The massacre of 19 third graders and two of their teachers in Uvalde, Texas has evoked still raw memories of the all too similar occurrence in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012, but the political reactions remain remarkably the same. The gun lobby, otherwise known as Republicans who carry, calls for increased mental health resources while resisting any common sense legislation that may impinge on the supposed unconditional Second Amendment right to own any and all weapons of war. The Democrats call for more stringent background checks, age restrictions on buying assault weapons and licenses for concealed carry. A ban on assault weapons is beyond their wildest dreams, even though these guns have only one purpose: quicker and more efficient killing.
With the Supreme Court determined to expand the Second Amendment to unprecedented and legally dubious heights, it is regarded as a major victory for gun control when Congress can pass a tepid law that slightly increases the chances of preventing the horrendous mass shootings that makes this country the exemplar of senseless violence on the planet. (We’re Number 1!)
Of course we all know the now familiar refrain: “[t]he only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” The more than 400 million guns in this country have proven such an approach is a lie, although the aberrational instances where a local “hero” manages to shoot and kill a gunman to prevent further damage are trotted out as though they prove the point. But the chances that there are many citizen Dirty Harrys out there who can correctly identify the gunman, accurately hit a moving target and not hit innocent bystanders (or shoot himself) is a scene from a movie, not real life, as even trained cops hit their targets only about 30% of the time.
You can debate how best to approach the increasing incidents of mass shootings until the end of time, but it has always puzzled me why better mental health resources and limits on gun ownership are necessarily antithetical. Yes, I would like to believe that intervention may prevent one more troubled young man (always a man) from shooting up a school, but rarely are there clear signs of imminent danger and such intervention will always be legally complicated. What is clear is that easy access to assault weapons renders each incident more deadly and horrific.
However, when it comes to solutions to preventing mass killings in schools, the award for idiocy has to go to the Ohio legislature, which has enabled teachers, on a mere 24 hours of training, to carry guns in the classroom to protect their innocent charges from an attack. Does that make you feel better, Mom and Dad? Despite the utter ineptitude of the Uvalde police, I would still have preferred taking my chances with their response rather than having my kids protected by kindly Mrs. DeLauro, their kindergarten teacher at Ho-Ho-Kus (NJ) School whose competence was teaching them to read and learn the rudiments of arithmetic, not to act as a deputy sheriff.
Meanwhile, gun makers continue to resist being held legally responsible for the use of their products to do what they are intended to do: kill. While some progress has been made in breaking down their statutory immunity through deceptive advertising claims and state legislation, they remain largely above the law in most states. For now, then, it looks as if we will have to rely on teachers to protect our kids, at least in Ohio. Just make sure you tell your children or grandchildren to be careful when they give their teacher a hug. She may be packing.