Two months later, and I’m still thinking about those teachers and children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.  I guess a lot of other people are thinking about them too.

People in the gun industry, for instance, found the shootings to be a kind of perverse marketing device. Before that, assault rifle sales at Wal-Mart and other gun dealers were already brisk. Now they can hardly keep up with the demand.

Several states are discussing putting guns in the hands of teachers and principals. In the little town of Harold, just up the road from Wichita Falls, some teachers are already packing. School boards in Arlington, Cleburne, and elsewhere are considering it. Gun classes are filling with teachers and school bus drivers.

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How does the song go? “There’s something happening here / What it is ain’t exactly clear.”

I want kids protected too. But is arming teachers the answer? Arming ourselves with assault rifles? What’s next?

What if we could see what happened, in Newtown and Columbine and too many other places, in a slightly larger context? Yes, the shining faces of those 20 children broke my heart. But so did the pictures I’ve seen of Pakistani children killed by drone missile attacks ordered by our president, kids about the same age as those in Newtown.

I thought about how we’ve been doing this for a long time, clear back to Vietnam: routinely killing children and other civilians around the world.  Now we find ourselves in Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia. What’s it for? Does anyone recall or care that even before our invasion of Iraq, our sanctions there resulted in the deaths of half a million children younger than five?  Or that then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright calmly remarked, “The price was worth it”?

On Inauguration Day, as Barack Obama placed his hand on a Bible that had belonged to Martin Luther King Jr., his drones were finishing a four-day mission in Yemen that killed 14 people.–

Since the drone program began under George W. Bush, hundreds of civilians have died, including at least 176 children just in Pakistan. Medea Benjamin of CodePink recently led a delegation to Pakistan to see the results firsthand. People there told her how drones were causing widespread psychological trauma, especially among children. “Parents fear sending their children to school; people are afraid to attend weddings, funerals, or other community gatherings,” she reported.

Obama has assumed the power to kill anyone, including American citizens, just on his say-so. Yet there he was, wiping away tears for those who died in Newtown.

Does he weep for the children massacred by his drones or our military? What about the rest of us?  Do we believe that parents in distant countries love their children less than we do ours, grieve less profoundly for them?

Most other countries now see us as one of the leading purveyors of violence in the world. Thomas Jefferson and our Bill of Rights are famous. But these days we’re equally known for CIA black sites, Guantanamo, and pre-emptive invasion. And we’re known everywhere through the photographs from Abu Ghraib.

Had the children at Sandy Hook lived to maturity, is it unreasonable to suppose that we might have sent them off to some needless, distant war to kill others and their children? Or to think that those who made it home, traumatized and broken, to few jobs and little support, might, like too many returning veterans of today, have taken their own lives?

Well, what do I know? Maybe the answer is more assault rifles.  Maybe it’s letting teachers strut around their classrooms with a pointer and a gun.

But wouldn’t that be a kind of surrender, a decision to raise our kids not in a land that nurtures charity and compassion but in one firmly rooted in violence and fear?

Surely we owe those children — not just the ones at Sandy Hook, but everywhere — something better. Better than fisticuffs over gun rights and a reversion to some childish cowboy code. If that’s the best we can offer our sons and daughters, then I truly believe we will produce more deranged killers, not fewer.

The “better angels of our nature” are easy enough to see, if we care to stop fighting for a minute and look: They’re in the faces of those children.  And in the smiling, brave eyes of their teachers. If we can’t choose peace for ourselves, here and around the world, then please, God, let us choose it for them.

Grayson Harper is a Fort Worth artist and writer.



    Published Feb 2013

    Emmy-winning journalist, Shad Olson, explores the controversy over U.S. drone policy, both at home and abroad.

    While technological sky supremacy gives America strategic superiority on the battlefield, the prospect of drone proliferation over U.S. cities is causing concern about loss of privacy, an end to Habeas Corpus and judicial due process and the destruction of Constitutional rights.

    South Dakota U.S. Senator John Thune and former U.S. Senate candidate, Sam Kephart share their views about the consequences of domestic drone deployment in the fight against terrorism.

    Originally aired on KNBN-TV, (NBC) NewsCenter1, Rapid City, South Dakota in February 2013.

  2. “teachers strutting around their classrooms with guns” Really, Grayson? Strutting? I guess with a Mac 10 tucked into their pants or a Sig M400 hanging around their neck? How about some camo face paint and some night-vision goggles, too? You got off to a pretty good start with your treatise, and I was getting interested, but your credibility did a face-plant with that rubbish.

  3. An unarmed man may be attacked with much greater confidence than an armed man. With that being said…

    Fact: In 1994, before the Federal “assault weapons ban,” you were eleven (11) times more likely to be beaten to death than to be killed by an “assault weapon.”

    Fact: Guns prevent an estimated 2.5 million crimes a year or 6,849 every day. Often the gun is never fired and no blood (including the criminal’s) is shed.

    Fact: Every year, people in the United States use guns to defend themselves against criminals an estimated 2,500,000 times – more than 6,500 people a day, or once every 13 seconds. Of these instances, 15.6% of the people using firearms defensively stated that they “almost certainly” saved their lives by doing so.

    Fact: 54% of these deaths are suicides (80% in Canada). Numerous studies have shown that the presence or absence of a firearm does not change the overall (i.e., gun plus non-gun) suicide rate.

    Fact: Guns are used for self-defense 2,500,000 times a year in the United States.

    • 71% of gunshot victims had previous arrest records.
    • 64% had been convicted of a crime.
    • Each had an average of 11 prior arrests.62,63
    • 63% of victims have criminal histories and 73% of the time they know their assailant (twice as often as victims without criminal histories).

