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Raffique Shah


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No guns in our schools

By Raffique Shah
February 27, 2018

While I empathise with the trainee teacher who was robbed at gunpoint on her school's compound last Wednesday morning—I suffered a similar fate at my home back in 2002—I do not understand why people are shocked by the brazen, early morning robbery.

If we feel schools should be sacrosanct, that bandits and other criminals should show respect for our institutes of education, perish the thought. Some parents, teachers and students have long jettisoned that notion by their misbehavior, and students' brawls captured on the ubiquitous phone-video-cameras are among the most popular fare uploaded onto sundry so-called social media Internet sites, providing perverse entertainment for people who seem to spend all their waking hours digesting cyber-garbage.

Indeed, "Miss" was fortunate that witnesses to the frightening attack were primary school students who generally do not own mobile phones. Had it been the ghouls at secondary school level, her trauma would have been posted for public consumption, complete with commentaries.

I'm sure, though, she was not the only teacher who has been robbed on or in proximity to a school compound in recent times. I would think that in keeping with the crime surge, large numbers of teachers and students have lost cash and other valuables to armed bandits who operate with impunity anywhere in this cussed country, confident that they will not be captured, far less charged or brought to justice.

Whatever statistics the police may produce to show declines in categories of serious crimes are bogus: many victims have stopped reporting such incidents because of the hassle they encounter ("Not this station, Ma'am, check the one in Wa-he-o-ho!"), of well-founded belief that there will be no serious investigations, hence no arrests. And in the rare instances where charges are laid, victims grow old and become decrepit by the time the matters come before the courts.

Note well that with respect to the only crime in which numbers can hardly be manipulated, murder, the trending is higher and higher.

To return to serious crimes invading school compounds, the biggest mistake we can make is to respond by arming security personnel with guns. In fact, even at the broader national level, we should not yield to the temptation to fight fire(arms) with more fire(arms).

It would be a decision we'll rue, should the authorities put guns in our schools and guns in the hands of gung-ho citizens who believe that in the absence of adequate policing, they can deal with the gun-toting criminals. Owning a firearm and even being proficient in using it on a range, in no way guarantees that the average law-abiding citizen would gain the upper hand if he (or she) is attacked by an armed criminal.

The criminal is intent on robbing the victim, and more frequently nowadays, killing him if need be, many times unnecessarily, so diseased is his mind. The average person thinks more rationally, and that could cost him his life. Worse, if the criminal is aware that the victim owns a firearm, he will shoot first, steal the victim's gun, then add other valuables to the loot.

An armed guard on a school compound adds to the danger students and staff members would be exposed to. Looking back at last week's robbery, the security guard might have been the first casualty if he was armed. Or, in an exchange of fire, others might have been shot. As it turned out, the teacher lost her vehicle and some other valuables, she and other teachers and students were traumatised, but no one was physically harmed.

In evaluating how we should approach safety at our schools, we should look no farther than the USA, where, following the Parkland, Florida, mass murder (reports say it was the 29th such school attack for this year: I find that incredible), a nationwide campaign has been mounted against that country's extremely liberal gun-ownership laws.

Led by teenaged high school students, the protestors are calling for more stringent laws that will, among other measures, consider the mental stability of applicants (the Parkland killer looks severely deranged) and ban private ownership of military grade weapons and ammunitions.

I often wondered why anyone outside the military would want to own a combat rifle (AR15, AK47, Galil, etc). With high muzzle velocities and ranges of up to 1,000 metres (but generally used in combat at 300-400 metres), these weapons are designed to kill human beings—not to maim or incapacitate them. Yet, such is the influence of the gun lobby in the USA, by law, any madman can own one…or ten, as did the Las Vegas mass murderer.

If there is one issue on which I agree with acting COP Stephen Williams, it is getting guns out of the hands of criminals. Stopping them at the points of entry is critical, since they are all imported. Imposing harsh penalties, up to imprisonment for life, for possession of illegal firearms, and enforcing the law, are crucial.

But I stand equally strong against arming ill-trained security guards to secure our school children. Our schools, like other institutions and workplaces, will be no safer than anywhere else in the country is. Fix security in the country first, and our children will be safe wherever they are.

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