The teacher told me about a time he’d gotten his hand slapped.
We were at a conference for high school students. He told me he’d pulled into his school’s parking lot with a load of yard signs touting the political candidacy of a friend of his in the back of the vehicle. He planned to distribute them after school.
A school administrator parked beside him and said it wasn’t a good idea for him to have the political signs on school property, even if they were locked away in his car.
Indiana state law prohibits public school teachers from doing any political work on school time or while on school property.
A little while later, I mentioned the incident to some students at the conference. One of them – a bright young woman from Southern Indiana – shook her head.
“Wait a minute,” she said. “You mean you can bring guns to school in your car but you can’t bring yard signs.”
“Well, that’s Indiana,” she chuckled.
A few days later, the joke doesn’t seem so funny.
Once again, there’s been another school shooting in America – this time in Washington. A young man went to his school and apparently shot some schoolmates, including a couple of his cousins and a girl he had dated, before turning the gun on himself.
The girl the shooter dated died. So did another girl. And several others remain in critical condition.
Once again, before the sounds of the weeping even have died away, the gun enthusiasts around the country have fired up their propaganda machines, using the same tired arguments to “prove” that a firearm played no part in a deadly shooting.
They contend that, because the young man broke several laws before he got to the school, more gun laws wouldn’t make a difference.
By that reasoning, of course, we should rewrite the entire legal code. Because some people drive too fast, we shouldn’t have speed limits. Because some people steal money that doesn’t belong to them, we shouldn’t have laws against theft. And because some people kill others, we shouldn’t have laws against murder.
Only in the world directed and counseled by the lobbyists and flacks at the National Rifle Association does the argument that because a law isn’t infallible we shouldn’t have any law at all seem persuasive.
The gun devotees also try to make the argument that cars are much deadlier – and they play a deliberately deceptive game in the process.
They point to the number of people murdered with guns each year in this country – generally somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 people – but include all of the people killed in cars in their reckoning. A more accurate comparison would be to include all of the people killed by guns, including those who die by accident, suicide or in undetermined circumstances.
When the counting is done the right way, the numbers are close – more than 30,000 of our fellow citizens every year.
And, while the gun enthusiasts love to play games with some numbers, there are a couple they never want to acknowledge.
The first is that there have been 87 school shootings in the United States since hell visited Sandy Hook Elementary School and more than two dozen little children and dedicated teachers died less than two years ago.
That’s right – 87. We’re on a pace of nearly a school shooting per week.
The other number the gun crowd ignores is: The rate of gun-related deaths in the United States per 100,000 people is 20 times – 2000 percent – higher than the average for the rest of the developed world.
We’re number one when it comes to killing our neighbors, friends, fellow citizens and family members.
In most other contexts, we Americans would work tirelessly to find a solution to a problem this tragic.
In this case, though, thanks to the NRA, we take pride in running away from the challenge. We say we can’t solve a problem every other developed nation in the world has met more effectively than we have.
In fact, here in Indiana, we let the gun lobby ram through legislation that allows people to bring guns onto school property.
But that’s Indiana.
We Hoosiers won’t do anything to protect school children from gun-related violence.
Thank goodness, though, that we’ve protected our kids from yard signs.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students.