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home : opinion : opinion April 30, 2016

1/2/2013 11:20:00 AM
Editorial Let's consider every option to stop gun deaths

There is no easy solution to the problem of gun violence in the United States, so it is important to try and set aside politics and figure out how to work together if we are to make any progress toward reducing gun deaths.

Since the Sandy Hook School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut there have been numerous editorials and editorial cartoons blaming the National Rifle Association for the deaths. National Rifle Association Vice President Wayne LaPierre has been roundly criticized for suggesting an armed security guard in every school as a potential solution and for blaming video games and the media for causing such events.

While I disagree vehemently with the suggestion that armed security guards would prevent such events, I believe LaPierre sincerely believes they would help. I think he believes this because he wants it to be true and not based on any serious consideration of how fast such events can unfold. I listened this week to a school resource officer at a school describe how eight students were killed at his school in 12 seconds. No armed guard could have made any difference there. I thought about the times I have walked around Triton School and imagined how long it would take the school resource officer there to reach the middle school area if a shooter came in through the west entrance to the school and started shooting. Even if the SRO ran all the way, a shooter with a semi-automatic weapon could kill all the students in at least one classroom before the SRO was on the scene. If you don't consider all the potential failings of an armed school officer protecting the school, it does sound practical, but give it some thought and it falls apart.

Armed guards do not protect someone from getting shot, they just increase the probability that the shooter may also be killed or wounded-no better example of this truth is the shooting of President Reagan, who was shot despite being surrounded by the most elite armed security service in the world.

LaPierre is criticized for blaming video games and the media for causing events such as Sandy Hook School, as if he is only interested in passing the blame to deflect it from the NRA, but that is an unreasonable accusation. There is plenty of evidence in psychological and sociological research to support the possibility that being exposed to deadly violence in video games, television programs and movies can reduce human aversion to such violence. There is at the present time no conclusive evidence that such exposure to entertainment violence causes anyone to go out and emulate what they have seen but that does not mean it isn't happening, only that the hypothesis hasn't yet been proven.

I'm sure LaPierre was also referring to the news media in his remarks, and there is cause for concern with us as well. When an event happens, the news media smothers the event with people who are so busy looking for a way to make the story their own that they distort the events and sometimes make the killers look diabolically glamorous.

LaPierre plays down the one step that has proven successful in many cases, reducing the number of guns and public access to them, because that is his job at NRA, and it reflects an attitude in the U.S. growing out of the Second Amendment and gun ownership, which most Americans consider a basic right in some way. It is up to us, the People of the United States, to get gun laws changed if we want them changed; it is not up to LaPierre and the NRA.

Reducing the number of guns and public access to them has dramatically reduced the number of gun deaths in many political/geographical areas. As an example, in Australia, following the Port Arthur massacre in 1996, the national government forced the states to adopt the National Firearms Agreement, which banned all semi-automatic weapons and pump-action shotguns and restricted gun ownership and licensing by requiring anyone who wants a gun to demonstrate a need for it. Today the rate of gun deaths in Australia has been reduced to 1 in 100,000 annually, which compares to the U.S. rate of 10.2 in 100,000 annually. Clearly, there is evidence that gun laws reducing the number of guns and public access to them can make a difference in gun deaths.

Every solution has its own set of undesirable consequences. Knife deaths continue to be a problem in Australia-a growing problem. Knife deaths were always a problem in Australia, and there doesn't seem to be a correlation between the gun laws and knife deaths, but it is obvious that there is more to the problem of humans killing each other than just control of the weapons they may use.

There is no contest between the killing potential of guns, particularly semi-automatic guns, and knives. No one commits mass murder in schools and shopping malls with a knife, so we should not be misled by arguments that controlling guns won't stop murder, even though it is true. We won't stop all murders but could dramatically reduce murders because guns are the primary weapon of choice, if available.

There is no easy solution to murder and mass killings but that doesn't mean we shouldn't act to prevent as many as possible. To that end, we have to listen to each other with open minds and consider every possible solution, no matter the source.

Larry Dobson

Claremont Service

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