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The answer to gun carnage is not to arm teachers

Have you ever seen the holiday film classic “A Christmas Story?” Set in 1940s Indiana, it’s the charming tale of young Ralphie, whose only wish for Christmas is a Red Ryder BB gun. Poor Ralphie is constantly rebuffed by the adults in his life, who warn him, “You’ll shoot your eye out.”

During this shattered holiday season, with so many Connecticut families experiencing unimaginable loss, the movie is a reminder that guns have always been popular in the American imagination. It also gently reminded me, however, that previous generations were much more circumspect and cautious in their attitudes toward firearms.

I am delighted that President Obama, shocked to his senses by the carnage in Connecticut, has finally found the courage to stand up to the gun lobby and take steps toward more regulation of firearms. But I fear that won’t be enough.

Don’t get me wrong: I support a ban on assault-type weapons, a ban on high-capacity magazines and waiting periods for gun purchases. All of those are commonsense measures that should already be the law of the land.

But I don’t think those steps will be enough to change a culture steeped in gun lore and conditioned to believe that firearms hold some magical powers to keep the streets safe. Somehow, our crazed romance with guns — a dangerous and dysfunctional relationship — must end.

It hasn’t always been this way. My late father came of age in the 1930s and ’40s in deepest, reddest Alabama. He was an avid outdoorsman who loved fishing and hunting. Nothing made my father happier than awakening in the wee hours on a crisp morning in November to go out into the cold and stalk deer. Go figure.

I think he would have been amused — or perhaps puzzled — by the ad campaign that Bushmaster adopted to sell its AR-15 assault-type rifle, which was used by the Connecticut shooter. The campaign bestowed “manhood” on Bushmaster buyers. I don’t think my dad — who worked hard, supported his family and tried to teach his children right from wrong — ever thought his manhood was in question.

A veteran of combat in Korea, he was as strict about gun safety as the National Rifle Association is imprudent. He and his hunting buddies refused to hunt with rifles because the projectiles are too powerful and travel too far; they used shotguns instead. They banned hunters whom they deemed careless. Dick Cheney would not have been welcome.

As a young college graduate headed for the big city, I contemplated buying a firearm. My father wouldn’t hear of it, noting that I’d be more likely to be a victim of my own handgun than to ward off danger with it. He suggested that I stay out of dangerous places instead.

My dad was also a junior high school principal, and I think he would be horrified — simply horrified — by the irrational suggestion from some political leaders that the answer to school shootings is to arm teachers. He knew perfectly well that arming teachers would be a way to get more children killed.

As the term “friendly fire” connotes, soldiers and police officers, who undergo intense weapons training, frequently miss their targets or hit others by mistake. Last August, as just one example, New York City police officers killed a gunman outside the Empire State Building. Nine bystanders also ended up wounded, all by police gunfire or ricochets.

When did so many of our political leaders — governors, members of Congress, state legislators — lose their senses about guns? How did we come to have a culture in which public figures believe it is rational to advocate arming teachers to prevent school massacres?

Even as some of the loudest gun advocates have become more hysterical in their absolutism, the number of households with guns has actually decreased over the last few decades, according to polls and federal data. Unfortunately, the number of guns owned by a smaller portion of households has increased.

Meanwhile, reasonable, old-school outdoorsmen like my dad aren’t speaking up. They need to stand up and be counted.

Cynthia Tucker, winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a visiting professor at the University of Georgia. She can be reached at cynthia@cynthiatucker.com.

Comments

waltspecht 1 year, 3 months ago

What, if anything do you believe would counteract a Shooter? Common sense tells you the only way to stop a Shooter is to confront them with equal or superior fire power. That is what the Police do. As to arming Teachers, the plan as origionally put out was to arm select volunteers and throughly train them. About like Sky Marshals. For they would be the immediate first responders. Pay them extra for the added respnsibility, and protect their identity. Make it where school assigned Police aren't the ones the Chief or Sheriff thought were useless on the street. Make it the best SWAT trained Officers available. Afterall it is our Country's future we are trying to protect. Plus grow up, just wishing the crazies will go away won't make it so. Dealing with an inadimate object won't make you any safer, because the prepetrators will only check out the internet for some other means of effectively killing. There will always be the threat, what is needed is a way to counter that threat. By the way, I believe your Father was a dog hunter. They stood in lines up and down roads while the dogs drove the deer to them. That is why they used shotguns. It is easier to hit a running deer with one, and it shouldn't carry to the position of the next stander if they are correctly spaced. Plus, they worried that in the excitement of the chase one idiot might fire straight up the line as the deer crosses the road. Years ago, many dog clubs went to climbing stands to assure if a shot was taken, it wouldn't go up the line, it would go into the ground. They still used shotguns for the increased hit potential.

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USTPC 1 year, 3 months ago

Walt, give it up. She like every other gun control advocate think the ultimate answer is to take away every gun owned by every American and rely on the police to protect everyone. Their expectation that the roughly 700,000 police officers across the country are capable of protecting the 300 million plus citizens against criminals is ludicrous. Similar to their belief that our government leaders would never turn the great US into a dictator run government. They live in a make believe world where they think they can convince everyone to play nice with one another.

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