The Nation's Pulse

Shirley Doesn’t Jest

An Oregon high school teacher happy to take her guns to town.

By 10.10.07

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When some uniquely shocking piece of violence occurs, there is a tendency for the proponents of this or that approach to crime prevention to make noises about enshrining their notions in legislation.

The gun toters are pro citizens hefting arms to take the 'hoods in hand, turning the hoods from pros into cons. Law enforcement pros often vote con, fearing that civilians with arms will take the law into their hands, things will get out of hand, and more cons will become pros. The cons also vote con, preferring to be fingered only by pros and not ham-handed householders holding them in their houses. Your man in the street votes pro, even if he cannot actually handle his arms under fire, because he wants to con the pro hood at least wondering.

The other view favors taking the lead against crime by taking the lead from the criminals. Remove the weapon from his hands and the bully becomes a coward. They gun for all the guns, and they think they have a shot. Take away Elmer Fudd's Wesson and teach him a lesson; take Captain Black's Smith and you catch his .22; take a Philly mobster's Colt and his lucky horseshoe won't help him. If there is no piece, there may be peace. Make the rods hot, tell the gats to git, make the slugs sluggish, throw the gun slang back at the gunslingers until they have gone slinking away.

Then there is the third group, guys like me who caution against haste and deciding under the... er, gun. Right after a horrible incident is not a time conducive to making rational long-term judgments. On the other hand, that hands-pushing-down calming gesture can't be used forever. At some point, it becomes necessary to rethink our prevailing approach. In fact, the Talmud tells of many laws that were instituted because of specific events. For example, they made it illegal for a woman to walk ahead of her young child after one kid was kidnapped from behind his mom.

In the wake of the Virginia Tech shooter and the Amish massacre of helpless schoolchildren, one Oregon schoolteacher argues that current "safety plans" are anything but safe. "If somebody threatening comes in, you try to avoid eye contact and do whatever they say." That is the current strategy in place at her school district. Sound a little outdated? A lot naive? I thought so too.

She is a scrappy little lady named Shirley Katz, and she is not kidding around, despite having a name composed from two classic movie jokes. (1. The old Marx Brothers standby: "Surely you jest!" "Stop calling me Shirley!" 2. From Paradise Lost: "What do you call a woman who sleeps with cats?" "I don't know." "Mrs. Katz!") Among other modern appurtenances no woman should be with out, she sports an abusive ex-husband and a concealed-carry permit. Only the school district, which entrusts her with the tender minds of the children, does not trust her with the callused bodies of the adults.

She is going to court, a place she cannot take her gun because the judges don't trust her ("Bring your suit and case but don't pack"), to see if she can get a judge to school the school into having the judgment to trust her with bringing a gun into their place. That sounds like a doomed mission, equivalent to cold-calling Hillary Clinton to try and sell her a subscription to The American Spectator. Still, she is bringing an important message out into the public square; Shirley, I mean, not Hillary. The inner circle of elitists are not likely to buy it, but sometimes the public can square the circle.

Is she right? After all, we do abide by the gun-free concept under air travel conditions, though not in our air-conditioned abodes. I think the correct approach is that we do not relinquish the private right of defense unless the public sector assumes the obligation completely. In the airports, a police-state regime takes over and we have made a national compact to cede that portion of our autonomy. But only because there is conspicuous and comprehensive coverage of the affected area.

Unless a school system, or a college campus, is capable of instituting a very manpower-intensive police presence, they simply have not replaced the equalizing effect of a personal weapon. To be honest, I have not seen campuses and schools stepping up to that level. We need more folks of Shirley's caliber.

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About the Author

Jay D. Homnick, commentator and humorist, is a frequent contributor to The American Spectator.