With the nation finally beginning to take the menace of gun violence in our schools seriously in the aftermath of the murderous rampage in Parkland, Florida, proposed solutions generally fall into one of two categories.
One solution being supported by the surviving victims of the shooting is a ban on semi-automatic weapons as well as the closure of loopholes in background checks, amongst other sensible gun regulations.
On the other side of the divide, you have people who have jumped on board with the NRA’s solution, the training and arming of teachers, a fix that helps the gun manufacturers who fund the organization sell more weapons and one that President Trump has endorsed.
Then there is a third solution, a low cost, low tech method of fighting against armed intruders that no one but Superintendent David Helsel of the Blue Mountain School District in Pennsylvania thought far enough outside of the box to come up with: a bucket of rocks.
Helsel testified in front of Pennsylvania legislators about his ingenious, albeit primitive, counter-terrorism strategy recently, advocating arming students, rather than their teachers, with rocks with which to repel any active shooters who may invade their classrooms.
“Every classroom has been equipped with a five-gallon bucket of river stone,” Helsel told the legislators. “If an armed intruder attempts to gain entrance into any of our classrooms, they will face a classroom full students armed with rocks and they will be stoned.”
Obligatory stoner jokes aside, the Superintendent describes the rocks as a “last resort” that would at least allow students in a locked down classroom to fight back if their classroom faces an active shooting situation.
Helsel knows that stones are not the most effective tool to use against a semi-automatic assault weapon.
“Obviously a rock against a gun isn’t a fair fight, but it’s better than nothing,” he said, adding, “I’m not sure why some people feel that it’s more appropriate to be a stationary target under a desk in a classroom rather than be empowered to defend yourself and provide a response to deter the entry of an armed intruder into their classroom.”
Closer inspection of the concept, however, does raise some important questions. Is Helsel aware of the number of rock-slinging Palestinian children who have been shot and killed by the Israeli military in another example of an unfair fight between rocks and guns? Will the easy availability of rocks in the classroom lead to violence amongst the students themselves?
After all, why bother smuggling in an AR-15 into school to act out your vengeful fantasies when you can just lean over, grab a rock, and bash the object of your antagonism in the head to accomplish the same end?
Republicans in the Pennsylvania Legislature will be happy to note, however, that Helsel’s idea is extremely cost effective and won’t require much in the way of additional funding for school security. Perhaps they can change their state song to “Let’s Go Get Stones.”