He called for arming every teacher and putting armed police in the nation’s 98,000 public schools. That’s a potential windfall for the gun and ammunition industries.
LaPierre made his exploitative sales pitch even as the babies of Sandy Hook School were being laid to rest. It was a macabre spectacle that ignored the gun debate’s central question.
What about public safety?
We thankfully live in a country where public safety is a high priority. The food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, the highways we drive on, the medications we take are mostly safe because some government agency has the responsibility to make sure they’re safe. Very few of us would argue safety measures are unnecessary when we board an airliner.
So why is it that so many of us believe the public safety discussion ends where the topic of guns begins?
Guns are among the most dangerous consumer products sold in America. Of the 12,664 murders in 2011, nearly 70 percent were by firearms, according to the FBI. From 2000 to 2008, the Census Bureau reported 86,112 firearm murders.
Every can of soup must meet safety standards, but you can walk into almost any gun show and buy semi-automatic assault rifles, high capacity magazines, and ammunition, no questions asked.
The gun lobby and its political allies like state Rep.-elect Charles Gregory have distorted the Second Amendment to justify unfettered access to weapons as the best deterrent to gun violence, even calling for concealed guns in schools and churches.
They simplistically believe when you arm the “good guy” the “bad guy” automatically loses. It’s a Wild West fantasy.
Knowing the teacher is armed, the next Adam Lanza simply waits outside classroom door until the teacher’s back is turned. He steps into the classroom and kills the teacher first. Then he shoots the children.
In most churches everyone but the minister faces forward. Another James Holmes only has to enter the sanctuary and start blasting away. A congregant might react quickly enough and kill the guy with the assault rifle. But before that happens, say five seconds and a dozen rounds later, you’ll have a significant body count.
See, public safety hasn’t been addressed. We still have lots of dead children, teachers and churchgoers.
We’ll never stop all gun violence, just like we can’t stop all highway fatalities. But virtually all police and public safety officials agree we can significantly reduce the number of firearm murders in America.
“Though the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision (…) affirmed the (…) right to possess firearms, it also made clear that reasonable, well-thought-out firearm laws are valid and play a substantial role in protecting citizens from gun violence,” Michael J. Carroll, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, wrote this month in Police Chief magazine.
Sensible gun safety laws have worked in New York City. In 2012, there were 414 homicides, the lowest number since police there began keeping reliable records 50 years ago. Of these, there were just 237 gun murders in a city of more than 8 million.
Confronted with undeniable proof that gun safety measures reduce deaths, the pro-gun crowd argues the murders of 20 children and six educators is the price we must pay so that Nancy Lanza had the “freedom” to own the weapons her deranged son used to slaughter them.
It’s an appalling and completely unacceptable cost.
Kevin Foley is a public relations executive, author and writer who lives in Kennesaw.