The recent story about the NRA calling for armed guards in every school set off a firestorm among N&O readers. Here is a look at some of the letters we've received (largely unedited). I can't post a nifty link to the original story because our blog system is, um, broken. But here's the story:
WASHINGTON -- The nation’s largest gun lobby, which has stayed mostly quiet since the shootings that killed 26 people at a Connecticut elementary school a week ago, called Friday for Congress to require armed security guards in every school, saying that doing so could prevent acts of mass violence from happening again.
In a defiant and unapologetic speech, Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, said Friday that the organization would use its resources to build what he called a “national school shield emergency program.” The NRA’s program will be led by Asa Hutchinson, a former Republican congressman and U.S. attorney from Arkansas.
LaPierre on Friday blamed the Connecticut shooting spree on violent video games and movies, as well as the portrayal of guns and mass shootings in the media and the lack of a comprehensive database of the mentally ill. He also said no-gun zones at schools could invite new attacks by those he described as “monsters and predators.” The only thing stopping a “bad guy with a gun” is “a good guy with a gun,” LaPierre said.
There has been much discussion regarding a proposed solution to avoid the horrific mass shootings we're seeing on a disturbingly regular basis. Regardless of their own opinion, everyone knows the NRA's solution: more guns. I've discussed this at length with other parents, and many of those parents have something important in common. They were all card-carrying members of the NRA and defend their gun ownership with a passion. Those same parents have something else in common. They all believe that guns have no place in our schools, regardless of who carries them. They also believe that assault weapon ownership should be better regulated. From my limited perspective, the NRA seems to be pushing for legislation (or lack thereof) that favors a vocal extreme minority. Does this sound familiar to anyone else?
My 6- and 8-year-old sons just opened their Christmas presents. Toys abound, abundant fun-making, mind-stimulating objects – but no iPods, no hand-held screens or games from today’s world.
Instead, Santa brought their parents an Atari console and joysticks, with 70 games inside, including Pong and Asteroids. And the children are in awe, understanding that their parents may let them play with it if they are good.
It’s our time, my fellow 40-somethings, to do our part: Tell the video computer gun industrial complex – or whoever is benefiting from it – that they can’t sell us gun violence. Blowing up meteors, fine. But not fellow humans. Why should we allow our children’s minds to be poisoned that way?
And the government regulates other things, It taxes us. Lawmakers need to stop allowing the producers and shareholders to dictate public policy.
I just listened to Wayne LaPierre's statement to the press in reaction to the recent massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. LaPierre is the head of the National Rifle Association. While LaPierre did point to violent video games and movies as part of America's gun violence problem, I found his remarks very disturbing.
He called on the Congress to appropriate money to put armed security guards in every school in America. Besides being a trampling of local government, LaPierre has no understanding of the tactical issues involved. An armed security guard would be no match for a maniacal intruder, armed with an assault rifle, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and body armor. You would need a SWAT Team or a squad of Navy Seals.
LaPierre did not mention college campuses, movie theaters, shopping malls and appearances by politicians, but logic dictates that they would have to be included in such a program. He said that we should trust the NRA to develop the policies, procedures and training of teachers and students to address such violent attacks.
Gun violence in America is a bloody atrocity that has reached epic proportions. America today bears no resemblance to the 18th century frontier society, threatened by foreign powers, we were when the Second Amendment was ratified.
Thanks to the NRA's influence, the ease with which anyone can heavily arm himself is frightening. We have now come to the point where if a mother does not securely lock up her assault rifle and giant ammunition clip, her crazed son can use it to kill her along with 20 children and 6 teachers.
Common sense says that we the people, through our government, must intervene and gain control of all lethal weapons. The armed camp that LaPierre advocates is the solution of a madman. The 4 million members of the NRA should seriously consider his fitness to lead their organization and repudiate his remarks.
Robert G. Harrison
The Sandy Hook Massacre has created a firestorm of opinion for and against gun control in all forms, from the re-enactment of expired assault weapons bans to more thorough background checks and improved mental health care.
None of that is my subject because most perspectives have already been voiced more or less effectively, and I am unable to have any objectivity because my father was killed by a gunman. My reason for this note is to discuss one aspect of the current discussion: concealed weapons as a shooting crime deterrent.
There are several aspects of this idea that are not being recognized or are being discounted. First, any weapon capable of engaging someone with a semi-automatic weapon will need to be robust and will need more than one magazine or speed clip. The bulk and heft of an arsenal like this will make it very cumbersome and uncomfortable to carry. I suspect that in a short time the weapon will be left at home or in a car where it is susceptible to theft.
Second, one must consider the odds of being in a situation where self-defense by gun is actually necessary. Even with the extremely high rate of gun violence in the U.S., the likelihood of being in one of these situations is very remote. Even policemen can go an entire career without ever having to use their weapon.
