Coleen Ritzer and Michael Landsberry: A Wonderful Legacy To Leave Behind
In any gun control debate, there is one question that will quickly strip away all pretense and evasion to reveal the true feelings and intentions of anyone answering it: do Americans have an unalienable right to self-defense? Anything other than a prompt “yes” or “no” speaks volumes.
Those answering “yes” are clearly on the side not only of history’s most influential political theorists, including Jesus Christ, but on the side of America’s Founders, the Constitution, and the Supreme Court–for at least the time being. Those answering no, or in any way evading or qualifying the question, do so because they understand that to acknowledge an unalienable individual right to self-defense erects a near-absolute bar to gun control schemes, to unlimited federal government growth, and ultimately, to tyranny, three things they want very much.
Last week provided two tragic glimpses into the consequences of those anti-liberty desires: the active shooter death of former Marine and middle school math teacher Michael Landsberry in Sparks, Nevada, and the razor knife murder of High School math teacher Coleen Ritzer in Danvers, Massachusetts, by a 14 year-old student.
Landsberry’s murder was committed by a 12 year-old student using his parent’s handgun. Shooting and wounding one student was sufficient to bring Landsberry on the run. Unarmed, he tried to talk the shooter into giving up the gun and was shot in the chest. The shooter shot and wounded one other student before killing himself.
Coleen Ritzer’s murder was not relating to a school attack. Her killer, 14 year-old Phillip Chism, was one of her students. One day after school, he apparently followed her into a bathroom, punched her in the face, and using a razor knife that may have been stolen from another class, slashed her to death.
School security cameras are said to show him dragging Ritzer’s body down the hallway in a recycling container. Following what was apparently a substantial trail of blood, the police found her body not far from the school.
Chism cleaned up, went to a movie and used Ritzer’s debit card to buy snacks.
The police believe Chism may have had a crush on the 24 year-old Ritzer.
There is only one policy that will not only deter, but stop school shootings, potentially before anyone is injured or killed: allowing willing teachers and other staff members to be armed with concealed handguns. However, there is a second, even more compelling reason for arming teachers: school crime, particularly crime against teachers.
Schools are essentially communities. Every kind of crime that occurs outside their walls occurs within. It’s well known that many urban schools are essentially criminal academies, but suburban and rural schools also have their problems.
The National Center For Education Statistics publishes yearly reports on school crime. It’s 2012 report is revealing:
During the 2007–08 school year, a smaller percentage of teachers (7 percent) were threatened with injury by a student from their school than in 1993–94 (12 percent) and 1999–2000 (9 percent), though this percentage was not measurably different from the percentage in 2003–04 (7 percent). The percentage of teachers reporting that they had been physically attacked by a student from their school (4 percent) was not measurably different in 2007–08 than in any previous survey year.’
‘From July 1, 2010, through June 30, 2011, there were 31 school-associated violent deaths in elementary and secondary schools in the United States. Of the 31 student, staff, and nonstudent school-associated violent deaths occurring between July 1, 2010, and June 30, 2011, there were 25 homicides and 6 suicides.
A 2010 American Psychological Association report adds depth:
A recent APA Classroom Violence Directed Against Teachers Task Force Report (2010) suggests teacher victimization is a major issue that deserves urgent attention, yet there is a dearth of research on violence directed against K-12 teachers…
Much of what is known nationally about teacher victimization is reported in the annual School Crime and Safety Report (National Center For Education Statistics) which included data from a variety of national surveys of students, teachers, and principals. According to the most recent release of this report, 11% of public school principals reported students engaging in acts of disrespect on a daily or weekly basis, and 6% reported students engaging in verbal abuse directed toward their teachers (Robers et al., 2010). During 2007-2008, 7% of teacher reported being threatened with injury by a student at their school and 4% reported being physically attacked; reports of threat and injury are highest in urban school, public schools, and among male teachers (Robers et al., 2010). Further Elliot, Hamburg and Williams (1998) indicated that 56% of teacher report not feeling safe at school, and 33% report being less eager to go to school due to threat of violence (Elliot, Hamburg, & Williams, 1998). Overall, these data suggest that a significant number of teachers experience victimization, and perceptions of safety suggest that rates of victimization may be higher than previously reported.
The rates of victimization listed in these reports, while startling, are not accurately representative of reality: they are far too low. Many threats to teachers are never reported to any outside agency, not for nefarious reasons, but because a mere threat is not normally a crime, and there are no universal reporting mechanisms. There is no equivalent of the FBI Uniform Crime Report filled out each year by every American law enforcement agency.
A great many teachers work for principals that do not see maintaining order as their first, or even their second priority. In such schools, students lashing teachers with the vilest imaginable obscenities are commonplace. Threats, assaults, and crimes of all kinds are also common. Some principals and administrators work very hard to give the public the impression that there is no crime to speak of in their schools. For them, what happens in the school stays in the school. A teacher in one of those schools or school districts knows that reporting threats, even assaults, is futile, even potentially harmful to their career.
The Landsberry case makes the classic argument for arming willing teachers to protect against the unlikely, but always possible threat of an active shooter. The Ritzer case makes clear that teachers face a far more common–though less publicized–threat of serious injury or death, a threat that also can be effectively deterred or ended only by the carrying of concealed handguns, particularly by female teachers.
For the time being, what happened in that school bathroom is not known with certainty. We don’t know if after being punched in the face, Ritzer was helpless, unable to defend herself against the razor knife Chism used to kill her. What is known is that Massachusetts law denied Ritzer even the possibility of being able to defend her life.
Armed teachers cannot–must not–function as police officers, responsible for responding to every potential crime. Every teacher carrying a concealed weapon must have the absolute obligation to keep their weapon concealed–invisible–and secure, and must expose it only if they, or another, are in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death. They deserve and need nothing less than the ability to protect their lives off school property law-abiding citizens enjoy.
By establishing gun-free zones, politicians uphold the Orwellian idea that all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others. Politicians routinely make their workplaces gun-free zones while hiring ample armed guards to protect them. They make schools gun-free zones, but hire no one to protect children and teachers, about whom they profess to care very much. Preventing teachers from protecting their lives and the lives of their students reveals that caring as only an abstraction.
In Massachusetts, it is highly unlikely that Coleen Ritzer could have obtained a concealed carry license as Massachusetts is a “may issue” state where the state may deny a citizen a concealed carry license for any or no reason. However, in 38 “shall issue” states, she could have had a license, and could have had the ability to protect her life virtually everywhere except her school, where as it turned out, she needed it most.
Is a teacher’s life of immense value on their own property, but worth nothing when they cross that property border? Does a teacher have an unalienable right to self-defense at home, but nowhere else? Should all teachers lose the right and ability to protect their very lives at work? What compelling governmental interest justifies it?
Maintaining schools as victim disarmament zones creates peril for teachers beyond the danger they face in public. Criminals–students or adults–can rest assured that teachers are unarmed, and particularly if female, unable to protect themselves. The 6’2” Phillip Chism could have had no doubt that he was larger and stronger than Ritzer, and armed with a razor knife, he could have his way with her. And he did.
Coleen Ritzer left a Twitter post that speaks to her character and to society’s loss:
No matter what happens in life, be good to people. Being good to people is a wonderful legacy to leave behind.
Coleen Ritzer and Michael Landsberry deserved better. Every teacher, female or male, deserves better. They deserve the chance for life that a concealed weapon gives them, a chance most have virtually everywhere but school property. They deserve the right to make that choice, unencumbered by the political whims of those that do not have their interests–or their lives–at heart.
Mike’s Home blog is Stately McDaniel Manor.