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The Gun Debate- Who is the Boogeyman?

Sometimes the best solution is choosing the lesser of two evils.

shutterstock_104227202 Boy Walking on Cracks

If every teacher had a concealed gun in his/her classroom on December 14, 2012, would fewer children and teachers have died in Sandy Hook Elementary School?


Tragedies always stir debates and the greater the tragedy, the more heated the debate. The debate over guns surfaced quickly as the media gained momentum with continued non-stop coverage of the Connecticut shooting massacre that left more questions than answers.

The fact that the shooter was a middle class white male, and the crime was committed in a peaceful suburban neighborhood, really stripped down this heinous crime. There was no racial profiling as in the Trevon Martin case. No terrorist plot. Leaving the nation with only two focal points: guns and mental illness.

When a tragedy spurs debate there is a positive side and a downside. The bright side is we become more determined than ever to solve a problem. United in grief, we become bold, energized and impassioned. Despite our religious and political differences, we are empowered by a universal agreement. The desire to protect our children from further harm.

The downside of tragedy spurring debate is that while we unite in our grief and vision to end violent massacres, we lose sight of what it takes to get there. All good solutions require brainstorming and negotiation. The gun control debate is no exception.

A proponent of stricter gun control called the NRA “lovers of violence.” That’s ludicrous and a cheap shot and the kind of dialog you can expect when emotion drives debate. It’s safe to assume 99.99% of Americans want to prevent mass shootings that kill innocent people, including NRA members.

Is the only way to fight violence with violence? If this elementary school had concealed weapons, would an adult been able to shoot the perpetrator before he killed all those children? Let’s assume the answer is yes.

What if every law abiding citizen had a gun in their purse or coat in the movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado? Would the killer be dead now instead of innocent movie goers? Let’s assume the answer is yes.

Take every public massacre within the last decade and put guns in the hands of the innocent. My guess is we’d have fewer deaths and more heroes in those episodes.

BUT this inquiry requires a more in depth look. There is an inherent flaw in the argument that more guns will make us safer.

shutterstock_85649404 Clay FacesThe argument assumes that we can tell which people in society can responsibly handle owning weapons over time. Just as nobody predicted Adam Lanza to suddenly open fire on innocent children, how do we know who, when and how somebody–anybody–might snap.

No doubt criminals who are determined to kill can get their hands on weapons, regardless of whether they are legal or not. I don’t think anybody would argue that fact.

All we can do is build in layers of protection. Barriers of deterrence. Much like homeowners do to protect their homes from theft. Better door locks, windows, dogs, and alarm systems. These steps aren’t full proof but provide layers of protection. At the very least, layers buy time.

Recently a Kansas City Chiefs player killed the mother of his infant daughter and then himself. A week prior no one would have predicted he was capable of such an act. We cannot predict human behavior. The more easy access there is to guns, the more potential for a deranged boyfriend to use a gun instead of a fist.

There was a similar school tragedy in China recently where little children were harmed. The weapon was a knife. All of the victims survived.

There was a time I considered buying a gun when I was biking hundreds of miles on isolated roads far from home by myself. But if I have that right, so do millions of other Americans, and I don’t live inside their heads.

We can’t evaluate gun control based on our emotional reaction to a school massacre where a gun might have saved lives.

The reality is public massacres are rare but individual shootings occur daily. If we trust our teachers to conceal weapons, do we trust our fellow drivers, employees, bosses, neighbors, or family members? How well do we really know people, even those closest to us?

Combine life stresses, addiction and mental illness with our nation’s desensitization to violence. Our 20 something generation has grown up on blood and gore on screens of all sizes. Most are law abiding good kids. Most will be contributors not offenders in society. Yet we can’t predict how people will react when they lose their job and in debt, when their husband or wife has an affair, when they’re suffering depression or severe anxiety, when they’re bullied or feeling alienated, or when they become addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Best we put as many layers as we can between the triggers and hands of sick individuals. The unfortunate truth is we don’t know who’s sick and who’s not.


"In heartfelt sympathy"

If tears could build a stairway
And God could hear your moans
I’d climb up to your little angels
So I could bring them home


  1. Mike Boresow #

    Very well written. The whole thing is just a tragedy.

    December 18, 2012
  2. Linda Glass #

    Very good Susan. Your posts always make me just sit at my computer and think. That’s the sign of an excellent writer!

    December 18, 2012
  3. Andy #

    More guns equal more opportunity for abuse!

    December 18, 2012
  4. Mark L. Willens #

    I like your thinking. But how do you implement it? The devil is in the details. What type of regulations consistent with the Second Amendment as interpreted by our current Supreme Court do you feel would address your argument. Better background checks? Would that have stopped the Chief’s player? Mental health is such an inexact science that someone who would pass the background check could be issued a permit for the very weapon or weapons to commit the next Connecticut tragedy. As long as there is a Second Amendment, you will not take guns out of the hands of just about anybody. That is not to say that a ban on assault weapons should not be instituted and that purchase of ammunition be more tightly regulated. Those restrictions could co-exist with the Second Amendment.

