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The NRA's Christmas wish: more guns in schools

Yep, that was the big announcement from NRA head Wayne LaPierre at a news conference today, the gun lobby's first public comments since the Newtown massacre a week ago.The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, LaPierre said in one of the many gems he unveiled at the briefing. Politicians pass laws for gun-free school zones, they issue press releases bragging about them ... in doing so they tell every insane killer in America that schools are the safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk."LaPierre also excoriated those who sought to use the tragedy for political gain, noting that the NRA had "remained respectably silent." Yes, he said that. Oh, and he wants a crackdown on violent video games because, well, in NRA math the Second Amendment comes before the First Amendment. I still fear history will repeat itself and the NRA will probably win this round, too, alas.Yes, our blood-soaked culture is a problem. But in an almost reasonable column -- amazing, I know -- even Charles Krauthammer puts it third behind gun control and mental illness.But first and foremost it is the guns, stupid -- fewer, not more. Fareed Zakaria said it best the other day, in a must-read column on why America has a gun homicide rate that is far higher than other countries:

So what explains this difference? If psychology is the main cause, we should have 12 times as many psychologically disturbed people. But we dont. The United States could do better, but we take mental disorders seriously and invest more in this area than do many peer countries.Is Americas popular culture the cause? This is highly unlikely, as largely the same culture exists in other rich countries. Youth in England and Wales, for example, are exposed to virtually identical cultural influences as in the United States. Yet the rate of gun homicide there is a tiny fraction of ours. The Japanese are at the cutting edge of the world of video games. Yet their gun homicide rate is close to zero! Why? Britain has tough gun laws. Japan has perhaps the tightest regulation of guns in the industrialized world.The data in social science are rarely this clear. They strongly suggest that we have so much more gun violence than other countries because we have far more permissive laws than others regarding the sale and possession of guns. With 5 percent of the worlds population, the United States has 50 percent of the guns.There is clear evidence that tightening laws even in highly individualistic countries with long traditions of gun ownership can reduce gun violence.

Read it all here.

About the Author

David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.



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Dressed in military attire,used military weapons bought by his mom who thought they would be needed here.Collateral damage.We tell tribal afghans they should modernize and become a nation state with a military, police force and rule of law to defend the citizens,even as we are becoming like them. We distrust more and more the rule of law and our centralized [or local]government,we are filled with citizens arming themselves with military weapons as if they were tribal afghans in the mountains with no governemnt in place facing threats from outside.The label mentally ill -regarding these mass murderers-what is that but a culturally palatable way of dealing with the effects of the coarsening of our culture.Though we've always been quite violent one on one, after 11 years of warring and the glorification of all things military,when an Alan West who tortured and murdered a captive iraqi could get elected to office and hailed by the media as a hero,when graphic war games are being played by young people while at the same time they know we're really dropping bombs on men women and children with impunity and reveling in our ability to do so-is it surprising that this militarism,this glorification of mass violence would seep through right here?And even as we tell others that they should adapt our ethos of the right to freedom of speech-we ourselves are not so thick skinned regarding speech as we are telling these cultures to be. Here people get violent over any slight -and we now call it anger management issue or mental illness or now we acknowledge such violence as the effects of bullying.[speech].We want them to be enlightened like us even as we are thinking like them!

Let's think this through. Is this a plausible solution? There are more than 100,000 public schools in the United States. (Let's assume that private schools and home schools are on their own.) Given shift work, vacations, the large size of some schools, let's say you would need 200,000 armed enforcement officers. By way of comparison, the entire active US Marine Corps is about that size (a solution?). Or is the idea a George Zimmerman in every school? What about playgrounds, school buses, and, of course, the many other venues children and adults congregate -- movie theaters, shopping malls, McDonalds and so on.And even if you did, how might that work out? Well-trained police officers who engage in the very rare firefight routinely shoot themselves, each other, innocent bystanders, inanimate objects, and, occasionally, the person they aim at. So schools become some kind of free-fire zone? Wouldn't the crazy perpetrator take out the guy with the gun first?And, of course, remember: Virginia Tech had an entire police department...

I have no problem with gun control. At the same time, I am not sure that it is the answer to the problem.Everyone seems to put their own particular spin and interpretation on the data. And to be fair, the date can be interpreted in many ways.Clearly, guns are a factor in homicides and suicides in the USA. But given the history and the constitutional issues associated with gun control, it might be difficult to reasonably apply.Then there is the issue of confinement of the mentally ill. I have read that one of the precipitating factors for the killer, in this instance, was that his mother was taking concrete steps to have him committed involuntary for psychiatric care. Given the laws, it is difficult to do and the fact that his mother was moving in this direction made this young man very angry and he lashed out against her violently and what she held most dear - the children.I am not in favour of loosening psychiatric commitment laws, but in this instance, the Colarado killing instance, and the Arizona shooting of the congresswoman, one fact, in addition to guns is glaringly obvious; each of the perpetrators had diagnosible and/or already diagnosed psychiatric disorders.