And finally, I suspect the bravado that comes with carrying a weapon would quickly dissipate in an actual shooting incident. With the mind consumed by fear and the body racing with adrenalin, shooting innocent people becomes a real threat. The only real advantage I see is that the gunman would focus on the erstwhile protector so other people could escape.
The insidious dangers of video gaming are slowly coming to light in America. We can debate gun control and better care for the mentally ill, but a catalyst in recent mass murders is probably much closer: in home basements, dens and bedrooms.
There, alone and in the dark, players are absorbed in bizarre fantasy worlds where violent killings fill the scorecard. The weapons of choice are frequently automatic assault rifles.
An Entertainment Software Association study found that people in the U.S. spent $25 billion on video games, gaming hardware and accessories in 2011. Nearly 70 percent of American adults and children, around 165 million, play video games. That’s twice as many as in Germany and the U.K., for instance.
Some gamers resort to illicit drugs to stay awake, sometimes for days, so as to not interrupt their ecstatic gaming experience. Many gamers become loners living in a violent, make-believe world of their own.
And, when the game’s over, they just hit the reset button and live to kill another day. Problem is, there was no reset button in places like Columbine or Aurora or Newtown.
We can only hope that caring parents left these fantasy games off their kids’ Christmas lists this year.
One of the qualities of intelligence is the ability to learn from the experience of others. When will our beloved country learn from our friends in the UK and Australia? Military grade weapons and high-capacity magazines belong in the hands of the military and law enforcement. Perhaps we do need to station police in schools, but why should that preclude us from also taking common sense measures to reduce the potential destruction of mass killings? If we believe in the sanctity of life, let us take steps in every area to show our commitment in every area possible.
If one follows the logic recommended by the NRA, we should have armed guards not only at our schools but also at our movie theaters and our shopping malls and all other places where groups of people gather. If this is the kind of country you want to live in, you should join the NRA.
NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre suggests that we should have armed guards in each of our schools. If he wants to put these guards in our schools, let them be NRA volunteers standing guard daily over our children with their assault weapons.
We all feel the pain, agony, horror and despair of the Sandy Hook tragedy. Unfortunately, that does not include the leadership of the NRA, which seems to live in a world out of touch with today’s America.
I and a majority of Americans have no problem responsibly owning and enjoying guns of hunting, self-defense and collecting. Very few, however, defend the need for assault weapons and multi-round clips in all their distorted glory of video games and Hollywood.
Certainly there are many contributors to this recent American history of Auroras, Columbines and Sandy Hook. The NRA’s solution to this national outrage is to require more weapons and to advocate no new restrictions on assault weapons, even though their ability to kill many by a single shooter is an insult and threat to everyone.
The military salutes its heroes with 21-gun salutes. Maybe the NRA leadership should have sent a single NRA lobbyist to fire an assault weapon 26 times in 20 seconds to each burial ceremony of an innocent 6-year-old. It would have certainly fit their image.
The debate over gun control has obscured an important factor that encourages copycat massacres: the fame and glory the perpetrator is given by the mass media. After each occurrence we are subjected to photos of victims (especially children) and their grieving families being paraded before us while politicians, newscasters and aspiring media celebrities compete to show us how much they care while marketing themselves and whatever policy, product or service they have to offer.
The perpetrator goes from obscurity to being the star of the show -- having his name, picture and life history put on display, discussed and analyzed before the viewing public.
Imagine that we did same for teen suicides. Each network could have a special teen suicide of the day complete with life history, photos, and interviews with grieving family members. Is there any doubt that this would drive the teen suicide rate through the roof?
This is exactly what we are doing with these massacres. A responsible policy would be one where the perpetrator’s photos and life history are not reported. His name might appear in a short account of the trial months or years later. The media, who have adopted a similarly responsible policy with regard to rape victims, should do this immediately in the interests of public safety as well as common decency. If not legislation or citizen action should be used to get them to chase advertising dollars and advance their careers in a less dangerous and offensive manner.
The NRA has a point. Better security in schools could be a part of the answer. However, the price tag would be enormous. I suggest that we go along with the NRA and provide better security in schools. I also suggest that we pay for it by taxing all manner of firearms at the point of sale and tax all ammunition as well.
A 25% sales tax on the sale of guns and a tax on ammo similar to what smokers have to pay for cigarettes could help pay for the additional security.
We might also consider having a National Gun Registry where all firearms would have to be registered. Initial registration fees and annual renewal fees could also be used to pay for the security the NRA advocates for schools. Thank you for the suggestion, NRA.
