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Why no clamor for guns on buses?

Posted: February 6, 2013 - 12:00am

Unless I’ve missed something, there doesn’t seem to have been a call to give pistols to school bus drivers.

Charles Poland Jr., the bus driver shot to death by Jimmy Lee Dykes in Midland City, Ala., didn’t have a gun. Instead, he blocked the door when Dykes stepped onto the bus Jan. 29 and demanded to be given a couple of children.

Dykes shot and killed the unarmed Poland, and then snatched a 5-year-old boy and ran to an underground bunker. On Monday the cops stormed in, killed Dykes and rescued the boy.

Thank God for a good outcome.

After the kidnapping, school officials responded by reminding drivers to enforce a 15-foot safety zone around their buses. That means they’re supposed to shut the door and refuse to allow adults to step on board, and to drive away if necessary.

But they still aren’t suggesting drivers or drivers’ aides be armed, or for armed guards to ride the buses.

I wonder why? After all, when an elementary school was attacked and 26 people – including 20 children – were killed by a gunman who violated all kinds of school policies by breaking in through a locked window, we immediately heard calls for everything from giving guns to teachers to recruiting veterans to stand guard.

How different would the debate be if, instead of a school, the Sandy Hook Elementary gunman had climbed onto a school bus – as Dykes did – and not only killed the driver, but shot 20 of the students?

Would there have been calls for putting armed guards on buses, giving pistols to drivers, perhaps allowing older students to carry guns?

Just wondering. Because we’ve now seen, once again, that the only thing preventing such a thing from happening is our natural aversion to harming the most vulnerable among us.

Some people are, in fact, more valuable than others, despite our high-minded protests to the contrary. That’s why the law, specifically in many cases, more harshly judges those who harm children, or the elderly – or law enforcement officials, or judges. We believe, collectively, that someone who would harm a child or a judge is a greater danger than someone who harms another random adult.

It used to be the case that such things were understood. But when we started having to write greater penalties into the law to punish people more harshly for, say, attacking a cop, we should have known that we were acquiescing to the degradation of society.

Now we’re seeing further evidence of the degradation as we look for ways to increase protection for vulnerable children, who rationally should be off-limits to any attack.

Nothing is rational anymore, it seems. So when we hear the call to start hauling kids to school in bright yellow armored personnel carriers, we’ll know the last shred of civilization has just been buried.

(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call (706) 863-6165, extension 106. Follow at www.twitter.com/barrypaschal.)

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