Much has been made of guns in the wake of the shooting at Newtown Elementary School, and more recently the killing of two first responders at a house fire deliberately set by a convicted murderer in Rochester, N.Y., and pro-gun advocates have had enough. They are coming out swinging with ideas of their own, and some are gaining the attention of lawmakers, at least on the local level.
On Dec. 21, the National Rifle Association, the nation’s largest gun rights group, made its position known, calling for armed guards to be placed at every school in the country, saying, “When it comes to the most beloved, innocent and vulnerable members of the American family – our children- we as a society leave them utterly defenseless.” This immediately was decried as “loony” by gun control advocates, but they seem to have forgotten that this is not a new idea, and it’s one that the NRA was originally opposed to. The idea of having armed officers in schools was originally floated by President Bill Clinton in 2000, after the shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.
Local authorities and school districts in many locations took it upon themselves to station law enforcement officers at schools that did not previously have them. What effect this will have on already strained operating budgets of both school systems and police departments remains to be seen and will likely be the subject of much debate in the coming weeks and months.
Another idea that is gaining ground in many states is arming teachers. More than half a dozen states are considering legislation that would allow, or even require a specific number, of teachers to carry guns in schools. Gun control advocates don’t like the idea.
Bob Marshall, a Republican Delegate from Manassas, V.A. is one of those who believe that arming teachers is a good idea. “You don’t take some 100-pound lady who doesn’t like guns and force them into doing. There are plenty of military personnel who are working in schools as teachers or administrators or in some other capacity,” Marshall continued, saying, “Liberals are the first ones to call 911 if they are under attack. Why do they do that? It is because they want someone with a gun there.”
The fact is that every active shooter scenario ends one of two ways; either the shooter runs out of ammunition or has some other malfunction that causes the gun to stop firing, or they are confronted by someone else with a gun, in which case they take their own life or are apprehended by police.
There have been other ideas making their way around social media sites, but they aren’t likely to garner any sort of popular support. One community on Facebook, which claims to have both gun rights and gun control supporters, has suggested making it a crime for a gun owner’s lawful weapon to be stolen and used in the commission of a crime, meaning that the lawful gun owner would be charged as an accessory. But the best safes in the world can be cracked, locks can be cut from cases, and cars and homes are broken into. At no time in history has the victim of a crime been charged with a crime for being a victim and there is simply no fool-proof way to secure a gun.
Another idea touted by this community is a log of ammunition purchases. Some members suggest there be a database of mass ammunition purchases so that the government can inventory. The problem with this idea is two-fold: The first is that ammunition sales are already supposed to require ID, but compliance by retailers is spotty at best. The second is that it doesn’t take into consideration that there are several legitimate reasons for a gun owner to make a mass ammunition purchase, including shooting competitions and classes, which can require 1,000 rounds or more at a time. This would also imply those who were trying to stockpile ammunition for nefarious purposes would simply have to take more time to do so.
One thing is clear – that both pro-gun and gun control advocates believe a multifaceted approach is needed to help stop further violence. In addition to examining gun laws, many agree we as a country need to take a look at other factors in these shootings, such as mental health and the effects of violent media, as well as making existing systems, such as the existing database for those who are mentally ill, more effective.
Currently there is a database in place that is linked to the background check system for purchasing firearms, but it isn’t efficacious enough. The database depends upon each state supplying records to populate the information, and many states are running into obstacles in doing so, from budget and staffing problems to privacy laws protecting healthcare records. There simply isn’t a comprehensive enough database for it to be an effective tool in preventative gun control.
Pro-gun advocates make many good points, but none more salient than this: When a person is killed by a drunk driver, we as a society don’t blame the car. When they are killed with a knife, we don’t blame the knife. Yet when a person is killed with a gun, often the gun is blamed and everything else is overlooked. Perhaps the real solution to prevent further violence lies in looking at deeper societal problems.