And while the NRA was holding this press conference, another mass shooting was taking place in Pennsylvania near Altoona. Several dead and at least two state troopers injured.

@George: There is no doubt that we need better -- and better funded -- mental health care in the United States. But there are people with mental health issues throughout the world, but among developed countries It is the United States that has more shooting deaths than anyone by a huge margin. The major difference is access to firearms.Also, mental health diagnosis is imprecise, and trying to determine who among those who are diagnosed might at some point become violent would be very difficult. Are you going to put large numbers of people, who have committed no crime, in custody? What would be the right scale to ensure that one doesn't slip through the cracks? The incident of mass killings is statistically small, so your chance of stopping the one in 100,000, or 1 million, who might become violent to the point of killing people is pretty daunting.And all because we want people to be able to walk around in public with guns?

FWIW, perhaps Megan McArdle has something to offer in this conversation, despite denunciations of her on other posts. Here she responds to Jonathan Chait's misunderstandings: Mark Kleiman is puzzled: "Rage Against the McArdle seems to run deep in Left Blogistan."

McArdle just seems to keep digging. The problem for her, and others of her libertarian ilk, is that their ideology doesn't allow for confronting the plain fact of the problem, which is guns. Ban or regulate them. It works. What's the problem?

"took no questions"So much for any willingness to engage in good faith discussion about the gun issue. I hope there will be those within the NRA who will speak out against the leadership. In the last week, I've heard interviews with several NRA members who do not support the civilian ownership of semi-automatic rifles, and I'm hoping they will raise their voices against LaPierre and the gun manufacturers standing not so invisibly in the background. And are these armed school guards to be equipped with semi-automatic or automatic weapons? How else to stop an intruder like Adam Lanza? My children are well beyond elementary and high school age, but if they weren't, and schools were to become armed barricades, I think my wife and I would think seriously about home schooling.

How come the NRA doesn't also advocate for people to carry guns when flying? I mean, if every passenger on board had a gun, just think of how difficult it would be for terrorists to take control of an airplane.

@Claire. What makes you think they don't? Their position is that if you have a concealed carry permit, you should be able to carry it anywhere -- except into their presser.

I saw several references on Twitter to the Clint Eastwood empty chair routine while this was going on. My hope is that such a disastrous public appearance will destroy the NRA's mythic power. It was an alarming look behind the curtain: They had a week to come up with a response, and this was the best they could do? Is this the powerful lobbying group all the politicians are afraid of?

Public opinion is against the NRA right now. That is the bottom line. Will they win the war of public opinion. There is not doubt that the perpetrators have mental problems. The math is they would not kill as many or been as effective without guns. It is a no brainer. And it is a testament to money that all do not see that.

Guns and porn are said to have some constitutional protection. Gun makers and gun nuts should be treated just like porn makers and porn addicts. phew.

A high school outside of Philly had to shut down today after a 15 year old threatened last night to bring a gun to school to shoot everybody. The police searched his house and found two 9mms on his nightstand. agree with William Collier, NRA-members need to take ownership of this issue and take ownership of the organization they support. I think the consequences of the NRA's anti-regulation lobbying is as much on the membership as it is on the organization.

The first person encountered by the Newton shooter (let's not keep naming people who seek recognition this way) was armed and knew how to use her guns. The shooter shot first. Had an armed officer at school been the first person the shooter encountered and similarly lost, there would have been one more death. The assumption that the good guy will always shoot first is a dangerous illusion.And when armed guards at the schools fail to stop it, the next step will be armed guards in every classroom. (End of unemployment problem. Or will we pay for the guards by laying off more teachers? There is a TP solution.) The NRA is going, deliberately, toward creating a society in which everyone is armed to defend himself or herself from everyone else. The open-carry, guns-to-church, guns-to-the-job, guns-wherever-the-gun-owner goes laws in the various legislatures make clear the ultimate goal.

What is it that they always talk about on the the TV law & order shows?meansmotiveopportunityMost of these killers have few if any motives. They find their own opportunities.Without the MEANS how often would this happen?

Why do you say that Charles Krauthammer's column is "almost" reasonable? And why are you "amazed" that he possibly could write a reasonable column? I find some of what he writes quite insightful at times, but then again I do have some conservative leanings. :)

@ Rose-Ellen Caminer: Retired Lt. Col. Allen West fired his weapon near the head of a suspect his men had just roughed up, but he didn't kill anybody. His mouth is much fiercer than his deeds, and when the new Congress is seated he will be unemployed.

The best way to foster the even more rapid expansion of the possession of guns, regulate or unregulated, is to continue to defund programs and services that help keep violence under control. Note that I said HELP; no claim to 100% success.The teapartying of American works hand in hand with the goals of the NRA. And, of course, the gun manufacturers who are, in reality, the NRA.

