December 26, 2012If there is one thing you can count on in this world, it is the NRA's consistency in its message. The only answer to gun violence is more guns.
When the NRA announced it would have a "response" to the Sandy Hook massacre, I had hoped for a brief instant that it would say, yes, now is the time to have a sober, dispassionate discussion about the proliferation of guns and assault weapons in the this country.
Then during the blitz of coverage on the aftermath of Sandy Hook I saw this tired old Congressman come and trot out the same pat answer the NRA has always used.
This old guy said how different it might have been if the Sandy Hook principal [Dawn Hochsprung] had been running toward the shooter with an M4 (civilian model of the M-16 assault rifle) instead of her empty arms.
It sickened me to hear such a preposterous idea of a school principal getting into a gunfight in the middle of an elementary school. The most like result would have been that the shooter now would have had another gun and more ammunition.
But that was just the trial balloon. By last Friday, the NRA's chief lobbyist Wayne LaPierre had honed the argument to an armed guard at every school. Once again, meet guns with more guns.
Surely the United States could forgo some of its foreign aid and put a guard at every school. The president has the Secret Service, right? Don't our children deserve an armed guard at every school?
Let's see, ballpark number there are 100,000 public schools in the U.S. Let's say we get a guard and we pay him or her $40,000 a year. That is with no benefits, no administrative costs, no pension and these folks are super healthy and don't miss a day of work. That's $5 billion a year for one guard on a 60-acre to 80-acre campus. Well if the bad guy always comes through the front door, we've always got a chance.
Our school budgets are sorely strapped for cash as it is. We could write reams about the need to better fund our schools but not today.
LaPierre did say some things I agreed with. He said, "We can't wait. Now is the time for action."
He said we must not allow politics, or debate or personal prejudices to divide us." I certainly agree with that.
But of course he said those things after he had already decided for us how best to solve the gun violence that is occurring with ever more frequency in this country. More guns.
But he is right. Congress must act – I know, there has been no pulse in that body for years. But if Sandy Hook is not a mandate for a new and better policy toward gun use in the country I don't want to see what it will take.
Now I am not asking the NRA to change its spots. It never will. And most of the people they represent are hard and fast against any – and I mean any – discussion involving a national policy about guns.
But if we are ever to have a sane and rational approach to balancing the right to own a weapon the right not to live in fear. It is now. And the answer we know is not more guns because that has been our only answer we've tried.
We all know the statistics. Among the developed nations, the U.S. is the leader in gun-related deaths, by a wide margin. That's 10.2 deaths per 100,000 a year. The next closest is Canada with gun death rate of about half that of the Americans.
We think of Mexico as a violent country with its drug lords at war. Yet they are ninth in the world 11.4 gun deaths, and we are 10th in the world. The Philippines are 11th and they still have a 40-year civil war raging.
(click for larger version)
Now I know it will mean some of the people in Congress will have to find some iron in their backbones to convoke real and meaningful discussions on a national gun policy that will truly make us safer.
Otherwise, we are doomed to go on repeating the horror of the bloodshed of Columbine, Red Lake High School in Minnesota and Virginia Tech. But one clear thread runs through all of them: The shooters are all mentally unbalanced.
Rather than just post guards everywhere, shouldn't we do something about keeping guns out of the hands of those who shouldn't have them? If not, then we have to ask the other question. Who are the real crazies?
Managing Editor, Appen Newspapers Inc.