Pro gun or anti gun, few are suggesting that the status quo is acceptable after this recent slaughter of the innocent by one unsettled individual. The public and Government both feel an immediate urgency to do something, anything to make America a safer place for its citizens and particularly its children. Unfortunately many of the suggestions on how to prevent future horrific tragedies are based more on raw emotion than they are on actual facts or common sense. Prior to making any decisions the country needs a sufficient period to bury it's dead and to mourn. After that there will be time to determine to think things through and hopefully come up with solution that has some chance of actually curtailing the problem.
In my own humble opinion if America truly wants to ensure that its children are protected from random gun violence simply passing more legislation to control guns is not a stand alone solution that will have any immediate affect. Why? I feel there are a number of reasons
First, legislation to control the sale of guns will do little if anything about the estimated 300 million guns already in the hands of Americans, currently it is estimated that 47 per cent of the population owns a firearm and Americans own 50 per cent of all firearms in the world. Any legislation passed today will take decades if not generations to have even the slightest effect on the number of guns circulating. That's assuming that such legislation could even be passed in a reasonable amount of time, it would have a difficult time getting past 2nd Amendment legal issues. Confiscation of currently licensed weapons would have any tougher legal road to travel and it is doubtful any sitting government would even contemplate such a radical suggestion.
Secondly, gun violence, whether it be in the commission of a crime or a senseless targeting of innocents is by it's very definition always committed by individuals who simply choose to ignore existing laws, in simple terms "criminals" or occasionally the mentally unbalanced. Yes, there are cases of generally law abiding gun owners stepping over the line, but statistics prove time and time again that these cases amount to a fraction of a percent of crimes committed where a gun is involved. So, how will more legislation change this, will those who have ignored existing laws in the past suddenly take heed and turn over a new leaf? Doubtful, so further restricting legal gun ownership would simply target law abiding citizens and do little to curtail the criminal element or the mentally unstable.
Third, unfortunately the economics of the gun trade in America place the government in a difficult position during a slow period in the economy. The gun industry industry posts annual sales of $12 billion USD and has been generating new, good paying, high-skill jobs at a rapid rate. In fact, in the past two years as the country suffered unemployment hovering around eight per cent the gun industry bucked the trend and created 26,000 new jobs paying an average of $47,000 a year in salaries and benefits. Furthermore, despite the recession, gun sales have climbed as Americans have become more fearful of police budget cuts, rising crime, and general civil unrest. So, governments at all levels have a financial stake in the gun industry, whether it be the creation of jobs or the tax revenue on the sales.
So what's the answer, well if removal of guns is not a realistic or "timely" solution, then the alternative is to take immediate measures to protect those at possible risk. The reality is that in America many who have possession of something of great value or feel they may be the target of violence have already taken steps to protect themselves or their property. Banks, shopping malls, politicians, entertainers, even government offices have for years seen the wisdom in having armed security on sight or accompanying them personally to provide protection. So, why is it that when the suggestion is made that the same level of protection be provided to school children many of the individuals who currently benefit from this level of safety see this as a "ridiculous concept".
Recently Wayne Lapiere the Executive Vice President of the National Rifle Association's (NRA) made such a suggestion when he called for immediate action to be taken to place armed guards within American schools. This suggestion was met virtually across the board by the media with disdain and ridicule, responses such as " more guns to protect us from guns?", or "all the NRA cares about is the pro-gun sector". While the latter may be to a large extent the NRA's reason for existing it does not mean that Mr Lapiere's suggestion does not have merit. In fact it is already taking place within many American schools and has been for some time. For example
- Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC, where education is provided to the offspring of such individuals such as the President Obama, NBC's David Gregory, and a number of other political and media elites. Sidwell currently has 11 full time armed guards and is in the process of hiring one more (this is not counting the Secret Services agents assigned directly to the Obama children). So it appears that many who would mock Mr Lapieres suggestion are in fact currently taking advantage of such a plan for their own children. So much for the old adage of "whats good for the goose is good for the gander".
- University of Chicago Lab School, the private scholl where Chicago Mayor Emanuel (Obama's former Whitehouse Chief of Staff) sends his children, has its own armed guard. On top of that Mr Emanuel's children have an armed escort to and from school! Yet heres what Mayor Emanuel has to say about the NRA's suggestion to provide all American children with the same level of security his own children currently enjoy....
"It’s outrageous and unsettling that the NRA would choose to address gun violence not by taking assault weapons off our streets, but by adding more guns to our schools… That is not the right answer for our society, our schools and most importantly our children.
People across this country, from small towns to big cities, are united and ready to pass common-sense gun control legislation. The time has come for the NRA to get on board or get out of the way."
My point here is that although armed guards in schoolhouses is not a perfect solution, it appears it has enough merit that it has already been adopted personally by many who make the decisions that affect the rest of the nations children. I also suspect that many of the parents of the innocents slaughtered in Newtown wish that their school board had adopted a policy of having armed guards within schools prior to the tragedy. Would this have prevented it? No can can say for sure, all that can be said is that the outcome might have been different.
The bottom line is that until the politicians find a long term solution to the problem of gun violence Mr Lapiere's suggestion would at the very least provide a level of protection to the American school children that the majority of them do not currently have. I personally believe this is one case where it is better to err on the side of safety, than to simply do nothing while those in Washington flap their gums searching for a solution for the masses. After all, an effective solution to the problem from nations capital could literally be decades in the making, in the meantime they will do what they do best, react by "shooting from the hip" .