"McArdle just seems to keep digging. The problem for her, and others of her libertarian ilk, is that their ideology doesnt allow for confronting the plain fact of the problem, which is guns. Ban or regulate them. It works. Whats the problem?"David G, have you read McArdle's first post? After reviewing some of the sloppy thinking that prevails on preventing massacres, she writes:"That leaves us with the big one, the argument I've been circling around for 2,000 words: ban guns. Ban them all. "I'm not going to insult your intelligence by arguing that this wouldn't work. Guns do not create homicidal intent, as some people have argued, but they do make homicidal intent more lethal. A bullet is harder to stop, requires less physical strength to deploy, and does a huge amount of damage. And shooting someone takes a lot less time than stabbing or bludgeoning them. That is why we now arm the US military with rifles instead of big knives. Conservatives who argue that a total ban wouldn't lower the homicide rate are being ridiculous. "America would still have a higher homicide rate than anywhere else, because for whatever reason, America is an incredibly violent place. "But I think there's no question that our homicide rate would be lower than it is now, simply because fewer killings would succeed."Elsewhere in that post, she expresses her support for banning high-capacity magazines, requiring background checks for private sales, and requiring owners to pass a shooting and gun safety test.She is extremely skeptical that these measures would stop something like Newtown from occurring. So is Ezra Klein, who compiles a list of policy recommendations very similar to what McArdle writes, and concludes,"Even if we do all this, and more, we may still see rampage shootings, and we will still have to grieve for murdered children. But the shootings will be fewer, and the deaths rarer. We may not know how to prevent the massacre in Newtown, but we do know how to reduce gun deaths."

Consider the penultimate paragraph of Jim Pauwels' 4:27 pm posting of today. (This is not an argument with Jim.)McArdle and others point out that assorted efforts have not shown themselves to be especially effective in reducing gun violence. Shift the burden of proof. Would anyone say that banning assault weapons, or big magazines, or background checks, or... Have increased the likelihood of gun violence? If not then why not try them together? What would be lost, other than some convenience that people now have in arming themselves as they see fit.If public safety is the primary objective, then why wouldn't the presumption be that Mr. or MS. x doesn't qualify for gun ownership until he or she can show that they are people who can be trusted with guns?

@Jim Pauwels (12:21, 4:27 pm) I read McArdle's essay and I agree she made some good points (some I agree with, and some I disagree with but can see that there's a reasonable argument that she's making).But when the big finish to her essay includes the following: "I'd also like us to encourage people to gang rush shooters, rather than following their instincts to hide; if we drilled it into young people that the correct thing to do is for everyone to instantly run at the guy with the gun, these sorts of mass shootings would be less deadly, because even a guy with a very powerful weapon can be brought down by 8-12 unarmed bodies piling on him at once. Would it work? Would people do it? I have no idea...."she (in my view) undermines almost everything that preceded it.Almost all of us have spent time in schools like Sandy Hook elementary. The adults are outnumbered at least 15:1, sometimes closer to 30:1. The activity in the building is designed so that the adults are isolated from each other. (Most of the time it's 1-2 adults per classroom. Rarely is there an assembly where 8-12 adults are in the same room.)In that paragraph, McArdle is basically arguing that fewer people would have died at Sandy Hook elementary if the children had regularly practiced gang-rushing and tackling adults with semi-automatic firearms. It takes more nerve than I have to make that argument when the bodies haven't even been buried.

@ LukeCharlotte Allen, at the National Review online, made the same argument as McArdle, even using the term "bum's rush." Unfortunately, she was a mite cavalier with the facts, not mentioning that the Sandy Hook principal DID try to rush Adam Lanza, and died without noticeably slowing his progress. Allen also assumed that Sandy Hook is K-6 and would have students in the upper grades who have played football. It's actually K-4, so the oldest children would be no more than 9 or 10. Gee, when the Iranians forced children to the front lines to set off the land mines before they could kill the adult males, we called that a crime against humanity. I won't say we can't afford to pay teachers because we could if we chose to. The fact that we don't pay teachers a living wage is simply a matter of political will. But the NRA thinks we can afford billions to hire armed guards at schools? Oh, but the NRA has the answer to that: volunteers. They deserve every bit of derision that will be heaped on them after this disastrous PR ploy.

We have been concentrating on the massacres which, though horrifying, are only a tiny part of the total number of people murdered with guns. The main problem by far is guns in the hands of non-crazies. And to speak of "the" answer is to oversimplify vastly. There is no doubt a number of causes, ncluding the availability of guns and ammunition. We must work on them all.Helping the mentally ill should be a major goal regardless of the involvement of a few of them in gun violence.

I think we'll be able to get meaningful gun regulation in the next 20 years. Look at who are the gunowners in the US: white. male. Protestant. non-urban. That group is shrinking in this country; I think the NRA will be come increasingly less relevant (and thus less obstructive) as their base shrinks.

Assuming that1.Teachers bear some responsibility for the safety of the children in their care;2.Schools are a target for people who want to kill in numbers, and3.There is currently not a ban on all gunsDo teachers have a moral obligation to take precautionary, affirmative action to do what it takes to protect those in their care, and that should not exclude the ability to defend the children with a firearm?