    December 19, 2012
    • fitskitz

      The first step, in my opinion, is to ban assault weapons and the ammunition that goes with them. The second amendment could be re-interpreted. Initially it wasn’t meant to uphold the right of every individual to have weapons but was for law enforcement. But like you said, the current interpretation held up by the courts expanded that interpretation. The killer’s own mother owned these guns in her home and the guns got in the hands of a sick person UNintentionally. The gun advocates can’t argue that Adam Lanza got the guns illegally and therefore we should have guns to protect ourselves from this criminal. The very right they’re fighting for, his mother’s right to own those guns, was the source of the murder weapons! Maybe if his mom didn’t have guns, or if Adam had to go through hurdles to get one, he would have just ended his own life because acquisition of guns would take too long and he was desperate. Israel, where citizens are uncertain of their safety, have long waiting periods, have to pass a test after taking a class, have mental health evaluations, etc. And Israel has a MUCH lower rate of this type of gun violence. All we can do is add LAYERS of protection. Our middle and high schools have cop cars out front and security officers on site. Better these strategies than teachers with machine guns in their satchels. The best layer of protection from another mass shooting really lies with the people closest to the potential killer. With a place to go for assessment without the threat of being labeled for life or never being able to get health insurance again.

      December 19, 2012
      • Mark L. Willens #

        “Initially it wasn’t meant to uphold the right of every individual to have weapons but was for law enforcement.” — Actually that is incorrect. The motive for the Second Amendment was the right of the people to bear arms and form militias should the government become totalitarian.

        “The gun advocates can’t argue that Adam Lanza got the guns illegally and therefore we should have guns to protect ourselves from this criminal.” — That will not be the gun lobby argument. They don’t care if the guns are obtained legally or illegally. They will argue that regardless of how the weapon was acquired, an armed teacher or administrator could have taken him out–a point admitted in your original post.

        “Maybe if his mom didn’t have guns, or if Adam had to go through hurdles to get one, he would have just ended his own life because acquisition of guns would take too long and he was desperate.” — Even if Lanza’s mom only had a revolver, and that revolver was acquired legally, it probably wouldn’t have saved her life. No interpretation of the Second Amendment would deny Lanza’s mother the right to have owned that type of weapon. Of course, a revolver would have limited, but not eliminated, the tragic loss of life that occurred later if Lanza had gone to the school. THAT is why a ban on guns that can fire numerous rounds in seconds HAVE TO BE BANNED! And such a ban would not be inconsistent with the Second Amendment even under the most liberal of interpretations.

        “The best layer of protection from another mass shooting really lies with the people closest to the potential killer. With a place to go for assessment without the threat of being labeled for life or never being able to get health insurance again.” — From what I heard on the news today, there is speculation that Lanza’s mother was about to take such “mental health” action based upon her son’s behavior. Hind-sight says she should have taken action sooner. But predicting behavior based upon mental health evaluations is an inexact science. Mental health professionals try to assess and predict future behaviors. The civil law system in America creates a deservedly high threshold before such predictions can form the basis of involuntary restrictions upon an individual. And, alas, the criminal law system can only address the aftermath of behavior, regardless of whether rooted in deliberate evil, brain chemistry or some baffling sickness of the mind.

        Finally, whether under private health insurance, public assistance benefits or Obamacare, our human system of economics and values requires a label before the money trail of health delivery, including mental health, can begin. Unfortunately, the limits of our knowledge make it easier to diagnose and address appendicitis than Adam Lanza.

        December 19, 2012
  5. Mike Y. #

    Apparently only 60% of gun buyers have to get a background check, why not all? Why does anyone need to legally buy a semi-automatic weapon with clips of 30 bullets etc. that can be fired so rapidly. These guns were made for the military to use in combat to kill maximum numbers of the enemy in the least amount of time, do hunters need that? does a citizen really need that to protect themselves from harm? (a regular hand gun is not enough?). And giving lightly trained teachers etc. guns for their room, or having movie goers packing weapons, is that really supposed to make us safer. Recently, apparently a gun battle at the Empire State Building resulted in 9 civilian casualties by accidental shooting by the police who were after the bad guy! These are highly trained and seasoned New York cops! Who knows how many innocents might be shot if guns were handed out to everyone, (for “self protection and supposedly protection of people in their supervision) , be it mall workers, movie ushers, teachers, or the general public. There is no way they would have the training and experience to make that a safer situation. All of our freedoms granted us by our nation come with reasonable restrictions, freedom of speech does not mean you can frivolously yell “fire” in a crowded situation where harm and panic might result or yell “bomb” at a Chiefs game just for the fun of it. Why can’t there be reasonable restrictions with the 2nd Amendment also? It is high time that there were more restrictions on purchasing and possessing a weapon, and apparently many NRA members agree, but their leadership and far right extremists don’t want to even consider any compromises. This has to change. We have so many more guns than most “civilized” nations and also more gun deaths, the answer should be obvious.

    March 5, 2013

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