One of the best aspects of Montana's legislative system is that it's over so quickly. The House and Senate meet for 90 days every two years, so lawmaking is less like an eternal struggle and more like a tennis match between people who haven't played since the summer before last. The only drawback to this approach is that the need for a new law sometimes becomes glaringly obvious when no one is in Helena to draft it.
Fortunately, our system allows ordinary citizens to propose such laws as ballot initiatives. Last week, Chet Billi submitted the first ballot initiative of the 2016 election, which would allow teachers with concealed weapons permits to carry guns in Montana schools.
Billi is a 17-year-old junior at Whitefish High School, which makes sense. What high school student doesn't wish his teacher had a gun? What with competing for grades, navigating the challenges of adolescence and planning for college, today's students cannot be expected to focus on learning without the reassurance that, should the need arise, their teachers can deploy lethal force.
Like many teenage boys, Billi describes himself as having "immense respect for firearms as well as a deep love for them." He professes less love for the government. In an interview with Sanjay Telwani of MTN News, he complained that after a school shooting, "The first thing the government seeks to do is take guns out of the hands of the very people who could have prevented the incident."
I agree. The whole problem with this country's approach to gun violence is that we try to reduce the number of shootings in public schools to zero, which is unrealistic. Instead, we should focus on ensuring that every time someone shoots people in a school, that person is also shot. Only then can our children feel safe.
Anatomy of a tragedy: Mr. Wilson is teaching geometry when he learns that an active shooter is stalking the halls of his school. Normally he carries a concealed pistol, but the government has forced him to leave his gun at home. As the cracks of shots draw closer, he instructs his students to crouch beneath their desks and wait for death.
Anatomy of a triumph: As the cracks of shots draw closer, Mr. Wilson instructs his students to crouch beneath their desks, draws his Glock 9mm and takes up a firing position at the back of the room. When the shooter enters, Mr. Wilson fires a cluster of shots—aiming high to reduce collateral damage—and kills the shooter instantly, or at least quickly. Eventually, the children stop throwing up and school resumes.
Wouldn't that be a better world than the one we live in now? Yet our government continues to indulge the fantasy that somehow we can construct a society in which no one gets shot in schools.
Such a candyland has never existed. Even before the invention of firearms, disturbed loners were bursting into schoolhouses and laying about themselves with axes or, in certain isolated and gruesome incidents, hayforks.
Did our forebears therefore undertake to ban farm implements? They did not. With the prudence of their age, they issued every schoolmarm a bowie knife and let their children learn how a free society works.
Sadly, that kind of common sense is in short supply today. Our contemporary dystopia stakes our children's lives on the kind of people who become public school teachers. Wouldn't we all feel better if we staked their lives on the kind of people who become public school teachers and apply for concealed weapons permits?
There have been 136 school shootings in the United States since 1990, but none of them were our fault. They didn't happen because there are 310 million civilian-owned firearms in the United States. They had nothing to do with the fact that, since 2001, U.S. manufacturers have gone from producing 2.9 million guns a year to more than 5.5 million a year. Firearms are a boom industry, but that doesn't mean we are collectively responsible for the actions of a few sick weirdos.
Making and selling millions of guns doesn't cause school shootings or even contribute to them. Those tragedies are caused by evil lunatics whose actions cannot be predicted. Guns don't kill people. People kill people, and those people can only be killed with guns.
That is why I support Billi's ballot initiative. We need to stop the rash of school shootings and develop a sane approach to gun violence—one that reduces the number of dead children and slightly increases the number of dead adults.
The good people of Montana need not settle for one-sided gun battles in our schools. Billi's ballot initiative finally gives teachers what they've been asking for since the days of Horace Mann: a chance to shoot back. God and the voters of this great state willing, by 2017 we can all stop mourning school shootings and start mourning school shootouts.
Dan Brooks writes about politics, culture and anatomy at combatblog.net.