Skip to main content

The Journal Gazette

  • Kauffman

Monday, March 05, 2018 1:00 am

Trigger unhappy

Oath Keepers send students wrong messages

Nicole Berner Kauffman

Nicole Berner Kauffman has a journalism degree from Indiana University. She lives in Fort Wayne.

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Well, we'd be hard pressed to find a better example of this than the man standing guard at North Side High School with his AR-15.

You know – in case anyone tries to shoot up the school.

There's no question we have a serious and uniquely American problem where guns are concerned. Six shootings in K-12 schools have killed or injured 63 people so far this year, according to Education Week, which tracks each incident. And our numbers consistently are unparalleled among other nations.

But let's be honest here. An armed wannabe hero at our schools is not the answer, especially one who's a member of the extremist anti-government Oath Keepers – and has a criminal record, to boot. ABC affiliate WPTA-TV reported that he was arrested just last year for a fight that involved his use of a deadly weapon. He pleaded guilty.

If we're OK with this man's presence at any of our schools, we're not protecting our children. We're harming them.

Kids of today have never known a world without mass school shootings, but we need to be stressing that such shootings are statistically unlikely to happen at one of our schools. Some 100 Indiana Oath Keepers want to give them a daily reminder of potential carnage.

The presence of this militia, which describes itself as a group of current and former law enforcement officials and military veterans, compounds such school-related stressors as homework loads, social pressures and exams. Research shows that stress impairs memory retrieval, and it may even “hamper the updating of memories in the light of new information and induce a shift from a flexible, 'cognitive' form of learning towards rather rigid, 'habit'-like behavior,” according to an analysis of studies at

In other words, stress gravely affects how we learn.

Then there's the potential for accidental shootings. In January and February of this year alone, there were 261 accidental shootings (just in the U.S., of course). Those numbers rise whenever gun sales do. With Oath Keepers planting themselves in front of schools across the nation, it's just a matter of time until someone gets hurt.

Whom will the next accident involve? A teacher, a parent? A student? Your child?

It's not lost on me that this is a fear black parents have for their children every day. Let's ask them how much safer they feel knowing retired policemen are keeping watch over their kids.

This man spends day after day outside North Side, just waiting for a shooting, and that begs the question: How eager is he to fire his rifle?

Just how will he identify a problem that merits interference? What does he expect to see? Considering that his weapon has the same firepower as those used by soldiers and Marines in combat, he'd better have a damn good plan.

Like other parents, my husband and I work hard to instill in our 8- and 10-year-olds the value of resolving conflict without resorting to violence. We encourage them instead to find empathy, compassion and constructive solutions. Truthfully, we're rarely successful; they argue, poke, hit and threaten each other pretty much every day right now.

But, as parents must do, we keep trying. We know we're not alone in our desire to raise kids who someday will contribute to society in peaceful and meaningful ways. After all, didn't we as a nation just celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr., and his commitment to nonviolence?

How in the world can we turn around a month later and decide we're OK with brandishing assault rifles in the name of safety?

When it comes down to it, this local Oath Keeper is a stranger. A stranger with an assault rifle who's relying on intimidation and violence instead of seeking ways to better understand our complex problem.

Is that really what we want our children to learn at school?