By Upamanyu Lahiri
What if I told you that school and college teachers targeted by the Taliban in militancy hit Northwest Pakistan and Afghanistan might find unlikely allies in Republican presidential candidates? Sound unbelievable? Consider this. Just a few days after Chris Christie supported the right to bear armor piercing .50 caliber rifles, teachers at Bacha Khan University in Charsadda, Pakistan, had their plea for licensed weapons for self-defense turned down. The University was the site of a massive attack by Taliban gunmen that killed 21 people. Christie’s advocacy for .50 caliber rifles was presumably due to the off chance that burglars may break into your house with machine guns, armors and tanks. If you are living in the US or any Western country at this point in time, statistically you are literally living in the safest period in history. There is no war within our borders. Those that we do fight are in far off lands. There are no major law and order issues like in parts of South and Central America due to drug wars or spiraling social and sectarian conflicts like in large parts of the Muslim world. It is true that the homicide rate in the United States US is somewhat higher than in other Western countries. But contrary to what Christie would have us believe, this can be brought down by having increased background checks which would prevent mass shootings by people with mental health issues. In fact, the rhetoric that many Republicans use about people needing guns to protect themselves and their families from dangerous people holds more true for a strife-torn country like Pakistan than it does for US. Had the professors at the university been armed, they may have managed to eliminate some of the gunmen themselves before security forces reached the place to flush out the militants. Many of the 21 lives lost in the attack may have been saved. Similarly, many lives may have been saved in the horrific Peshawar school attacks of Dec. ember 2014 if the teachers had been armed. In recent years the Taliban has specifically targeted educational institutions, in large part because the people here are mostly defenseless. It is terrible and not normal for children to be attending schools where their teachers have to carry guns. But these children are not living in a normal environment. They are living in a place where a militant insurgency group that believes that women should not attend schools and be keep behind a veil for life has declared war with the state. In such a situation, this may be the only solution to, if not prevent, at least reduce casualties in such attacks which are inevitable. Instead, school teachers in numerous districts in Texas and Missouri are allowed to carry guns to school ostensibly to “protect the students.””.
Ideally, in any country, only rational, responsible people should bear arms. In any normal society, not limiting the sales of firearms means that inevitably some will land up in the wrong hands and will lead to more violence. However, in the case of virtually lawless places like Afghanistan and Northwest Pakistan, the opposite is true. Here, the “wrong” people, the Taliban already have arms and ammunition and the government can do nothing about it. Here, arming the “right” people, the teachers would actually reduce violence.
So, the next time teachers in militancy hit regions of Pakistan want to request officials to issue them licensed weapons for self-defense, they might want to consider calling in Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Chris Christie to plead their case. After all, don’t they simply want law-abiding citizens to be able to defend themselves?