Six-year-old Luis burst out of Tisdale School and ran blindly into oncoming traffic. A fourth-grader grabbed his arm and pulled Luis to the sidewalk. This is not the first time something like this has happened.
Luis has Autism. By Connecticut State Law, the Bridgeport Public School district must provide Luis with Individualized Education Plan (IEP), along with trained professionals who can implement it. (1) The city has been in violation of these regulations since 2013 when these new guidelines were passed. Luis is no exception.
His IEP required a maximum of six students in his classroom; he had nine. His IEP required assistive educational technology; he had none. His IEP required a highly structured environment; he was able to run out of the school into a busy avenue. His IEP required assistance with the toilet; he came home in soiled diapers. His mother made repeat complaints to the teachers, school and district. She demanded meetings and action. She was denied.
Luis(2) is one of many students in Bridgeport Public Schools plagued by bureaucratic stagnation and painful indifference of those responsible. The asymmetry in education between districts is profound. In 2013, Darien Public Schools were also found to be in violation of state special education regulations. Within the year, the special education coordinator for the town resigned and an action plan made. The state later commended the town for these corrective measures. Even, the Wall Street Journal reported on the town’s failures(3). Although future allegations of noncompliance would be made, media attention and legal resources keep the schools accountable and the students protected in a way unfathomable for families like Luis’s. (4)
This is not another rant about educational inequality in America. Those rants go nowhere because they attack surfeit issues rather than their deeper, more insidious roots. We should all have comparable educated not on the basis of some abstract ideals of equality, but on rights concretized in our Constitution. This is not a rant. This is a call to arms about our right to bear arms.
The second Amendment Reads, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” This Amendment often gets distorted and funneled into conversations around “gun control”. While gun control is under the Second Amendment’s domain and these conversations need to be had, “gun control” does not even begin to capture the true scope of the Second Amendment. The entire debate distracts us from the reality: as we scream across the aisle at one another, federal and local governments creep deep into the infrastructure of our lives and rape us of our right “to keep and bear Arms.”
In Federalist No. 46, Founding Father James Madison explains that:
To [the United States Army] would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence.(5)
James Madison writes in 1788, an era still reeling from King George’s tyranny of revolution’s reality. Madison witnessed a citizenry able to unite successfully against despotism. The “arms” these citizens used to gain independence (cannons, muskets, horses) may seem foreign to our modern minds, but damn oh damn how familiar to our timeless hearts is that desire for freedom.
Madison makes clear that the Second Amendment aims to protect this freedom and our right to defend it. When government institutions vowed to protect us become the threat themselves, the Second Amendment saves us. Madison saw the passion and power of the people insurmountable to any federal force. He writes:
It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops. Those who are best acquainted with the last successful resistance of this country against the British arms, will be most inclined to deny the possibility of it.
Look at what we did to the Brits, Madison says. Just try to trample on our freedom. Just try. Bring. It. On.
In 2018, some things are different. Boys walk into schools with AK47s to kill children. Neighborhood watchers shoot kids wearing hoodies. Judges and juries acquit cops of murder. Paradoxically, American media and politics fixates on two major threats:
1. The immediate threat of gun violence from fellow citizens
2. The completely abstract and distant threat of cyber security
The first point focuses on our ability to physically protect ourselves against proximate threats, while the second demonstrates that those threats and methods of protection are trivial and archaic compared to the unfathomably massive issue of digital destruction. Our conversations center around the shiny, shiny guns, while so many of us are left defenseless. What good is a rifle against a nuclear warhead? What can a pistol do against a national security hack? The relevant conversation is beyond physical threat. Guns act as adult pacifiers to soothe our fear for the much more real threat to our information.
Modern injustices are faceless, distant, less obvious than during Madison’s days of tar and feathering. Especially in our technologically-advanced and information-centric era, the government's greatest weapon of suppression is ignorance, and thus our best protection against tyranny is education. We have a constitutional right to know things like our constitutional rights, so we can wield them when necessary. Poor education leaves citizens defenseless. They bear nothing but their crosses, day in, day out, casualties of a war they knew nothing about.
The actual name of the student has been changed for privacy purposes. The full court transcript of Luis’s story can be found here: http://cca-ct.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Bridgeport-Special-Education-Failures-August-2015.pdf