The scariest thing I remember from school was getting caught by a nun while doing something against the rules at St. Pat’s. I have to tell you, they could put the fear of God into you real quick.
These days the stakes are a lot higher. The recent shooting at a Florida high school is the latest of a string of frightening school shootings that have changed the very nature of education. Back when I was a kid, we had drills in case the Russians dropped the big one on us. We knew the drills were useless but we really didn’t think we were going to catch an atomic bomb. Today, there are drills about what to do if a shooter is loose in the school. The difference is, those shootings really happen.
What to do? It’s clear what we’ve been doing up until now hasn’t worked. We have to try something different. A society that can’t protect its children is a failure no matter what else it accomplishes.
Americans love guns. The U.S. population is 4.4 percent of the world total yet we own 42 percent of the world’s privately owned guns. That’s a lot of guns.
In 2016, there were around 38,000 gun-related deaths. Two-thirds of those deaths were suicides. Most of the rest were handgun homicides. Not very many involved semi-automatic weapons.
Yet, when there is a big mass shooting in the U.S., whether it be at a school or a nightclub or a concert, it usually features semi-automatic weapons. No, banning these weapons wouldn’t have a giant impact on the number of gun deaths in this country, but it sure would have had a big impact in Florida a couple weeks ago.
I know, I know: Second Amendment! We have the right to bear arms, even if the arms we have are designed not for sport or even for self-defense but primarily to kill other people. But wait a minute — society has drawn certain lines already about what kinds of weapons we can own. You can’t go out and buy a surface to air missile or an atomic bomb or an operational tank or, in most states, a machine gun. Society is all about drawing lines. Maybe it’s time we draw some new ones concerning the kinds of guns that are being used to kill children in schools.
The details are daunting. Sure, you can have a buy-back program like Australia, but lots of people won’t turn in their guns. But some will. And stopping the supply of these guns now will certainly have an effect in the future … the class of 2040 will be grateful. Taken in conjunction with tighter background checks and other rules, it would at least be a start.
No, it won’t stop criminals from getting guns. But criminals generally aren’t the people shooting up schools — it’s mentally disturbed people getting the guns and going wild. Banning semi-automatic weapons won’t end crime or gun deaths, but it sure will make it harder to kill innocent children in a school setting. It won’t stop those suicides, either — you don’t need that kind of gun to kill yourself. But it sure will make it harder for people to shoot up schools, which is all I’m talking about here.
Both sides of this issue trot out all kinds of bewildering statistics about how gun control works or doesn’t work. They come up with irrelevant comparisons, such as how many children die in swimming pools compared to how many die from gunshots or comparing the U.S. to other countries where guns never have been part of the culture. There are economic arguments and philosophical arguments and most of all the argument that we’re Americans and we ought to be able to own what we want to own.
But can’t we cut through all that and just apply some common sense? Kids are getting killed in our schools. Isn’t it time to at least try to eliminate those weapons that make it so easy?
I admit it’s even more important to address the mental and social issues behind the shootings, but how to do that is way beyond my pay grade. I hope someone smarter than me can work out those programs. In the meantime, we have to show that we care more about kids than we do about guns. It’s not easy to balance everyone’s perceived rights, but when we talk about rights I would suggest we first consider the rights of the 28 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School or the 17 students at Parkland High School or the rights of the 58 people killed and hundreds of people injured at the Las Vegas concert shooting. It’s just too easy for crazy people to get guns in this country. Can’t we do something about that?
David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.