The great gun debate
By: Tammy Francois, Lake County News Chronicle
I was raised in northern Minnesota. We hunt here. I understand the spirit of camaraderie enjoyed by longtime hunting buddies; the adventure of a successful hunt and their feeling of accomplishment at being there just at the right time.
I also have to wonder how much fun it would all be if the hunt were done with semi-automatic weapons capable of shooting 30 rounds in a matter of seconds. Wouldn’t it all be over in a half-hour rather than a weekend in the Northwoods? And you’d have to think: If someone needs that many shots to kill a deer, maybe it would be better to have that person stay back at the deer shack with a Dustbuster to take care of the cobwebs.
So I can’t really fathom who beyond law enforcement would have a constructive use for such weapons, and when Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, finally broke the silence after the Newtown tragedy, I thought for a moment he might enlighten us.
Shortly after 10 a.m., on Dec. 21, hours after the nation had observed a moment of silence and a church bell in Newtown tolled once for each victim of the massacre, LaPierre spoke.
“Out of respect for grieving families, and until the facts are known, the NRA has refrained from comment. While some have tried to exploit the tragedy for political gain, we have remained respectfully silent,” he began. He then blamed gun violence on everything from the nation’s “refusal to create an active database of the mentally ill” to video games, to the media who “compete with one another to shock, violate and offend every standard of civilized society.”
Anyone who waited for a note of contrition from LaPierre for the NRA’s relentless efforts to curb regulation of gun ownership and access to assault-type weapons was sorely disappointed.
Instead, LaPierre laid out the NRA’s solution: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun,” he said. “The NRA is going to bring all of its knowledge, dedication and resources to develop a model national School Shield Emergency Response Program for every school that wants it, he said. The program includes armed security, building design and access control, information technology and student and teacher training.
Some lawmakers have actually echoed his call, including one in Minnesota. Just after the shootings, Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, he said he would introduce a measure supporting the idea, saying that arming teachers and staff would allow teachers and staff to keep kids safe..
“It’s something that we have to face that all of the laws in the world sometimes aren’t just going to work,” Cornish said. “The cop can’t be everywhere, so the best person to defend yourself is yourself.”
Cornish’s views did not meet with the support Gov. Mark Dayton.
“I think that would just increase the danger,” Dayton said. “To have weapons in classrooms, to me, defies common sense.”
Some local law enforcement officials concur with Cornish, but recognize that legislation alone will not solve the problem.
“A lot of schools were using funds for a resource officer to keep the peace and do investigations, but a lot of that money has dried up,” said Lake County Sheriff Carey Johnson. “I think it depends on how it’s funded…it could be a good thing, but right now we’re just filling our shifts. It isn’t like we have extra staff. We’d have to hire (to provide officers).”
Asked if he anticipated these conversations when he started in policing, Johnson said, “No, but we all realize that bad things can happen.”
In spite of the support of some lawmakers and peace officers, questions remain about a move in the direction of the NRA’s solution. First, if armed security is the answer to gun violence, why didn’t it prevent the killings at Virginia Tech where the campus has its own police force? Why didn’t it work at Fort Hood—a military base? And if more guns are the answer to the question of gun violence, why isn’t the U.S. the safest country on the planet?
In the final analysis, we cannot make this discussion be about money, or allow ourselves to become polarized along political lines or motivated by fear. We also cannot avoid taking a hard look at the culture we’ve created in which it seems necessary to create fortresses to keep children safe.
But we can engage in civilized discussion, which is the only way to get beyond the myopia of interest groups like the NRA and examine the big picture—which is our kids must be kept safe.