With so many school shootings in the news, it’s tempting to consider an increase in security on our nations campuses, including training and arming teachers to deal with a crisis. After all, it makes perfect sense to imagine that an armed teacher, a proverbial “good guy with a gun” could stop a “bad guy with a gun” before he could do much damage.
Danny Burr disagrees.
Danny Burr is a lifelong gun owner. Growing up in a military family, guns were as much a part of life as cars and bicycles. A crack marksman, Danny’s handguns of choice are a Glock 19 9mm and a Desert Eagle .40 caliber.
Danny is also a teacher at a small preschool in Alameda, California, just across the bay from San Francisco. Before joining his class, he begins his day teaching child development to a group of high school students in an adjacent building on the same campus. In his four years at the preschool, Danny has been through three lockdowns. During two of them, he had to hide in a dark room with a group of terrified four-year-old students. But it’s the other lockdown that, to this day, haunts Danny.
It started out as a normal morning. Danny’s high school students were away on a field trip, so he took advantage of the time to do some lesson preparation. From the window in the room where he worked, he could see his preschool students across the lawn, filing into their classroom where other teachers would watch them until Danny arrived. A few moments later, his phone rang. It was the school principal calling to alert him that the campus was going into lockdown, to lock the doors, pull the blinds, shut off lights, remain totally quiet, and stay away from the windows until told to do otherwise. After hiding for a while, Danny decided to take a peek out the window. To his horror, he saw two men with assault rifles walking in the direction of the classroom where his preschoolers were hiding. As Danny tells it; “As a gun owner, and caretaker of these small souls, my thoughts raced to ‘if I only had my sidearm, I could easily take both those guys out.’ I'd made that shot a thousand times with perfect confidence. That shot wasn't an if, it was a sure thing.” For Danny, it was a moment of utter helplessness and frustration.
But what if Danny had been armed? Let’s rewind and, for a moment, imagine that Danny had one of his handguns, loaded and ready to defend his students.
After hiding for a while, Danny decided to take a peek out the window. To his horror, he saw two men with assault rifles walking in the direction of the classroom where his preschoolers were hiding. Quietly, Danny opened a window. Lifting his gun, he took careful aim and fired one round. It hit the first gunman in the head and he fell motionless to the ground. The second gunman turned, but before he could take any action Danny’s second shot landed another fatal blow. Immediately, to Danny’s surprise, uniformed police converged on the scene, aiming their weapons in his direction. Bullets began to fly, shattering windows where he stood. Unbeknownst to Danny, the two gunmen he “took out” were plainclothes policemen who happened to be in the area when a report came in that someone two miles away thought they saw a person with a gun at a bus stop. Danny was no longer a teacher and a good Samaritan. He was now a lone gunman, a cop killer.
We imagine hearing a stranger in the house late at night. We take a handgun from the dresser drawer, walk down the stairs and blow the intruder’s brains out. Unfortunately, reality differs from fantasy. In the confusion and panic associated with a home invasion or a school lockdown, statistics show we’re far more likely to shoot an innocent person than we are a bad guy.
Three years later, Danny still shudders when he thinks about what could have been had he been armed that day. “Had I had a firearm, I have no doubt I would have taken those shots. They would have been headshots. I would have killed both those officers, and escalated a situation into an all-out gun battle, endangering every person, including 24 tiny little kids, and quite possibly ending up dead myself.”
Our lax gun laws have put America in hole. Parents fear for their children at school. Teachers are tasked with shielding their students from armed intruders. Many will not go to a movie theater on opening night. Health providers are under constant threat of attack. Inner city moms have their kids sleep on the floor and away from windows for fear of stray bullets. Terrorist organizations cite the ease of acquiring lethal weapons here. We are a society under siege from within. Common wisdom dictates that when you’re in a hole, you stop digging. More guns are not the answer. Good guys with guns are not the answer. Guns on campus are not the answer.
Just ask Danny Burr.