Mark- We could meet that moral obligation to protect our children (that all of us share) by working really hard to ban guns (your point 3). It seems to be the more Christian approach, rather than buying guns ourselves to shoot people with.

Why we refuse to research matters before we sound off on things is a constant annoyance. A sheriff deputy was present at Columbine while 11 out of the 13 victims were still alive. He fired four times and missed. How much better would a person not trained in law enforcement do? Police departments work on controlling unnecessary gunfire. In August the NYC police shot an armed person outside the Empire State Building. But they wounded nine bystanders.

@Mark Proska (12/22, 10:33 am) Thanks for your question. For what it's worth, I think teachers *do* have a moral obligation to take precautionary, affirmative action to do what it takes to protect those in their care. Given that all available data indicate overwhelmingly that school is the safest place for American children, both now and in decades past, I think there's abundant evidence that the overwhelming majority not only take that moral obligation seriously, but that they're extremely good at carrying it out.Given the strong pacifist strand in Christian belief and practice, I'd hesitate to argue that teachers should be required to use firearms as part of their duties. Your thoughts?P.S. It seems to me that those, like Megan McArdle, who argue teachers should be armed and trained in the use of firearms, have an obligation to get much more specific about how they envision this happening, how it's paid for, what schools will look like, whether and under what circumstances students can carry weapons around school, etc.In the absence of such specifics, then it looks like merely an overly intellectualized and abstracted attempt to force reality to fit into the straightjacket of their own beliefs and ideologies.

Do teachers have a moral obligation to take precautionary, affirmative action to do what it takes to protect those in their care, and that should not exclude the ability to defend the children with a firearm?

I don't think that I can see the Franciscan nuns who educated me packing side arms. And neither can you, I bet. Or to put it another way, what about workplace shootings. Do you want to arm your co-workers?

The notion that teachers should be armed to shoot the intruders first overlooks the fact that at least from middle school on, there are very angry and sometimes crazy students who are quite capable of stealing the teachers' guns and using it on the others. And some little kids are curious and will want to find and inspect them, a very dangerous thing for them to do. Having the teacher lock up her gun won't help -- by the time she gets to where the gun is under lock and key, she's dead.

IreneI think you can make an arguable case than an appropriate long-term response is to work to ban all guns, as you propose. Its not an approach I think will work, but its certainly one way to go. But my question dealt more with the here and now. When school re-opens in early January, what responsibility do teachers bear and what is the appropriate short-term response?LukeI think it is certainly good news that schools are generally so very safe. But, though its unusual that schools would burn down, they still have fire extinguishers just in case. I do not think teachers should be required to carry firearms to protect their children, but I do think they have a moral obligation to consider the option, or to have some plan in place beyond, say, yelling for help.Im not aware of the strong pacifist strand Christian belief and practice to which you refer, or how it is relevant to my point. For instance, what if the school is not Christian?UnagidonDont see how the Franciscan nuns who taught you are germane to the situation but, to answer your question, if I worked in an environment where workplace violence was a real threat, I would certainly feel better knowing that one or more of my co-workers might be trained in the use of firearms and might be armed.AnnYour response assumes the worst will always happen. I dont see it as being terribly compelling.

@Mark Proska (12/22, 1:45 pm) Thanks for your responses. If you Google "catholic social teaching" and "pacifism", you'll find thousands of links on the topic. (I mentioned it because it seemed relevant to a discussion on a Catholic website.)In our area, public schools (at least, I don't know as much about private and parochial schools) not only "have some plan in place", they regularly practice their response to a variety of potential disasters and threats. (I know of a second grader who got off the bus Monday morning and said to the principal, "Did you hear what happened to that school in Connecticut? That couldn't happen here because we practiced what to do, didn't we?") Just as schools hold fire drills regularly (and don't merely rely on the presence of fire extinguishers to keep everyone safe), most schools these days hold drills for other types of emergencies.Speaking just for myself, I was taken aback by your response to Ann. First, an individual gunning down 26 students and educators is pretty much a worst-case scenario. In fact, planning for any type of emergency is pretty much defined by assuming the worst will happen, and trying to figure out how to deal with it.The typical schoolroom contains 1-2 adults and 20-35 students. Any plan to arm teachers that doesn't assume students will try to get control of those nearby firearms and use them---either maliciously or for some other reason---isn't worthy of the name "plan".

I'm pretty shocked that there is actually a discussion about elementary school teacher arming themselves. Do we Americans care that much more for our guns than we do for our children that we would go that far to avoid restricting guns?

