Robert Anson Heinlein wrote, “An armed society is a polite society.” He was envisioning a world where people would carry sidearms openly and would be trained to handle them. In March 2018, Florida’s governor signed a bill that would allow selected instructors in a school to be armed. The idea behind the bill is to give those in authority at the school the ability to defend the children and unarmed members of the school staff. This is not the first time that such an idea has been advanced.
Who Should Bear Arms
The text of the second amendment states, “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” From the wording of this amendment it is fairly certain that, like Mr. Heinlein, our founding fathers were thinking of an orderly use of firearms. Since the Colonies were a rough, wild place to live in those days, it would have been dangerous for households not to have some means of defense. No doubt, defense is the thought running through current legislators and parents’ minds; the means to stop the shooter before he or she can cause extensive, deliberate damage.
Potential for Misguided Application
The key word in the 2nd amendment is “well-regulated.” Exactly what those regulations should be are not spelled out, but the colonists were too familiar with being required to accommodate English soldiers by boarding them in their homes and putting up with their behavior. No doubt some of them were well-behaved, but some were beyond boorish. Which brings us to an incident in more modern times.
Shot for Incompetent
Sadly, self-defense and appropriate are words that are too often open to interpretation. Nicholas Dagostino is alleged to have taken a misogynistic view of women and held an especial prejudice against women drivers. In fact, he was so incensed with them that there are two known instances where he shot women for “pulling into his lane.” He further stated that one of the women had struck his vehicle. It is suggested that he has fired on five women drivers. His attorney says that the police have overstated Dagostino’s mental attitude but has agreed that his client “needs mental help.”
Balancing Defense and Safety
Robert Heinlein, who was exceptionally old-school in much of his thinking, probably envisioned an idealistic wild west where rudeness could be responded to with pistols at dawn. The reality might look a little different. Not only do we have the example of Mr. Dagostino’s response, a close look at history reveals that Andrew Jackson had a habit of inviting political rivals to pistols at dawn, sometimes with devastating effect. While giving some teeth to the guardians of our young isn’t the worst idea ever, and the new regulation does specify weapons training, it raises other questions such as psychological readiness for defense and keeping the weapons allowed to the instructors away from curious juveniles.