In the Wake of Newtown, Tennessee Goes for Its Guns

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In Tennessee, the state legislature is considering arming its teachers. It's worth giving some attention to those who are now putting for their plans. Here Evan McMorris-Santoro talks to Tennessee state senator Frank Niceley:


State Sen. Frank Niceley (R) told TPM on Tuesday he believes it's time for that to change. He plans to introduce legislation in the next session, which begins Jan. 8, that will require all schools to have an armed staff member of some kind. The current language of the bill -- which is in its early form -- would allow for either a so-called "resource officer" (essentially an armed police officer, the kind which most Tennessee high schools have already) or an armed member of the faculty or staff in every school in the state. The choice would allow schools that can't afford a resource officer to fulfill the requirement without having to pay for anything beyond the cost of the training and, presumably, the weapon. But Niceley said schools should use the wiggle room to train and keep on hand armed staff not in uniform. That's the best way to protect students, he said.

"Say some madman comes in. The first person he would probably try to take out was the resource officer. But if he doesn't know which teacher has training, then he wouldn't know which one had [a gun]," Niceley said by phone. "These guys are obviously cowards anyway and if someone starts shooting back, they're going to take cover, maybe go ahead and commit suicide like most of them have..."

"Look at it this way, you never see one of these whacko shooters go to a gun show and start shooting. They don't go down to the police station and start shooting," he said. 


The Southfield man killed by police after opening fire inside police headquarters Sunday was a veteran, described as a kind man who had lost the ability to speak. 

Harold J. Collins, 64, had been battling health problems for many years, including a tumor on his face, when he walked into the Southfield Police station on Sunday and without a word, tried to fire his gun on an officer behind protective glass. He was shot and killed by Southfield Police officers, but not before a Sergeant got shot in the left shoulder.

That was last month. And while you may not see "whacko shooters" down at the gun show, you do see scenes like this:

A chilling video shown in Hampden Superior Court today captured the moment an 8-year-old boy from Connecticut fatally shot himself with an Uzi submachine gun at a 2008 gun show in western Massachusetts.

The video, which showed the boy squeezing the trigger and the automatic weapon suddenly tilting upward and then backward in his small hands before he apparently shot himself, elicited shrieks from shocked spectators in the courtroom and the jury box.

Earlier Dr. Bizilj of Ashford, Conn., said he and his son Christopher, as well as Christopher's older brother, Colin, 11, had checked out the Oct. 26, 2008 show at the Westfield Sportsman's Cub and had a lunch of hamburgers and hot dogs before they decided they were interested in firing the submachine gun. 

Bizilj testified that his father-in-law, who was also along for the trip, shot the Uzi, then Bizilj shot the Uzi, and then Colin fired the Uzi. But the Uzi jammed for Colin and a "rangemaster" -- the person in charge of safety on the range -- switched the group to an even smaller "micro-Uzi" gun. Colin fired that weapon a little more. 

Then, Bizilj said, Christopher said, "Dad, can it be my turn now?" Bizilj said his youngest son fired 10 rounds, then the gun jammed. Bizilj said he was taking pictures and fiddling with his camera when he looked up to find his son was no longer in the viewfinder. 

He rushed over to find his son on the ground and put his hand behind him to pick him up only to find his head had been grievously wounded.

"I think you can imagine this has gone through my head a thousand times," Bizilj said, referring to his decision to bring his sons to the show.

When you see people using words like "coward" in a debate over arming elementary school teacher, you start to understand there is something more going on here besides the preservation of life. A man must have a code.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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