A $10,000 Bonus for Lakota Teachers: How guns in schools are conducive to team building

A lot of people don’t know it but when I put together the No Lakota Levy group by joining forces with some of the business guys who were also against the school levy over eight years ago now, we had prior to that experience been mostly rivals. Several of them about five years prior were at me over a contentious real estate transaction—actually several of them and we were not on good terms. But we were united under a common objective—a real concern that high taxation would destroy our community, so we united against the Lakota school system to get things under control. In the course of that action we became pretty good friends and a lot of those heated rivalries fell by the way side. I was reminded of that experience as I stood before the Lakota school board on Monday February 26th many years after our contentious levy fights to speak on behalf of arming teachers with firearms. Many of the school board members were new, some had been there back during those No Lakota Levy days and suddenly we found ourselves on the same side of an issue—a desire to secure the schools before some copy-cat shooter sought to put their name in lights for eternity by becoming the next assassin of the innocent. It was a little weird but was a very positive experience.

It was a productive evening and I had the opportunity to talk to a lot of people on this issue and I couldn’t help but see a pattern emerging, conflict resolution often is all about bringing people together on a common goal. We may argue about the means of teaching children, or what the purpose of a public school is, but one thing we all are unified on is that we don’t want bad people to come into our community where our kids are and exploit a weakness at their expense. As I spoke a lot of those heated rivalries melted away and I only saw eager and sincerely concerned faces looking back at me—everyone wanted to get this issue right and that was truly a special moment.

As we were having a good exchange where two sides of a political divide were joining together to solve a hard problem a reminder of how vulnerable we all are to charismatic radicals presented themselves right there at the school board meeting. CNN star and 1st Congressional District candidate Samuel Ronan from Springboro, Ohio crashed our meeting unannounced and took over for an uncomfortably long period of time taking advantage of our mutually good graces to speak out against the Lakota consideration to follow Sheriff Jones’ advice to arm teachers in one of Ohio’s largest school district. Ronan is a very progressive young man who is trying to lead a youth charge against guns in schools. Only he forgot one main thing, he willfully violated the terms of speaking that night as specifically cited in board policy 0160 which states: ” Participants must be residents of the District, or be the resident’s designee and be introduced as such, and have a legitimate interest in the action of the Board. The Board may also recognize representatives of firms eligible to bid on materials or services solicited by the Board. The Board may also recognize any employee or student of the District except when the issue addressed by the participant is subject to remediation under Board policies or negotiated agreements.” Ronan wasn’t the only speaker that night against the CCW recommendation for teachers, but he was the one who showed a complete disregard for the rules of our community to make his point—which is precisely what a potential school shooter would do should they decide to attack. It showed everyone in the room how vulnerable we all were to bold practitioners of radicalism from their own sometimes distorted perspective.

To my experience, and it was consistent with that evening’s activities, firearms bring people together, not apart, and that was what was happening between me and the school board at Lakota. Compared to some of our past issues this new problem transcended those transgressions. We needed to create a culture at Lakota that would protect kids from the types of people who put ideology over logic and will take those next dangerous steps toward the destruction of lives. As I said to several people that evening, I would support in this case a bonus for teachers who sign up for a CCW. I am thinking of something in the $10,000 per year range to encourage teachers to spend time with guns, to create a group of peers who might shoot together on the weekends down at Premier Shooting in West Chester then get together for dinner afterwards. We’re not talking about teachers wearing guns on their hips and advertising that they are CCW holders. We are just talking about concerned teachers who want to become first responders in case some crazy person comes into one of Lakota’s 22 school buildings and seeks to ruin the lives of the people inside. As Samuel Ronan showed us, someone who doesn’t belong can easily walk into a school and manipulate their way past security with the type of sincerity that he displayed and have their way with our most vulnerable because as good people we tend to trust that everyone else is also a good person. We are never quite ready for some villain who looks like a normal person, and acts like a normal person, until it’s too late. At that point, it would be good to have a teacher in every hall in those 22 school buildings who could at least keep their classrooms from becoming an unprotected zone of malice.

The bonus of $10,000 would be specifically to help create a culture among a group of people who up to this point have not been concerned about guns. By asking them to open their minds to the idea, the bonus would allow them to participate in the sport of shooting so that when and if something dire were to occur, they’d at least be familiar enough to use those firearms proficiently. Just as I came together with the Lakota school board that night in what was a good feeling exchange, people who shoot together tend to form bonds of friendship that extend into all parts of their lives. I am very certain that if Lakota were to adopt this policy there would be peer groups of shooters that would develop, and they’d enjoy the exchange with one another. As a gun owner and frequent user myself I can report that this is an experience I have in my life that I know would transfer over into the lives of the teachers who became CCW holders and it would be a very positive experience for them. Instead of dividing our community, it would unite in ways that nobody thought possible, just as nobody would have imagined years ago that I’d have a friendly exchange with the Lakota school board. Firearms have a way of uniting people who otherwise wouldn’t speak to each other any other way.

Shooting can be expensive, so I envision that $10,000 bonus helping the teachers pay for their lane fees at Premier Shooting and the ammunition to shoot there once or twice a month with other teachers. And after shooting they’d have a little money in their pocket to do what the rest of us shooters do with our time, you grab a bite to eat and enjoy each other’s company in a similar way that golfing buddies do. Only with guns there is always a higher purpose to what you are doing, and it makes saying hello to that other teacher in the hall a bit more special, because they would be in a unique club of potential first responders in case a radicalized terrorist would try to unleash pain and suffering on our nice and successful community.

My urgency on the matter is that Lakota is more vulnerable than other places in Ohio—because it is wealthy, its large, and its conservative. There was a reason that the progressive radical Samuel Ronan who is a pretty big-time star on cable news decided to target Lakota for his anti-gun protest. He had no other business in the Lakota community, he didn’t do it in Mason or Springboro, he came to Lakota. And if people like him who are just a bit too angry at the direction of the world are looking at the leadership of Lakota as a place to discharge their aggression, then someone just a few IQ points south of Ronan might just do the unthinkable, because it is a giant soft target for such people. Personally, I don’t want to see that happen. I’m willing to put away my past grievances for the purpose of a unifying objective—and this issue of giving teachers CCWs is the best idea that I’ve heard in public education for years. And I will promise this, it will be a very positive thing that will bring together the whole community—and will make the teaching staff much better. Firearms are the ultimate team building tool. I understand that many people don’t yet have a reference point to build off of, because firearms aren’t a normal part of their lives, but once they come to understand what a unifying factor firearms are—socially—the magic of that team building will become obvious—and as a side result, our children will be much, much safer as a net result.

Rich Hoffman

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