On Dec. 21, 2012, National Rifle Association president Wayne LaPierre stated in a speech that armed guards in America’s schools would help to protect children from future school shootings. This week, the Quick Take writers give their thoughts on the implications of this policy and comment on the future of gun violence in America.
By Pete Bailey
There has been a great deal of controversy in the past few weeks regarding gun laws and public spaces. On Dec. 21, NRA President Wayne LaPierre called for armed guards in America’s schools in order to protect children from potential gunfire. However, this proposal is not a solution to gun violence.
While it is necessary to take action after what happened in Newtown, Conn., the answer is not to add more guns. Placing armed guards in schools suggests that the only way to protect oneself from gun violence is to use gun violence.
This proposal would have larger implications on guns and public spaces. It is no coincidence that the states with the strictest gun laws have the least amount of firearm deaths in the country. This country needs to focus on preventing gun violence through stricter laws requiring more detailed background checks, mental illness reports, greater regulation of ammunition sales and other restrictions that make our country a safer place.
When it comes to prevention, an armed guard in a school is useless. If the person behind the gun intends for there to be a shooting, there will be a shooting, regardless of whether there is an armed person or not. An armed person will not be able to act immediately if a gunman begins shooting in a public place. While it is possible that a guard could stop the shooter more quickly than by calling the police, innocent people will still have been murdered.
Placing armed guards in schools is a particularly problematic issue because it is a terrible message to send to children. Children have enough to worry about in their day-to-day school lives without being reminded of the threat of gun violence every time they see a guard. This promotes a culture of gun obsession without addressing the issue of violence, a very dangerous combination. The importance of lowering violence in America is at an all-time high after the recent tragedies.
Rather than add more weapons to the mix, this country needs to improve social service programs by allocating more funds to the salaries of social service workers, thus attracting the best possible employees for such important work in our current society. Social service employees can prevent people from committing a mass shooting. This will work better than assigning guards to stop the shooter after it is too late.
America needs to realize that gun violence is directly linked to this country’s relaxed gun laws. Guns do not belong in public places, and no amount of armed guards can change that. Gun violence in America had a strong presence in 2012, and the only solution to this is to reduce the use of firearms, not increase it.
Pete Bailey is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences.
By Glenn Holmes
Americans are better than any other citizenry in the world at killing each other with firearms. The U.S outpaces its two closest competitors, Colombia and Mexico, by 2,000 with 10,300 homicides by guns in 2009. Per 100,000 people, the U.S. death rate by firearms was 10.2 in 2009, outpacing similarly developed countries like Canada (2.5) and the United Kingdom (0.25). So once again, the U.S is alone at the top, leading the world in gun deaths.
America clearly has a problem with gun-related deaths, but why?
The U.S has too many guns. The total estimated number of guns has now exceeded 270 million, or 88.9 firearms per 100 people, according to the Smalls Arms Survey in Geneva. The next closest country is India, with 46 million guns, or four firearms per 100 people. Americans make up 4.5 percent of the world’s population, and yet we own 40 percent of the world’s civilian firearms.
The U.S. is also the only country in the developed world that does not have a universal background check and licensing program, even though the American people, gun owners included, support stricter background checks. Furthermore, 40 percent of all U.S. guns are sold without background checks through the gun show loophole.
So why does our country choose to react to gun violence with more guns and more violence? The NRA gained over 100,000 new members since the Sandy Hook shooting a month ago, and gun sales have soared.
The bottom line is clear: America has a problem with guns. We have too many, and we use them on each other. The question remains as to what can be done to fix this epidemic.
There is no single answer to this question, but rather a mix of solutions. The gun ownership process should begin with universal background checks, a commonsense element to the issue. There should also be a national effort made by both the NRA and state governments to educate gun owners about proper gun safety and storage.
These ideas are only the prerequisite to a larger solution. Mass shootings like Columbine and Newtown were both committed by mentally ill and relatively young men. America needs both a comprehensive plan for treating mental health more seriously and a ban military-style assault rifles. There is no reason for any normal, law-abiding civilian to own such a deadly and catastrophic weapon. We should do anything in our power to reduce the outrageous number of guns in this country, even if it means limiting the availability of handguns.
Some will say that the solution is more guns, not less, and that gun ownership should be a civil right. Or, as NRA president Wayne LaPierre has advocated, schools need armed guards to protect students. Unfortunately, these notions ignore the clear connection between the staggering numbers of guns and gun deaths. If an assault weapons ban infringes on my constitutional rights, then maybe it is time to do some infringing. I refuse to believe that 30,000 firearm-related deaths per year and the lives of 20 Newtown kindergarten students should be the price of freedom in this country.
Glenn Holmes is a freshman in the School of Public Affairs.
By Emma Gray
For years, schools in America have not only been important for granting educational opportunities to youth, but also for teaching other non-academic, yet valuable, lessons. Students are taught how to work in group settings, how to communicate, how to compromise and how to react when things don’t go the way that they want. Elementary school is usually where it all begins, when a child is first introduced to the rules of society outside of the family.
Following the shocking and tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., NRA president Wayne LaPierre condemned the action, but not the guns involved. During the organization’s highly anticipated press conference, he proposed that the government place armed guards in every school in order to protect children from gun violence.
Like many, I was surprised at this conclusion from the aftermath of the shooting. The NRA should naturally be expected to stand up for gun rights, but this approach is not well thought out. Allowing more dangerous weapons inside school buildings would not guarantee a safe environment and would also directly contradict the values that teachers try to instill in their young students.
Elementary school children are still developing their senses of right and wrong. LaPierre called them “our most beloved, innocent and vulnerable members of the American family.” Therefore, their schools need to be constructive places where they have the opportunity to catch on to the basic rules of society. One of these rules is that even if someone harms you, it is not OK to do the same to them. This idea is generally accepted as moral; otherwise classrooms would be chaos.
Bringing armed guards into schools to protect against possible armed entry counteracts that philosophy. Young children learn by example. If we wish to raise a new generation of civil adults, we must give them a chance to learn what is right and what is wrong. Offering them any contradiction makes the learning process more difficult.
Children love to ask, “Why?” Seeing an armed guard in school every day would definitely beg that question. It’s a question that I am not sure we’re entirely prepared for our children to ask.
Emma Gray is a junior in the School of Communication.