Luke - regarding that now-famous passage of McArdle's: I don't believe she wrote that in reference specifically to first graders at Sandy Hook, but as a more general recommendation for massacre situations, which have taken place in all sorts of settings: shopping malls, movie theaters, college lecture halls, high schools, outdoor venues, airplanes and so on. If you take a look at her follow-up post, linked above in Patrick Molloy's comment, she explains this at some length.She's not alone in recommending this; the US Department of Homeland Security has put together training materials for employees and staff at places where incidents may take place - for example, I understand that employees of stores in shopping malls might receive this training. The DHS recommendations basically are as follows:* If you can, get the heck out of there. Go quickly. Don't help anyone else. Don't attend to anyone who is wounded. Get away as quickly and safely as you can.* If escape is not possible, try to hide. If possible, barricade yourself in, away from the shooter. Stay silent. Turn off your cell phones.* If that also is not possible, then - if possible, coordinate a mass attack on the shooter. There have been instances (perhaps the most well-known being the incident in which Gabrielle Giffords was wounded) when this succeeded in limiting casualties.I agree with your analysis of elementary schools. I'd think it would be almost impossible to find 8-12 adults in an elementary school who didn't have direct responsibility for the safety and well-being of children in their own classrooms. Elementary schools might be the very worst place for an aggressive response.

Bernard - I agree. I can't think of a compelling reason not to put those reasonable restrictions in place. Many commentators have argued that these measures may not deter a determined attacker like Lanza. But casualties in massacre situations are a tiny percentage of overall gun deaths in the US, and if these measures help limit gun deaths overall, then I'd think we're pretty much morally obligated to pursue them.FWIW, my take is that President Obama would also agree. Whether reasonable recommendations and common sense will carry the day is yet to be determined. Apparently it doesn't prevail in fiscal cliff negotiations :-(.

One factor is not recognized in talking hopefully of more trained weapon carriers, whether guards or kindergarten teachers. There are two parts to the training. The first is learning how to hold, load, aim, fire, clean, and store a gun. The second is learning how to fire at another human being with the intent of killing that person. I mastered the first part as a teen and could teach it to my wife, an elementary school teacher by nature, in a week. I have never learned the second part and it would be humanly impossible for my wife, notwithstanding the profound moral obligations she has demonstrated to her students over years. The infantry recognizes the problem. History has recorded the number of troops in combat who never pulled the trigger. Talk about arms training for teachers and others need to be explicit about the goal of the training - skill in shooting to kill a person - and about how that is to be accomplished.

Trained, professional police officers, when they must use their firearm, often shoot innocent bystanders, other police officers, and all kinds of inanimate objects. Can you imagine the situation where an armed teacher or school employee might successfully engage an armed intruder? Since such situations are rare, most teachers would never, ever have actual experience to fall back on. The vast majority of teachers would never experience such a situation or even know anyone who did. What could go wrong? Well, everything!

I suggest that the schools be manned by Hell's Angels volunteers, just as the Guardian Angels patrolled the subways a few years ago when there was a crime scare in NYC. The Angels probably didn't prevent a great deal of crime but they made people feel safer. "When in doubt, knock 'em out" is the motto I've seen on a Hell's Angels clubhouse. A disturbing thought: if we make schools safer do we thereby render other public spaces less safe?

"A disturbing thought: if we make schools safer do we thereby render other public spaces less safe?"Yes. And if you follow LaPierre's reasoning, then we arm the people who hang out in the other places and all is well. If you listened, he said the next shooter was already planning to hit a school because schools, being safe, are good places to shoot people. Wisconsin -- which used to be filled with sane people but now something has happened to them -- recently passed a take-your-gun-to church law. (Bishops respectfully hoped parishioners won't overdo it. Priests watch what they say during the homily.) on the same principle: If churches are safe, someone may be shot there. The goal, as I said earlier, it so arm everybody all the time so every place is unsafe, in which event we will all be a lot safer. Please pass the Kool-Aid.

By the way, where I live people are allowed to carry their weapons to county commission meetings. I have to send my rosary case through the X-ray, but if I am carrying a Ruger I am supposed to simply tell the officer with the wand and walk right through the metal detector. I am always tempted to declare my rosary and try to walk through the detector to see what level of DEFCON that would send the county building into.

As Eugene Robinson said in the Washington Post, arm teachers and the next school shooter will wear bodyarmor into the building. Then what--do the teachers and children wear body armor too?

"Or to put it another way, what about workplace shootings. Do you want to arm your co-workers?"Personally I think we should arm everyone ... at taxpayer's expense, of course.Then we could disband all of our police and other public security services (saving a veritable fortune and allowing for reducing taxes on the already overpaid) and let the last person standing declare victory to the tune of "What A Friend We Have in Jesus's Glocks".

@Patrick Molloy (12/22, 4:20 pm) While the Guardian Angels may have made some NYC subway riders feel safer for the short time they regularly "patrolled" the trains about 25 years ago, you correctly note they had little or no impact on the actual crime rate. What did have a dramatic impact on the crime rate in NYC and elsewhere was effective police work and major investments in the subway's infrastructure and maintenance. The same has been true in other cities.As for the your "disturbing thought" that "if we make schools safer do we thereby render other public spaces less safe?", public schools are already one of, if not *the*, safest places in our society. The question more appropriately pointed back at Wayne LaPierre and other advocates of arming teachers is "since schools are already one of the safest places in our society, do we thereby render them *less* safe by introducing semi-automatic firearms into the buildings?".

