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How We Should Talk When We Talk About Guns

Posted: 12/24/2012 5:52 pm

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.

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  • Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas)

    "I wish to God she had had an m-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out ... and takes him out and takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids," Gohmert said of slain principal Dawn Hochsprung on <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/16/louie-gohmert-guns_n_2311379.html"><em>Fox News Sunday</em></a>. He argued that shooters often choose schools because they know people will be unarmed.

  • Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R)

    "If people were armed, not just a police officer, but other school officials that were trained and chose to have a weapon, certainly there would be an opportunity to stop an individual trying to get into the school," he <a href="http://www.wtop.com/610/3162096/Gov-Is-it-time-to-arm-school-officials">told WTOP's "Ask the Governor" show</a> Tuesday, warning that Washington may respond to such a policy with a "knee-jerk reaction."

  • Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) & State Sen. Frank Niceley (R)

    Gov. Haslam says he will consider a Tennessee plan to secretly arm and train some teachers, <a href="http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/12/tennessee-armed-teachers.php">TPM reports</a>. The legislation will be introduced by State Sen. Frank Niceley (R) next month. "Say some madman comes in. The first person he would probably try to take out was the resource officer. But if he doesn’t know which teacher has training, then he wouldn’t know which one had [a gun]," Niceley told TPM. "These guys are obviously cowards anyway and if someone starts shooting back, they’re going to take cover, maybe go ahead and commit suicide like most of them have."

  • Oklahoma State Rep. Mark McCullough (R) & State Sen. Ralph Shortey (R)

    State Rep. Mark McCullough (R) <a href="http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=336&articleid=20121217_336_0_OKLAHO168827">told the Tulsa World</a> he plans to file legislation that would bring guns into schools, calling their absence "irresponsible." “It is incredibly irresponsible to leave our schools undefended – to allow mad men to kill dozens of innocents when we have a very simple solution available to us to prevent it," he said. "I’ve been considering this proposal for a long time. In light of the savagery on display in Connecticut, I believe it’s an idea whose time has come." Sen. Ralph Shortey (R) told the Tulsa World that teachers should carry concealed weapons at school events. "Allowing teachers and administrators with concealed-carry permits the ability to have weapons at school events would provide both a measure of security for students and a deterrent against attackers," he said.

  • Florida State Rep. Dennis Baxley (R)

    Baxley, who once sponsored Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground law, <a href="http://politics.heraldtribune.com/2012/12/17/florida-legislator-allow-guns-in-schools/">told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune </a>that keeping guns out of schools makes them a target for attacks. “We need to be more realistic at looking at this policy," he said. "In our zealousness to protect people from harm we’ve created all these gun-free zones and what we’ve inadvertently done is we’ve made them a target. A helpless target is exactly what a deranged person is looking for where they cannot be stopped.”

  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R)

    At a Tea Party event Monday night, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/18/rick-perry-guns-in-schools_n_2322185.html">Perry praised a Texas school system that allows some staff to carry concealed weapons to work</a> and encouraged local school districts to make their own policies.

  • Minnesota State Rep. Tony Cornish (R)

    Cornish <a href="http://www.kdlt.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=22736&Itemid=57">plans to introduce legislation that would allow teachers to arm themselves</a>, according to the AP.

  • Oregon State Rep. Dennis Richardson (R)

    In an email <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/17/oregon-state-rep-dennis-richardson-teacher-guns-stopped-connecticut-shooting_n_2317444.html?ir=Education">obtained by Gawker</a> and excerpted below, Richardson tells three superintendents that he could have saved lives had he been armed and in Sandy Hook on Friday: <blockquote>If I had been a teacher or the principal at the Sandy Hook Elementary School and if the school district did not preclude me from having access to a firearm, either by concealed carry or locked in my desk, most of the murdered children would still be alive, and the gunman would still be dead, and not by suicide. ... [O]ur children's safety depends on having a number of well-trained school employees on every campus who are prepared to defend our children and save their lives?</blockquote>

  • Former Education Secretary Bill Bennett

    "And I'm not so sure -- and I'm sure I'll get mail for this -- I'm not so sure I wouldn't want one person in a school armed, ready for this kind of thing," Bennett, who served as education secretary under Ronald Reagan, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/16/bill-bennett-education-secretary-connecticut-shooting_n_2311774.html">told <em>Meet the Press</em> Sunday</a>. "The principal lunged at this guy. The school psychologist lunged at the guy. It has to be someone who's trained, responsible. But, my god, if you can prevent this kind of thing, I think you ought to."


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