For a few days last week, the National Rifle Association had us fooled. After several days of silence in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, its promise to make a “meaningful contribution” to the national debate over gun violence raised hopes that it might finally concede the need to regulate rapid-fire assault weapons, the kind favored by Newtown killer Adam Lanza and other mass murderers before him. Instead, the NRA’s answer was more of the same insanity: more guns.
Putting armed guards in every school would solve little. Lest anyone forget, there was an armed guard and security officer present at Columbine High School in 1999 when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked in with semiautomatics and shot 33 students, 12 fatally. In fact, roughly one-third of the nation’s high schools already have police or armed guards; but unless each school has several and each one is armed with his or her own semiautomatic, and at least one of them is in the right place when a gunman saunters in, how much good is it going to do?
It would be incredibly expensive. It also might increase the chance of a shooting taking place were a student or faculty member to go berserk and wrest a gun from a guard (or take one from a teacher’s desk, assuming some of them start packing).
And where would the NRA’s approach stop? These attacks have been occurring at more public places than schools. Malls and movie theaters, for instance. Would the NRA advocate having multiple armed guards at those? Do Americans want to live as if in a police state?
Yes, the people who commit these acts are insane. But they’re usually bent on suicide, so how likely are they to be deterred by the threat of arrest or being shot? Identifying them and helping them before they strike is the ideal solution, but how? There’s simply no practical way.
That’s why public access to the most dangerous of these weapons and ammunition has to be limited. Law-abiding people don’t need assault weapons to defend themselves, to hunt or go target shooting.
If there were a way to ensure that these weapons of mass destruction couldn’t fall into the hands of crazies or criminals, that would be a different story. But we’ve long since proved in this country that it simply isn’t possible. That’s why banning them is the only option.
And the NRA’s response to Sandy Hook makes it clearer than ever that they’re a fringe element. Mainstream Americans and their leaders are going to have to ignore them if ever we’re to stop the most extreme cases of gun violence.