I think it is complete madness to consider having armed personnel in schools. This is NOT a direction which will produce resolution for our struggles related to gun violence or mental illness. It is quite possibly, a step in the direction of full fledged civil war. God help us.

I grew up with a dad who was a policeman. He also had a problem with the drink which led him to threaten to kill us if we didnt straighten up. It was scary and explains why I've always hated guns. But I do not suffer from gun-o-phobia as appears to be the case with so many in this string. Mrs. Lanza bought the semi-automatic weapons before CT banned them. She apparently did not foresee that her sick son would kill her in order to obtain them for this heinous crime. No laws now being proposed would have spared the Newtown victims. Sad but true, we are vulnerable to madmen with an intent to kill others and themselves. Lee Oswald was such a madman, but the very thought that a young president could be a victim of a nut with a gun fueled more than 40 years of alternative scenarios designed to make us feel less vulnerable. If more guns are banned, the liberals will insist its the sensible solution. But the libertarians will throw a fit at the loss of freedom. Mass killings every once in a blue moon will continue with the perpetrators using everything from fertilizer bombs to dynamite.

Let's try to be a bit scientific about the data we have. The scientific method says that cause-effect relationships vary with each other. The presence/absence of the effect varies in size with the variation of size of the presence/absence of the cause.So what de facto happens when there are few guns? There are few shootings. When there are many guns there are many shootings. When there are a great many guns, there are a great many shootings, Wouldn't it be odd if there were no causal relationships, only correlations?True, there can be (and probably are) other causes involved which prompt the shootings besides the easy availability of guns. But if the availability of guns is actually irrelevant, then isn't it odd that there are correlations of presence, absence and varying numbers?

"he wants a crackdown on violent video games."Right. Let's crack down on the free market for pretend guns and force 'em, if they want to shoot it up, to buy the real thing.And armed guards in schools ... didn't Ms Lanza have guns? What's the difference between attacking George Zimmermann and stealing his guns right there at the school?If this weren't so tragic, I'd be laughing at the insanity of it all. Let the NRA keep speaking. Let 'em keep digging deeper.

Any plan to arm teachers that doesnt assume students will try to get control of those nearby firearms and use themeither maliciously or for some other reasonisnt worthy of the name plan.LukeChange firearm to fire extinguisher in your sentence above, and I think youll see that its hyperbolic. Believe it or not, despite that fact they could be misused, schools are still equipped with fire extinguishers.Of course there will be a plan to keep any firearms out of the hands of those who shouldnt have them, I guess I thought that went without saying. In fact, the students would not know which teachers/administrators/principals might be armedand thats only a very small part of the plan.BTW, I googled leprechaun and got almost 10 million hits. I still have doubts about their existence. ;-)

@John Feehily -- Newsweek counts 31 mass killings since April 1999 (Columbine). None of them were done with dynamite, fertilizer bombs, knives, brass knuckles or nunchucks. That is considerably oftener than "once in a blue moon" (once every two or three years).

"In fact, the students would not know which teachers/administrators/principals might be armed..."That may, possibly, be true in elementary schools during September. It wouldn't be true anywhere after Oct. 1. And, by the way, it is hard to kill anyone with a misused fire extinguisher.

I googled Death By Fire extinguisher. A couple of years ago someone in the US was killed when they were hit by a fire extinguisher thrown room 5 stories above. And several years ago, a New Zealander vactationing in Thailand died by fire extinguisher when he inhaled toxic fumes while playing with it. Alcohol was involved in that one thoughOverall, there seem to be much fewer fire extinguisher deaths than handgun deaths.

Tom--Why wouldn't it be true anywhere after October 1?Irene--So are you saying that concern over the misuse of equipment meant to protects can be overblown? If so, I agree.

For those interested in learning more about what appears to be a successful plan in Texas:, the plan has been in effect for 5 years--the students still don't know which adults may or may not be armed. Does that put the lie to your fear, Tom? (It just dawned on my what you were getting at)

Mark- I guess I'm saying it's just ridiculous to compare the dangers posed by fire extinguishers with the dangers posed by handguns. And I'm appalled that, rather than doing the obvious and regulate these deadly weapons, instead, we're so desperate to preserve our gun culture,that we're talking about arming kindergarten teachers and, when that doesn't pass the laugh test, we try and minimize the dangers of guns by comparing them to fire extinguishers.And I don't think, in conscience, I can be respectful of gun advocates any longer. Jesus told us straight out that we better make sure children don't come to harm. Mayor Bloomberg made a good point, saying that these tragedies are on all of our heads. I'm as complicit as any card-carrying NRA member for letting them get away with their pro-gun lobbying that has caused so much death. I think it's time for all of us to stand up to the NRA and the politicians who kowtow to them.

