The solution to school shootings

By Brad Franklin
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, December 26, 2012
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A gun-control activist holds a slogan against  the National Rifle Association in its new conference on Dec 21, 2012. []

A gun-control activist holds a slogan against the National Rifle Association in its new conference on Dec 21, 2012. []

A week after the massacre at a public school in Newton, Connecticut, which claimed the lives of 26 victims, including 20 young children, the National Rifle Association, America's most powerful pro-gun lobby, at last spoke out on the issue of murder using legally-obtained guns. Its solution is more guns.

The NRA news conference, finally taking place the Friday before Christmas, opened with Wayne LaPierre, the organization's executive vice president and best-known spokesman, coming to the microphone to express the Association's "horror, outrage [and] grief" and to say the NRA offers its "earnest prayers" to the families and victims involved in the tragedy. He had to. If LaPierre had his way, every person in America would own and carry at least one gun, if not several.

Americans can do this because of the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees them the "right to keep and bear arms". It's a throwback to the days of muskets, which only fired a single shot before needing to be reloaded. Today's gun supporters, and there are many of them in America, advocate rifles and handguns with expanded clips that can hold two or three times the normal number of bullets, and can fire as fast as you can pull the trigger. The shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary School was a lone gunman, yet one person interviewed on television this week said a rifle with an expanded magazine holding 30 shots, similar to the weapon used in the shooting, would have been an appropriate firearm to use in stopping him. One has to wonder how, if his first five or ten shots missed, he would be still standing there hoping to fire more. LaPierre had an answer for that, too, saying, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

To be fair, LaPierre stopped short of advocating that every school teacher in America carry a gun to class, a position taken by one person interviewed on a television news program. He pointed out that schools are soft targets because they are not protected, saying last week's shooting could have been prevented if there had been armed, trained security personnel at the school. He called on the U.S. Congress to appropriate funding to place at least one police officer in every school in America, and he announced the formation, by the NRA, of what he called a "National School Shield training program" to help schools train security personnel and develop security plans. An interesting idea, but only if it works. When two senior high school students shot up a Colorado school and killed 12 of their fellow classmates in 1999, there were two armed guards already protecting the school. The killers were better equipped, and their assault rifles simply out-gunned the guards.

LaPierre argued that focusing on the issue of guns is wrong, and attention should be given to the proliferation of violent video games, produced, he said, by an industry that "sells and sows violence against its own people" and the lack, as he sees it, of adequate mental health programs to catch shooters before they express their violent behavior through killing others. He also believes the media is to blame for misguiding lawmakers and the public. Perhaps that's because the media, in general, has been giving the NRA a rough ride of late. In slamming violent video games, however, he finds some common ground with president Obama who has decried violence in not only games, but also on television and in movies.

The NRA refused to answer any questions following its news conference, but the reaction to LaPierre's claims started before he left the podium. Twice, the meeting was disrupted by protestors brandishing signs, one calling the NRA child-killers. In the other incident, a woman had to be dragged from the room after shouting "The NRA has blood on its hands! ... Ban assault weapons now!". Thanks to the Internet, comments on the speech poured in quickly. Both pro and anti-gun factions were represented, showing a deep divide in the American public.

Among the Internet responders was Lyle Watkins. "Apparently we'd be just fine if we put guns in the hands of everyone in a school zone. He (LaPierre) compared secret service agents and soldiers to just any guy on the street. Well let's look at this, do you want each elementary school teacher you know to have a gun, or do you want to limit the guns that are available to come into schools?"

This debate has been going on for years and won't end any time soon. President Obama has called for a ban on assault rifles and expanded magazines, and he's asked a panel to produce recommendations for tighter gun laws by the end of next month. The NRA is, if you'll pardon the expression, taking its best shot at this idea by advocating arming school guards and, at the same time, pushing its position of arming everyone… just for self-defence of course.

Brad Franklin is a former political reporter, newscaster and federal government employee in Canada. He is a regular columnist for China's English Salon magazine and lives on Vancouver Island.

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of


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