Somebody has to be the first to say it -- and I was, 16 years ago, when I wrote my first novel, The Probability Broach.
In that book, an American policeman is suddenly plunged into an alternate world where dropping a weapon in your pocket every morning is as ordinary and unremarkable as doing the same thing with a wallet, and even children carry guns.
Of course what I meant, writing that part of the book, was that children especially carry guns. They're little, not very strong, and they need guns more than big people do.
In the wonderful world of The Probability Broach, there weren't any public schools, and not only were administrators -- that is, the owners and operators -- of various private school systems not disturbed at the prospect of their little charges toting magnum semiautos to class, they offered courses to improve the kids' proficiency with them, just as their parents deemed proper.
The customer, after all, is always right.
Look: in our world, in the 19th century and well into the 20th, kids and guns went together like ham and eggs. Boys could be seen everywhere, every day, wandering the countryside with .22 rifles dangling from their grubby little fingers. True, times have changed, but only to the extent that it should now be something better than a .22 (the likeliest game being bigger and meaner than the squirrels, rabbits, and rats of an earlier era), and little girls should carry guns, as well.
Should anyone argue that these rifles and their owners belonged to a rural period of history, rather than the urbanized America of today, I'll concede, adding that this seems like an argument in favor of handguns.
The only thing wrong with kids bringing guns to school is that the wrong kids bring them, for the wrong reasons. Moreover, the solution isn't metal detectors in doorways, locker searches and seizures which make it tough to teach the 4th and 5th Amendments, or the mandatory expulsions for a year which even Rush Limbaugh advocates -- it's simply rearranging things so the right kids bring guns to school for the right reasons.
Everybody's basic, human right.
I know that all liberals, the majority of conservatives, and even many libertarians are going to have trouble with this concept -- once they awaken from the apoplectic coma it sends them reeling into -- though it wouldn't have troubled science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein (who turned out to be right about so many other things, as well) even 30-odd years ago, when he wrote Red Planet, a novel that concerns itself with this very subject. The same people -- liberals, conservatives, even many libertarians -- often have trouble with an even simpler idea: freedom works.
Any time, any place.
Consider: in Orlando, Florida, as we know by now, a massive increase in the number of rapes was halted and reversed by the expedient of offering classes in firearms-handling to several thousand women over one long, hot summer (see Paxton Quigley's Armed and Female for details even I had never heard before).
We also know, in general, that wherever ordinary people exercise the Constitutional right to arm themselves, crimes of confrontation diminish, whereas exactly the reverse is true wherever that right is narrowed or suppressed.
So I ask, why not take that valuable lesson to school where it belongs? Why continue to maintain the public school system as a sort of holiday camp away from reality, if reality is what we're interested in conveying to our children?
Unlike liberals, conservatives, and many libertarians, I don't believe the Bill of Rights begins to apply to an individual only when he or she reaches some arbitrary age of legal majority. In my experience, adults have just as much difficulty exercising their rights intelligently as children do. In fact, children seem to understand rules -- such as "No one has a right to initiate force against another human being for any reason" -- better than those who have simply grown bigger and older without getting wiser.
As long as public schools exist, they should be required by law to offer mandatory courses in safe and effective gun-handling. It is an historic fact that hoodlums, for the most part, lack the self-discipline to shoot well. So, over the course of time, they'll be out-classed -- and out-shot -- by kids capable of learning the shootist's craft, and the problem will be solved.
Or until people forget the lesson and have to learn the hard way all over again.
I do have lingering doubts about the schools' ability to teach anything -- let alone safe and effective gun-handling -- to anybody, and the real answer is to abolish public schools altogether.
But that's another story.
L. Neil Smith is the award-winning author of 19 books including The Probability Broach, The Crystal Empire, Henry Martyn, The Lando Calrissian Adventures, Pallas, and (forthcoming) Bretta Martyn and Lever Action. An NRA Life Member and founder of the Libertarian Second Amendment Caucus, he has been active in the Libertarian movement for 34 years and is its most prolific and widely-published living novelist.
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