IreneI am sorry to hear that youve reached the point that you can only conclude that those who have a different view than you do must be motivated by a desperate desire to preserve our gun culture rather than a genuine desire to protect our children.

Mark -- You are kidding, I hope, when you wonder why who has the guns wouldn't be a secret after Oct. 1. Word gets around in schools. It's hard to hide a gun; even a Franciscan nun couldn't hide an assault weapon, which teachers would need to keep the firepower equal. Storing the weapons off their persons would result in the problem Ann Oliver told you about at 1:27 yesterday. And anyway, the carefully locked desk or gun cabinet might as well have a sign on it saying, "Here is the arsenal, kids." The Texas kids may tell reporters they don't know who is carrying, but if they don't know, they should get off the iphone and smarten up as much as all previous generations.

Mark: Stop trolling.

@Mark Proska (12/23, 10:06 am) Just for the record, the article you linked to does not demonstrate that the 103 students in the school district don't know which of the 25 teachers, administrators and other school district employees are armed. In a community small enough that it's not incorporated, and that has only 103 school-age children, it would be highly unusual to be able to keep a secret (which teachers are armed) that is known by so many adults, and that's a matter of public record (i.e., school board approval).

Mark Proska -- In your experience of shooting to kill an armed person, what was the most important training you had been given that enabled you to be successful under duress? How would you pass it on? Isn't that an essential factor that your simple proposal must provide for teachers and the like?In the complex, target-rich environment of an elementary school, one obviously wouldn't want to find shooting discipline any less rigorous than one would expect from a Marine or a fully trained, annually practicing police officer or guard. Shooters inadequately trained - mentally and emotionally as well as physically - make confrontation situations worse, not better. Are you aware of the too-frequently reported results that jbruns points out above? Contrary to your earlier comment, I have no aversion to firearms, having shot some and worn one on my hip when required. You mistake rational respect for lethal consequences for "irrational aversion".

Jack Barry--For the record, I did not find your response to indicate an irrational aversion to firearms, but several from others did, in my opinion. (note that comment of mine is apparently "awaiting moderation", so it may not be available to everyone).I don't know if you viewed the link I provided, but the school district requires a higher level of accuracy. That makes me feel better about their plan but, as for how anyone will perform under duress, I don't think anyone can say until the time comes. Regardless, when the bad guy has a weapon, I much rather the good guy be carrying too, even if she's not a marksman.

Fire extinguishers don't kill people. People with 2nd Amendment "rights" kill people.

Some of us have spent time in the military and know what firearms can do. There is nothing irrational about our fear of that which we have experienced.

I'm interested in the "a good guy with a gun" principle. How many schools did someone say?--100,000?Are we talking Catholic priest good guy, with a 4% child abuse rate? Would a person have to be a "proven" member of society--say fifty years old and no police record? Maybe a military vet? Retired cop? Or would it be enough to be from a good family?The theoretical of finding 100,000 "good guys" is at root, a narcissistic indulgence. We like to think life turns out like it does on happy-ending tv. We like to think people who think like we do are the good guys. This whole NRA thing is a pipe dream."Mark: Stop trolling."Aw. On this thread, he's positively entertaining.

Todd--You can't possibly believe there aren't 100,000 good people in American, can you?

Mark, it would be more difficult to pick 100,000 good guys and no bad out of 300 million than it would be to convince the NRA to ban all firearms.

Has anyone linked to the USCCB's statement yet? is the conclusion. "In their memory and for the sake of our nation, we reiterate our call made in 2000, in our statement, Responsibility, Rehabilitation and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice, for all Americans, especially legislators, to:1.Support measures that control the sale and use of firearms2.Support measures that make guns safer (especially efforts that prevent their unsupervised use by children and anyone other than the owner)3.Call for sensible regulations of handguns4.Support legislative efforts that seek to protect society from the violence associated with easy access to deadly weapons including assault weapons5.Make a serious commitment to confront the pervasive role of addiction and mental illness in crime.As we long for the arrival of the Prince of Peace in this Advent and Christmas season, we call on all people of goodwill to help bring about a culture of life and peace."

The bishops are right to link gun violence and addiction. Here in New Orleans, which sadly is often the murder capitol of the world, the preponderance of gun murders are linked to the drug traffic. Lessen drug addiction and the drug traffic won't be so lucrative.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition of 750 mayors with several hundred thousand individual supporters, has concrete proposals to address many of the bishops' points. It also has a petition circulating that I would urge folks concerned about gun violence to sign onto. Also, the Coalition accept contributions on its website if you would like to further support its efforts. I think this coalition has legs.

The petition that Irene mentioned (thanks), available on :Our efforts cannot bring back the 20 innocent children murdered in Newtown, CT -- or the 34 people murdered with guns every day in America. But we can prevent future tragedies by passing common sense legislation that will:1. Require a criminal background check for every gun sold in America2. Ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines3. Make gun trafficking a federal crime, including real penalties for straw purchasersDemand that your members of Congress and the president support these legislative priorities.

