Tag Archives: guns on campus

IF I DIE IN MY CLASSROOM—a teacher’s ballad

I hope that right before it happens
I do something heroic,
but knowing me and how I panic,
I more than probably won’t.

I hope I’m wearing something cute.
I wonder about my hair.
I hope I look good on the floor.
I hope I say more than “don’t shoot.”

I keep on saying hope.
I hope, I hope, I hope.
But hope? I actually don’t have much.
I think it’s mostly luck—

If I have to die in class, I hope
I’ve just said something noble
that really made them think.
I hope I’m really quotable.

What else? I didn’t stay up late
to finish grading papers.
I made love to my husband instead—
I barely let him out of bed.

When I dropped my son off at school,
“I love you,” “I love you too”
is what we said. It’s what we say
so many times every day.

I hope my death makes people work
to figure out how to stop
the massacres. But if Sandy Hook
didn’t, my death won’t help.

I keep on saying hope.
I hope, I hope, I hope.
But hope? I actually don’t have much.
I think it’s mostly luck—

the upset student isn’t mine,
the unhinged parent isn’t here,
the disgruntled coworker is fine
(since his new meds he’s better).

When I lock the door and pull it shut
I tell my students that’s it—
that’s all I can do to keep them safe.
I hope I remember to pray.

I keep on saying hope.
I hope, I hope, I hope.
But hope? I actually don’t have much.
I think it’s mostly luck—

I have this badass dream.
I make myself a deputy.
I buy a gun. I take a class.
I shoot at cans.

I buy a fetching little holster.
I wear it when I teach.
I see the bad guy reach.
I blow him away. I’m faster.

You don’t have to know me well
to know how unlikely that is.
Much more likely I’d shoot myself.
Accidentally shoot someone else.

If I have to die in class,
I hope it isn’t soon.
I hope it’s me having a heart attack.
I hope it’s not a gun.


Two Wisconsin legislators started the week off with a bang by introducing a bill that would repeal the ability of University of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Technical Colleges institutions to ban firearms on campus. They are Republican, obviously.

Other Republicans have supported them by saying a gun is a tool the same way a smartphone is a tool. Let’s talk about tools. (Cf my friend Chuck Rybak on tools.)

Three Democratic legislators have now proposed a bill that bans concealed carry on campuses.

I think it’s a cowboy fantasy that more guns make good people safer, but I get the fantasy. I find it really appealing. Two of my favorite shows ever have Timothy Olyphant shooting all kinds of bad guys. If I could teach next door to Seth Bullock? Or Raylan Givens? Hell yeah, let’s arm the teachers and the students.

This photo is by Prashant Gupta. It appeared in this story: http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/tv-movies/timothy-olyphant-justified-time-article-1.1728226

This photo is by Prashant Gupta. (Click for story it appeared in.)

But you know what? None of my colleagues inspire me in that particular way. And my students? Well, actually–some of them are pretty bad-ass. If I knew for sure they’d be on my side….

Since I’m wondering who’ll protect me, should I arm myself? I looked up the requirements for concealed carry in Wisconsin. I’d need to take a firearms safety class. I’ve been thinking about it, actually–not because I want to own a handgun, but because I want to shoot one. I have a novel that has guns in it, so I’m curious.

But that’s research. In real life, I’m a dorky, middle-aged woman with poor hand-eye coordination. No one who knows me would feel safer if I were armed.

Oh–and then there’s the question of evidence. My friend Ryan Martin has a great blog, and he points out some facts

  • more guns = more gun violence
  • more guns = more suicides

One of the pages he cites is fascinating to me. It has a long section on why the estimates of successful self-defense with guns are probably way over-reported, but also this:

“The study found that in incidents where a victim used a gun in self-defense, the likelihood of suffering an injury was 10.9 percent. Had the victim taken no action at all, the risk of injury was virtually identical: 11 percent.”

And this:
“What’s more, the study found that while the likelihood of injury after brandishing a firearm was reduced to 4.1 percent, the injury rate after those defensive gun uses was similar to using any other weapon (5.3 percent), and was still greater than if the person had run away or hid (2.4 percent) or called the police (2.2 percent).”

(I plan to look up that study to read it for myself–haven’t taken the time yet, but I will.)

So if I’m paying attention to that, I get a very strong urge to start practicing using my rolling backpack as a weapon (I did mention I’m a dorky middle-aged woman).  So even though the UWPD and the FBI recommend running or hiding and only fighting as a last resort, hm….

(I need to keep working to get in shape so I can actually run, btw.)

Let me be clear about one thing–I think it’s morally repugnant to blame victims of violence for not fighting back. (I’m not even going to link to people who say things like that. Shame on them.)

In any case–don’t ask me about guns on campus.  Ask law enforcement officials. UW Police are against it. And if police officers are too liberal for you, listen to this guy, quoted in an article from Wisconsin Public Radio:

“…Rick Esenberg, president of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, said he didn’t see evidence of greater danger. ‘(Science) is really unanimous in showing that concealed carry doesn’t lead to any increase in gun crime,’ he said. ‘The debate is really over whether it reduces gun crime.'”

(Note:  I do want to research what he says about science & concealed carry.)



“[Esenberg] also suggested that campus authorities, as opposed to the Legislature, might be better positioned to decide on concealed carry policies for universities. ‘I don’t think you have to pass a bill about everything,’ he said.”

“I don’t think you have to pass a bill about everything,” he said. That cracked me up.  An actual libertarian kind of scolding repubs for over-legislating.

None of this is funny. Too many people have died. Too many children have died. But this guy is funny, and I turn to humor, because nothing else apparently works. And it’s not so much that humor works, but that it makes me feel better. I think nothing works, thus the general lack of hope.

We can’t work together to figure it out. People I love and/or respect  (sometimes both! really!) disagree with me in part or in whole about what ought to be done.

What I’m sure we’ll keep doing is disagreeing. What I wonder if we’ll ever do is work together to figure it out.

In the meantime, I’ll wake myself up, like I did this morning, with a poem forming in my head about “if I die in my classroom.”