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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.


Commenting Guidelines

"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.



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.