Aw. On this thread, hes positively entertaining.ToddThanks, but no worries. Thats just his way of letting me know he thinks Im making a point effectively, and hed wish I stop. ;-)Merry Christmas!


Michael Moore has some provocative ideas about the causes of gun violence here:

According to reviews, Quentin Tarantino's new movie "Django Unchained" apparently wallows in gun violence and other horrors as well. Why do so many critics insist that Tarantino's movies are so great? Says the Village Voice in an interview of Tarantino," For some, Django might bear too many similarities to Tarantino's last movie. Like Basterds, it's a revenge epic informed by identity politics, and it hero-worships con men who, under deep cover, exploit a moral license to kill. Like Basterds, it climaxes with highly symbolic, pyrotechnic destruction.""Quentin Tarantino Emerges with His Most Daring Film Yet - Page 4 - Movies - New York - Village VoiceSince when does such "art" deserve to be treated as civilized? Yes, evil needs to be shown. It does not need to be approved, cheered, and given Academy Awards. Such moves need to be booed for what they are: stories catering to people's meanest instincts. Tarantino himself sounds sick. He seems to relish "humorous" mayhem (sadism, is a better name for it), even as his own conversational vocabulary is that of a 10-year old child, e.g., it would be "nice" to win an Oscar. Aw "shucks" indeed. To paraphrase Bette Davis, What a fake! There is every reason to think that super-violent movies are one of the reasons that the Sandy Hook children died. Violent images generate toleration of violence, and in some cases the images help generate the violence itself. But given the almost universal critical acclaim for Tarantino's flics it appears that critics are quite happy to at least condone such depictions of evil, describing them by such euphemisms as "edgy" and "dark". But a few critics are exceptions. See Wikipedia on "Inglorious Basterds", especially the section about a Jewish critic who accuses Tarantino of making Jews behave like Nazis for the sake of a movie which Tarantino claims is about a virtuous sort of revenge. Django is also about virtuous revenge. Tarantino loves revenge, and the critics generally love Tarantino. That's sick too.

Oops == here's the link to the Village Voice intervie

I read today that the school attended by Obama's daughters and so many other children of politicians has 7 armed guards. Lots of private and public schools have them as well. Wonder how many of them are likely to experience a mass shooting. But then that wouldn't have anything to with good guys with guns, would it?

Maybe, since its Christmas time, we should let our guards down and turn off our built-in bullshit detectors (Jimmy Breslin). But I just saw something that left me thinking, No, I cant do that, at least not for this one; I cant just let it go by. What did I see? Mark Proskas response to Grant Gallichos comment above: Mark: Stop trolling. Marks ever-so-typical reply:

Thats just his way of letting me know he thinks Im making a point effectively, and hed wish I stop.

No. Im sure Grant has no problem with people making points effectively. The real problem is the tone and content of so many though not all -- of Marks comments. There are adjectives and nouns none of them pretty, all of them accurate that could be used to describe those comments. A good example (Ive mentioned it before) was the time when I caught him gravely misrepresenting a Commonweal editorial and a comment by Ed Gleason on this blog. Mark tried to play it down, but people werent buying it. As I wrote,

I solicited the opinion of someone who, I feel confident in saying, is one of the most moderate and most widely respected among all those who post on this blog. The response I got was, in its harshness, totally out of character for its author, but it was also totally accurate:
He loves to stir people up and be flippant, and he evades having his feet put to the fire. He thinks hes very clever, but hes really only clever by half. You essentially painted him into a corner, and he wasnt man enough to admit it or to craft any sort of thoughtful response.

He summed up by describing Marks response as cowardly.Another person Rita Ferrone responded to Mark on the blog:

Gene Palumbos comments are right on. They are demonstrably grounded in the facts, and are both morally cogent and civil. I find them completely persuasive, and am grateful to him for making clear who is telling the truth here and who is distorting it. It is sad. Mark continues to post, as if nothing happened. He obviously thinks it doesnt matter. Its yesterdays news. But I must admit that I will be hard pressed to take seriously anything Mark Proska might say in the future, knowing that his regard for the facts is so slight and his sense of responsibility for having unjustly vilified the Commonweal editors is nil, as this exchange shows.

During all these intervening months, Mark has never unless Ive missed something retracted what he wrote. So much for his self-serving claim that the reason why people like Grant wish [hed] stop is that hes making a point effectively.Given Marks performance, surely there are others who, like Rita Ferrone, will be hard pressed to take seriously anything [he] might say in the future. If Mark wants to turn that around, he could begin by finally apologizing to Commonweals editors and to Ed Gleason in this same forum where, earlier, he smeared them.

Merry Christmas to you too, gene!

One action that could be taken by Catholic bishops, parish pastors, or lay groups concerned by control of firearms could be, similarly to Bp Loverde for abortion ( ), to declare a day of prayer and fasting when the topic is scheduled for discussion on Capitol Hill.

Mark --You're patently dodging Gene's point.

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