a petty crime in a crowded shopping mall packed with Christmas shoppers. A man jerked a gold necklace from around a woman’s neck and took off running.

    It took her a few seconds to realize what had happened, and it took the rest of us a few seconds to realize what she was shouting about, and by the time we knew what had happened he had made his escape.

    I suppose someone who was watching for a crime could have reacted quicker, but those first few seconds of surprise will always belong to the Bad Guy. With a gun that fires as fast as he can pull the trigger, a gunman can do a lot of damage in just a few seconds.

    I guess you could train a teacher to automatically whip out a pistol at every dropped book or teenage outburst, but I don’t think that’s really a world we want to live in, either.

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