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How We Should Talk When We Talk About Guns

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There will be one less present under the Christmas tree for 27 Connecticut families this year, one less child to hug and say "Merry Christmas" to. One less place setting at the Christmas meal. But what is not likely to go away any time soon is the reignited gun debate in the US and Canada.

Despite the inescapable emotion involved in such a tragedy involving the loss of innocent lives, both sides need to approach the argument in an unbiased and dispassionate manner. The debate needs to be depoliticized and examined at a strictly human level, where gun-related crimes have caused unspeakable horror and heartache. The children who died at the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary will never see their dreams fulfilled.

The anti-gun lobby and the pro-gun lobby are in each other's sights, as always. To the anti-gun lobby, having a gun readily accessible to the bad and the mad obviously facilitates gun-related crimes. The pro-gun lobby sometimes counters this by suggesting that such massacres can be avoided by arming more people for their own protection.

Had the principal and the psychologist who tried to stop the shooter had firearms, they may have prevented or limited the tragedy. A fair point, but the argument still needs to be addressed at a deeper and more human level.

It is based on the same type of reasoning that caused a proliferation of nuclear weapons among nations. The argument works as follows: guns are readily available to virtually every American citizen who want them, therefore we need more guns to protect other citizens. The result? Even more guns in circulation, with an increased chance they will end up in the wrong hands and lead to all kinds of tragedies, accidental and deliberate.

An extension of this thinking was in the report that a Grade 6 student brought a gun to school to protect himself.

Gun lobbyists seem obsessed with the rights of citizens to own firearms. In countries where guns are more strictly regulated, there can also be attempts to inflict mass killings on unsuspecting children, but few that can cause the lethal outcome of last Friday's Connecticut tragedy.

China suffered a mass stabbing at an elementary school just hours before the Connecticut shooting. There too a deranged killer walked into a school and inflicted injury on 22 school children of roughly the same ages as the Connecticut victims. However, none died. And that's the point: gun laws in China are so heavily regulated that private citizens do not own guns.

China is of course a police state and similar restrictions can never apply in the free Western world, but guns may nonetheless still be regulated here so they seldom end up in the wrong hands. Because no system can be perfect, perhaps security guards outside school buildings can be armed: an unsavoury but necessary measure.

Those who insist that such tightening has no effect should check the changes to Australia's gun laws after the 1996 mass shooting in Tasmania. There have been no large-scale gun-related deaths after those determined reforms.

American legislators need to consider more carefully whose constitutional rights are at stake, and realign their laws to benefit the innocent. The right of some citizens to own guns must defer to the right of all citizens to feel safe in what should be the safest of all havens, an elementary school.



People Who Want More Guns In Schools
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