Killing us not-so-softly

A 15-year-old boy in Wisconsin shoots and kills his principal. A deranged gunman steps into a one-room Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania and kills six young girls (handcuffed, execution style) and himself, critically wounding a number of others. A 13-year-old boy in Missouri brings an AK-47 to school and fires one shot before the gun jams as he takes aim at his classmates. Another lone gunman holds a classroom hostage in Colorado before killing himself and a 16-year-old girl. Ladies and gentlemen, the Second Amendment is killing us.

So many of us are sick to our stomachs with the constant bombardment of dreary statistics that flood our television screens, radio news reports and newspapers year after year after year about violent crime. Enough is enough. We were smart enough to repeal the idea that African-Americans were only three-fifths of a person, that women could not vote, that alcohol consumption should be prohibited, that senators need not be directly elected by the people, so forth and so on. All of these ideas were deeply embedded into our Constitution at different points in our history before we came to realize that those ideas were just not feasible in terms of maintaining our society's progress. The Second Amendment and our lunatic obsession with our weapons is a threat to our national security. We have found the weapons of mass destruction and they are sitting in closets, basements, garages and gun shows all across the country.

Solutions? The conservatives have a few. Well, sort of. Rep. Frank Lasee, a Republican from Wisconsin, has introduced legislation that would allow teachers, principals, administrators and other school personnel to carry concealed weapons. Lasee wants us the follow the lead of Thailand, which allows its teachers to carry guns, and Israel, which puts armed security guards at the entrances to schools. Luckily for us and unfortunately for Mr. Lasee, we have a federal law on the books that prevents guns on school grounds. Unlike Thailand, which just suffered a military coup and consistently faces attacks from Muslim separatists in its south, and Israel, which maintains something very similar to a police state in order to preserve its occupation of Palestine, our schools are statistically safer places for our students. These are two examples we would probably be better off not following.

The Bush administration held a summit on school safety on Tuesday in order to score some political points on the politically safe issues of education and child safety four weeks before the midterm election. No new policies were expected nor developed as strategies for keeping schools safe are widely known and practices differ across states and localities. Essentially, the idea was, "Let's hold a summit to make it look like we're doing big and important things to deal with this issue while we actually avoid the heart of the matter - gun violence - like the plague."

In this disastrous vacuum of federal leadership, Mayor Mike Bloomberg of New York City, Mayor Thomas Menino of Boston and the mayors of more than 100 U.S. cities have created the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition. This is in response to the 2.3 percent spike in violent crime in 2005 as reported by the FBI. The agency indicated that the trend may increase into this year as well. The 109 mayors in 44 states include Democrats and Republicans who recognize that "public safety is not a partisan issue," Bloomberg said. "Illegal guns know no borders and are not confined to one city, one state, or one region," the mayor said.

Menino echoed the sentiment that the federal government has failed its people. "The federal government has abandoned its obligation to public safety, and illegal guns are a national problem that demands a national response," he said.

The coalition is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. The typical conservative response, from a representative of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, was "The coalition is political grandstanding."

Political grandstanding? That might be a term I'd use to refer to the president's recent "safety" summit, but these mayors are working out of a general concern for the well being of the citizens they serve. As bullet-riddled bodies are piling up in city morgues across the country, the conservatives are paying lip service to public safety one day and turning around to take contributions from the very organizations (i.e. the NRA) and support the very bills that ultimately make us less and less secure.

Maintaining a militia? If we are really silly enough to believe that our Glocks and Berettas are enough to oppose the National Guard or U.S. Army in the highly unlikely event that we ever need to rise up against our government, then we're not smart enough to own the things in the first place.

The ultimate conclusion we need to reach is that both legal and illegal guns in this country threaten our human security as individuals. Sure we have a ton of rights that we all like to boast about and enjoy, and that is a large part of what makes our country unique and strong. But we're a little short on our responsibilities. We have been for a while. Our responsibility to protect each other, to keep each other safe (specifically our children in their schools) will always supercede an individual's right to have a gun, for whatever purpose they claim.

We've made changes to our most hallowed document in the past, for even lesser reasons. This time, it is literally a matter of life and death. Down with the Second Amendment; up with greater progress in America through the end of gun violence.

Paul Perry is a senior in the School of International Service and a liberal columnist for The Eagle.

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