As I attended my sons basketball game Saturday morning, I couldnt help but think how fortunate I was to be able to enjoy this simple pleasure knowing that many parents and families of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., were facing unthinkable heartbreak. We grieve as a nation for the families, and search for answers on how this tragedy could have been prevented.
On the evening news we hear the usual rhetoric that has become all too familiar with each mass shooting, including the notion that if we only had more guns in the hands of more people we would somehow be safer. As if 300 million guns were not enough. Rather than focusing on the obvious contributing factors such as our mental health system and the ease of access to weapons designed for the battlefields, not playgrounds some have shifted the blame to include the Gun-Free School Zones Act. This law was enacted to help protect schools from gun violence by prohibiting the carrying of guns by anyone other than trained law enforcement officers.
Gun rights advocates have suggested that the Gun-Free School Zones Act places schools at increased risk for violence by letting criminals select places they know there will be no firearm opposition. They suggest that if administrators and teachers were armed, the outcomes of school shootings would be different. A gun firing five rounds per second, they seem to think, would be no match for a steely nerved armed kindergarten teacher.
This theory assumes that an individual intent on committing a violent act would be deterred by the possibility of another person having a gun at the school. This argument is simplistic and fundamentally illogical. It relies on the presumption that the perpetrator is thinking rationally. People who commit these acts of violence are not of rational nor logical mind. Furthermore, it assumes that these individuals would be deterred by the possibility of being hurt or killed. As we have seen, individuals enter into these acts of terror with the intent of taking their own lives in the end or knowing that the likelihood of survival is slim.
If we are to consider arming school staff, we need to ask some basic questions. Are we honestly suggesting that its desirable to expect every kindergarten teacher in America to be armed and ready to react to mass violence at a moments notice? Is this how we want to send our children to school? Should teachers keep a loaded gun in a classroom with small children? Will that really make us safer?
The real intent of the gun lobby is to use this conversation to distract from enacting effective solutions. First, we should reinstate the assault weapons ban and prohibit high-capacity magazines, which serve no hunting or personal protection purpose. Second, we should close gun show loopholes, requiring all persons to have a background check before purchasing a firearm. Third, we should strengthen the gun background check database. Lastly, we need to ensure that gun owners secure their firearms so that others dont have access. As in Newtown, firearms used in these crimes often come from a friends or relatives home.
Gun violence is a complex issue that requires a comprehensive evaluation. We are capable of grief and action simultaneously. As citizens, gun owners and non-gun owners alike, we need to hold our elected officials accountable to enact and enforce sensible policies that look out for the public interest. When we send our children off in the morning it should be expected that they will return home safely at the end of the day.