There is no question that the issue of gun restriction and the means of ending gun violence are preeminent in minds across the nation. As we spoke about previously, the over reaction on one side of the debate is gun restriction – get rid of them and everyone is safe. On the other side has come the view of arming everyone. Oversimplifications of each side, but essentially the emotion behind each view. Neither is correct, and both are over-reactions.
Gun restrictions are simply inadequate. Banning types of guns will not make people safer, but it will make people feel – momentarily, safer. Because
1)Criminals don’t abide by the law
2)Restricting one type of weapon doesn’t prevent the mentally disturbed or the criminal from using a different type of weapon.
3)It can be argued that to a degree, a restriction will motivate some of the deranged and criminal to seek out and use a banned weapon as there will not counter force adequate to match or repel them.
4)How well has the ban on cocaine, marijuana, meth, and other illegal substances gone?
All a gun restriction law will do is make parts of the general public feel good. They will sleep at night feeling that they are safer and events like Sandy Hook and Columbine will not happen again. They will blissfully and actively forget the shooting sprees of Binghamton and just recently San Antonio (which had no assault weapons). They will actively disregard the Oklahoma Bombing. Until another event occurs to prove them wrong, and then the cycle begins again.
But the other extreme is no better, for the same ultimate feel good end result.
The suggestion from the National Rifle Association (NRA) is just as useless. Armed guards in every school is not a deterrent. Currently 23,000 schools have armed guards or security in them (as of 2010). That’s a total of 28% of all schools in the nation. These numbers have not prevented the insane events – or at least there is no data to argue that (either way) armed guards have had any impact.
At best, an armed guard can only react to a violent gun event. That may, or may not, reduce the number of victims. There is no sure way to know, and speculation is purely conjecture on how such a reaction might play out. Hopefully such a outcome need never be determined.
Of course there is also the question of cost and training. Where do these guards come from? What training will be required? How much will it cost to train and employ these guards – a police officer makes around $55,000 average, and in many cash strapped States and communities such a cost is prohibitive at least. Then consider the insurance that would be required for the guard and the potential outcome of their actions. That prohibitive cost just tripled potentially.
In effect, arming guards fails as a plan because
1)It doesn’t stop or prevent a criminal or mentally deranged individual from starting a senseless act of violence
2)It could be argued that some of the deranged and criminal may feel challenged and want to engage such guards
3)Gun battles, regardless of cause, are the last thing anyone wants in a school zone
Both sides need to slow down the rhetoric and consider the real problem – those that are criminal or mentally unstable. That is the true source of the problem, the gun violence is just the end result. Action based only in an emotional need to do something results in legislation and action that will allow some to again feel good but ultimately does nothing to create any real safety.
The question that both sides may claim is that immediate action is required. The fear is that another child, somewhere in the nation, is in imminent danger. An emotional response that parents across the nation have right now. But that is not the reality.
From 1992 – 2000 there were 232 homicides in schools across the country, affecting children from ages 5 to 18 [data from the National Center for Educational Statistics]. That’s an average of 29 per year, and no one disputes that number is too high. From 2001 – 2009 there were 184 homicides, averaging 20.4 (including 2010, the last year data was available the total was 201, and average was 20.1). On average a reduction of almost 9 kids per year or 31%. Good news, though everyone would prefer 0.
This total of 385 (or 21.4 average) compares to 29,000 total homicides outside of school zones (an average of 1705.9 per year for the 17 years of data available). While the numbers are regrettable, the point is that children are safe in school by and large. Safe enough that taking time to create a reasonable and well-planned solution is prudent. Such an argument won’t win any politician a re-election, but ensuring the long-term real safety of children should be more important we believe.
The choice is not a new one. After Columbine the nation was dumbstruck. The nation lashed out, targeting initially Marilyn Manson. It was unfair and inaccurate. It had nothing to do with the senseless act, and such an emotional action only served to distract the nation from the real problem, disturbed individuals acting in an immoral and unthinkable manner.
“The media has unfairly scapegoated the music industry and so-called Goth kids and has speculated, with no basis in truth, that artists like myself are in some way to blame. This tragedy was a product of ignorance, hatred and an access to guns. I hope the [news] media’s irresponsible finger-pointing doesn’t create more discrimination against kids who look different.” – Marilyn Manson, April 29, 1999
The immediate result was a media firestorm, which may have incited copycats. There were bans of music across parts of the nation. Legislation was enacted to make the public feel good again. Nothing was done to try to find and resolve the root problem. The net result brings us back to today.
Can a combination of the extremes fix the problem? Not really. Without addressing the symptom, the only real effect is perhaps a reduction in some of these events – less carnage and maybe less often, with perhaps different types of weapons. Hardly the kind of probability any parent would support without the impetus of fear for their children goading them forward.
The real question is why hasn’t there been more action that delves into some of the points identified by the Secret Service in their May 2002 report, looking at these types of tragic events going back to 1974 (proving this is not a new, but a growing trend). The report highlighted, among other things,
We need to have a national discussion, without the obfuscation of fear, that seriously deals with what is going on – from the media to gun control to parents interacting with their kids and more. Anything less, done with a speed to prevent sleepless nights, is just a cheap sell-out. Our children deserve better.