During the week following the horror at Sandy Hook Elementary School, ideas for preventing more massacres were coming from all directions.
U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., called for using federal funds to deploy National Guard troops at schools. Frightened parents in her state were making a run on armored backpacks for their children.
You could not open a newspaper or turn on a television news show without being confronted with stories about the Connecticut shootings that claimed the lives of 26 children and school staff. Sandy Hook is a story known in the news business as “having legs.”
The National Rifle Association declared Friday that guns and police officers in all American schools are needed to stop the next killer “waiting in the wings.”
“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” said Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s chief executive officer in a press conference.
Nearly twice as many preschoolers were killed by guns in 2008 and 2009 as law enforcement officers, the Children’s Defense Fund pointed out.
The scariest pronouncements came not from the NRA, but elected legislators responding to calls from angry and frustrated constituents.
One legislator – from a Midwest state — called on providing teachers to with weapons training and paying the fee to obtain a conceal weapons permit, with authorization to bring their own sidearm to school. There would be no ongoing cost to the school, he reasoned, for a greater level of security.
He reminded us of two men elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives in the mid-1990s. The two often rode together to and from Little Rock.
Knowing legislative staffers assigned to freshmen lawmakers for introduction often have nicknames to the new legislators, a reporter called the legislative office and inquired about the names tagged on the two.
“It’s ‘Dumb’ and ‘Dumber’,” was the reply.
Not exactly original, the legislative staffer explained, but the nicknames were fit if you had seen the 1994 buddy comedy film “Dumb and Dumber.” The movie followed the cross-country travels of two good-natured, but moronic friends and fit the new lawmakers perfectly.
Whenever something bad happens, people are overcome with fear and powerlessness, resulting in a cry raised to make stronger laws and criminalize otherwise legal behavior, as if this will actually do something to prevent future bad things.
Watching a Westside Middle School janitor, tears rolling down his cheeks, attempt to scrub blood stains from a school sidewalk the afternoon of March 24, 1998, will mark your memory. Four students and a teacher were killed and nine students and a teacher wounded that day with bullets fired from weapons held by two Westside students, aged 11 and 13.
If we want to keep our children safe from gun violence, we must look beyond schools. Kids are killed by guns every day on city street, in suburban homes and elsewhere in America.
Each year, almost 3,000 children and youths 19 and younger are shot to death, nearly 2,000 the victims of homicide. Shootings were the leading cause of death for black teenagers. Of all the children killed by guns in the 23 industrialized countries, almost 9 in 10 lived in the United States.
The very thought of shootouts in school hallways should frighten any parent. Surely there is a better answer to gun violence than turning our country into an armed camp.
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Larry Fugate is a veteran journalist and former editor of The Pine Bluff Commercial. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (870) 329-7010.