    In 1911, Turkey established gun control. Subsequently, from 1915 to 1917, 1.5-million Armenians, deprived of the means to defend themselves, were rounded up and killed.

    In 1929, the Soviet Union established gun control. Then, from 1929 to 1953, approximately 20-millon dissidents were rounded up and killed.

    In 1938 Germany established gun control. From 1939 to 1945 over 13-million Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, mentally ill, union leaders, Catholics and others, unable to fire a shot in protest, were rounded up and killed.

    In 1935, China established gun control. Subsequently, between 1948 and 1952, over 20-million dissidents were rounded up and killed.

    In 1956, Cambodia enshrined gun control. In just two years (1975-1977) over one million “educated” people were rounded up and killed.

    In 1964, Guatemala locked in gun control. From 1964 to 1981, over 100,000 Mayan Indians were rounded up and killed as a result of their inability to defend themselves.

    In 1970, Uganda embraced gun control. Over the next nine years over 300,000 Christians were rounded up and killed.

    Over 56-million people have died because of gun control in the last century.

    “Passing a law like the assault weapons ban is a symbolic, purely symbolic move… Its only real justification is not to reduce crime but to desensitize the public to the regulation of weapons in preparation for their ultimate confiscation.” – Charles Krauthammer Syndicated Columnist The Washington Post, April 5, 1996

    All Quotes are from Gun Facts by Guy Smith 2011

    • Chris, the “2.5 million” survey by Kleck has been discredited. It’s probably off by some millions. Check the stats from the National Crime Victims Survey. I’m happy to quote stats with you if you think it’s meaningful. Of 178 countries, the U.S. is ranked No. 1 in the number of privately owned guns. The number of gun deaths in the U.S. per 100,000 people is 10.3, compared with 3 in France, 1.47 in Sweden, 1.45 in Denmark, and .25 in the U.K. You quote the usual argument that seems to show a connection between gun control and subsequent pogroms in a number of countries, such as the rounding up of Jews in Germany from ’39 to ’45. Gun control has very little to do with the build up of tyrannies, such as that of Hitler, Pol Pot or Stalin. But even if it did, do you really believe that all it would have taken to hold off the German juggernaut was a few Jewish homeowners with handguns? I gather you are anxious to be ready for something similar in this country. However, you might want to ponder this as you prepare for Armageddon: Check out what happened to David Koresh–burned to death along with all the members of his clan in Waco a few years back. Men, women and children, all armed to the teeth. More recently, consider the cop, Chris Dorner, who, after a killing spree, was burned to death in a cabin in Colorado. Do you see a connection here? Koresh was an amateur. But Dorner was a highly trained killer–a champion in the use of weapons and tactics. And look what it got him. The idea that you or any regular Joes, armed with assault weapons, would stand an iota of a chance against cops or the U.S. government is a fantasy. It’s a boy’s fantasy, rooted in the Alamo and George Washington crossing the Delaware. What are you going to do? Are you going to organize a bunch of Walmart shoppers and build a little fort? What about those drones flying overhead? Can you hold them off, too? Look, obviously, I think things are getting pretty bad or I wouldn’t have written this piece. But if you want a more humane society and a truer democracy, I suggest you get busy and organize for that. Join the Occupy Movement. The only chance we have is through non-violent civil disobedience. But that, too, has its risks and it’s hard work, isn’t it? Much easier and sexier to just buy an assault rifle, hunker down and wait for the end. Good luck.

      • I wish you luck with your paint brush and your typewriter when we have Chinese/North Korean/Iranian/___ troops with boots on the ground in this country.
        Be it far from me to defend those without the gumption to pick up a gun and fight for themselves, but I would do it just to protect your right to say so.
        As the old saying goes, ‘If you can read, thank a teacher. If you can read English, thank a soldier.”

  4. I can’t emphasize this enough: Our forefathers knew EXACTLY what they were talking about when they drafted the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. All of them, coincidentally, were staunch gun supporters as well as brilliant men of individual qualities.
    That said, GUNS ARE NOT THE PROBLEM… I’ve never once been assaulted by any of mine. Now some mentally unstable fool, that’s the problem! Be it for delusions of grandeur or the incapacity to work for what they want, man has always killed man. Guns don’t scare me as much as desperate escalation does.

    • Yes, I’m sure our forefathers had assault rifles in mind. Why stop there? How ’bout surface to air missiles or tanks? Your weapons may not have assaulted you, but I wonder if your obsession with them has stunted your growth? There’s two ways to be in this world: You can act out of love or act out of fear. It’s up to you, bud.

      • Our forefathers did have all military armament in mind. Some who could afford them owned cannons. That would be the equivalent of field artillery today.

        They used the word arms instead of musket so that the right and its intended purpose would be preserved.

  5. Ms. Vulgaris, acceptance and application of the suggestion that ” it’s in giving that we recieve” isn’t childish cowardice. Jesus is not a coward. He gives us reliable advice for both girls and boys. Mr. Dugas, you are right as rain when you proclaim guns are not the problem. Childish flakes and Tea-Bagging pecker-woods are the problem. Both of these pest are more plentifull than fire-ants here in Texas. My bird dog Roxy is smarter, she smells better, and she is a more gracious American than all gun show enthusiast combined. I’m putting you on my prayer list.

  6. Arming teachers is not the answer; holding parents accountable for the actions of their children is a better idea. Children are not being taught to behave, and that is a huge problem. The really bad ones end up as criminals. Well behaved kids don’t turnout to be criminals.

    That said, in war many people die, not just the enemy. Also, blame the enemy for working among the general populace and don’t forget they brought the war to us. It is much preferred to fight on their ground and have their people die rather than ours.