Guns, “Gun Control,” and School Massacres (Part The Third)
This is the third installment of dealing with the issue of gun violence in our country, especially that which has taken the lives of so many of our innocent school children. In Part The First, my reasons for my position on Second Amendment issues were given, and in Part The Second I tried to spell out that position. This, Part The Third, utilizes an article from Time magazine, entitled “Your Brain Under Fire,” by Amanda Ripley, which is replete with facts, numbers, and logistics I interpret as supportive of my position taken in the second part.
As a career high school teacher, I found the movement following Newtown toward arming teachers and administrators, in addition to the armed security already on our secondary school campuses, at first both amusing and disconcerting from my point of view. Frankly, were I to imagine how many fellow teachers I have known would in my opinion be safe and reliable under arms, I do not think in my most generous and considered moments imagining the number to be even close to half — three in ten, maybe, at the most.
The article from Time makes this movement downright scary in the sample of my fellow teaching colleagues, as it points out how ineffective even sure-shot, thoroughly trained policemen and swat-team members are under real life-threatening conditions. Rushes of adrenaline and natural fear make sloppy shots out of firing range expert marksmen. (Specifically, NYPD officers pass on their training shooting range with a hit rate of 78%, while in “real” situations the hit rate is only 30% when the target is NOT shooting back and 18% when the target is shooting back.) I can only imagine how sloppy would be my fellow teachers with a minimum amount of training and practice! Yet we see, for example, Texas teachers in the Houston area already firing at targets on a firing range as a part of their new “in-service.” As a Texan, I understand “packing heat” in deference to our bloody, historical, “gunslinger,” cowboy heritage. But I’ve always envisioned obtaining my concealed weapon license, completing my “Texan-ness,” for purely recreational purposes, shooting among fellow shooters equally or more careful than I.
As I have indicated in Part The First, not just anyone can handle a gun, especially those who have not grown up in the “gun culture” like that of my personal past. I fear a “packing” faculty and administration will cause as much damage as the mass murderer, adding to the list of murder victims of friendly fire. These friendly fire victims could be teachers, administrators, students, or any of these. The only “packing” faculty around which I would feel safe would be one in which we were all hunters, veterans of combat, or gun club activists bristling with safety awards.
Now to those numbers that flesh out and add to this very important discussion our nation must have: Part The Second begins with a focus on the Second Amendment. The article reminds us that the weaponry context of our founding fathers is “another world” compared to the world of weapons today. In the 18th century an expert rifleman could fire a powder-and-ball musket at the rate of 3 or 4 rounds per minute; today an assault rifle can fire 45 to 60 rounds per minute. Today a 40-round magazine or clip for an AR-15 assault rifle costs about $26 and there are 600-round magazines for the same gun that cost about the same. In light of these numbers, it seems more reasonable to conclude that today it would take fewer guns to make an effective militia; our country can be defended by fewer armed personnel today than ever before. The numbers do NOT mean we need more people with lots and lots of more lethal guns. In the 1960’s, in the wake of the sniper atop the tower at the University of Texas at Austin, we learned the hard way that law enforcement needs to keep abreast of new weaponry, not to mention our military. It is a lesson we have kept learned very well, perhaps too well, given our love affair with guns.
American gun and ammunition manufacturers, as well as gun dealers, have, pardon the expression, “made a killing” from that same love affair. There were 19,592,303 background checks made by the FBI in 2012, nearly double the number from 2006, yet there were 250,000 new NRA memberships just after Newtown, adding to NRA’s 4,250,000 members. The yearly odds of a U.S. student being killed at school is 1 in 3,000,000, 1/3 the yearly odds of an adult being struck by lightning (1 in 1,000,000), yet 2 out every 3 U.S. shootings are cases where the shooters attack their own communities. Each year in the U.S. guns are used in self-defense 180,000 times. None of these numbers would be a reason not to adopt a shooter-education program similar to the one I suggest in Part The Second. Nor would any suggest we should not expand the definition of people in whose hands guns should not be placed, expanded to include the mentally unstable and the incompetent, along with the criminal, the terrorist, the insane, and the very young below an age of responsible behavior. These numbers to me could be used to support changes such as regulation of assault rifles and hand guns, electronic tracking of individual weapons, restrictions on gun manufacture and the selling of guns in foreign lands, reduction in the capacity of clips, and stricter restrictions for background checks. In other words, these numbers could be used in support of not only Part The Second, but of President Obama’s proposed program to reduce gun violence in our country. Such a reduction is the least we can do for the safety of our school children, so that 1/3,000,000 can become even smaller.
Let me throw out a question: Is it possible to consider more restrictions on guns in urban areas than in rural areas? We seem to shoot each other more in areas of higher population density, which makes sense — the more people, the more likely people will be shot if guns are fired. Would gun restrictions based upon how crowded you are be “population discrimination?”
As this discussion continues, and it is very important it does, I suggest we keep some things in mind. First, we need to avoid the extremes on this issue. To get rid of all guns among the citizenry is just as preposterous as arming every adult American citizen. Second, the Second Amendment was born for the assurance of a militia under the assumption of 18th century weaponry; it has nothing to do with gun show purchases. Third, more guns in our schools do not make our schools safer. Fourth, shooting guns should be treated like any other potentially dangerous taste, hobby, sport, or past time — respect, education, screened certification, and caution. And fifth, be aware of how we could field dress the sport out of hunting if hunters are as well armed as soldiers.
Regarding the fifth in the above paragraph, visualize using GPS to spot the only deer within a radius of ten miles around you from within your climate-controlled firing center. Then, as you open up another cold one, you launch a deer-killing drone, which you expertly guide via remote control with your video game skills to lock in on the hapless deer. Within seconds of lock-on, the deer is blown to bloody “smithereens” and you take a break — so you can go order on-line some venison to celebrate your kill.
Come to think of it, I could use the system I just described to rid my land of feral hogs!