Yesterday when a check-out lady at my local grocery store joked that if she had a gun she could shoot troublesome customers, I asked her if she belonged to the NRA. How did you guess! she exclaimed. Curious, I asked her if she owned or felt she needed a semi-automatic gun that could fire off rounds of 50. The answer to both was no.
Why don’t you write the NRA and tell them that? I asked. I did not get a reply.
Sisters and brothers who belong to the NRA, if you feel the way the cashier did, please write to Wayne LaPierre and David Keene and tell them that military assault weapons with limitless rounds of ammunition are not necessary for responsible gun ownership.
You will be in good conservative company; Ronald Regan did not oppose an assault weapon ban.
Otherwise I fear you are relying on people as twisted and sick as the young man who killed 20 little kids and six of their teachers and administrators in Newtown, Connecticut. Don’t you agree that gun ownership should be responsible and not irrational?
Would it be an assault on the 2nd Amendment if Congress bans assault rifles? The answer is no. If there were a ban on a rocket launcher, or bazooka or privately owned nuclear weapons, would that be anti-Second Amendment? Once again the answer is no.
People who believe they have to have assault rifles must have an ego problem: My gun is bigger than yours, mine shoots more bullets than yours because no one uses them for hunting. If their argument is protection, what are they protecting themselves from? A foreign invasion?
Protection of the home? Against who? Attila and his horde of Huns?
Nancy Lanza, who once warned a babysitter not to turn her back on Adam, owned many guns and at least one was an assault rifle, and we all know what it was used for.
If we as a country have not cried enough over this catastrophe, what will it take for us to understand the NRA’s use of the 2nd Amendment is nothing but a ploy because it is nothing more than a lobby for the manufacturers of these weapons.
We regulate the type cars we allow on our streets for the safety of us all (no dragsters or race cars allowed), and no one complains, we all can still drive. We can regulate assault weapons and still have a viable 2nd Amendment.
Regarding the NRA leadership’s reaction to the Newtown massacre, they seem to be on the verge of proposing the regulation of the virtual guns in virtual video games but cannot stomach the regulation of real guns whose only purpose is to kill real people.
In other words, the NRA leadership is willing to put limits on First Amendment rights, but not on Second Amendment rights. We must all remember that both amendments are a part of the Constitution, which our founding fathers established “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty.”
Students of American government learn that no rights are absolute, since they often conflict with the rights of others. I would ask those who are NRA members to suspend their memberships as a way to send a message to the national leadership that they support the entire Constitution, which has room for reasonable limits on guns and gun ownership.
I was able to tuck my kids into bed last night, and my son is afraid of the dark because he is 6 (not because of a live, horror show at school). My sympathy goes out to all who have been affected by the recent shootings. We live in a world of blatant malefactors, those who ignorantly commit crimes that cannot be explained away in a newspaper headline, and citizens working to create a safe environment for the population.
No one desires evil in society; alas evil will continue. Nothing can be done to stop a first time criminal who chooses to commit a crime. It does not matter how many freedoms are taken away, devastation continues. There is no antidote for the problem of evil; the oxymoron of taking away liberties for the common good simply creates a dependent, fearful, anxious and helpless society.
Thomas Jefferson said that the Bill of Rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference.
I am simply asking for a less emotional and more liberty minded approach to the issues that emanate from tragedy.
Zane G. Porter
Once again the NRA is claiming that the country needs more guns and more people carrying concealed weapons. It tells us that teachers and principals could stop school attacks if only they had a gun in their classroom. Carrying a concealed weapon also carries certain responsibilities and liabilities with it. It doesn't mean you can simply pull out your gun and kill someone. There can be significant civil and criminal liability by doing so. It may and should make someone think twice about using their gun.
No matter how much instruction is required to get a permit, most people have never been in such a stressful situation and there is no way to predict how they will react. More guns are not the answer.
As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, does South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham have information about a substantial and imminent threat to American civilians that he is not sharing with the rest of us?
During an appearnce on Sunday’s edition of "Meet the Press," he said that he opposes magazine limits for semi-automatic weapons because he wants to be able to "quickly reload" the AR-15 assault rifle he keeps in his home. If, as a military veteran, he is anxious to assure ready access to a domestic arsenal of two or more 30-bullet magazines of firepower, some genuinely terrifying portent must be haunting him.
Lest his fellow citizens be left helplessly unprepared, I pray the senator will promptly enlighten us concerning the reasons for his apprehension.
The pen may be mightier than the sword, but the misuse of both words and weapons is a fatal combination. The best – or worst – example of this is the persistent claim by gun advocates of their Second Amendment “rights.”
Even leaving aside reference to “a well-regulated militia,” the amendment states, “É. the right to bear arms shall not be abridged.” The key word, to “bear,” has a clear, simple and limited meaning; such as, to carry.
This is no competent English dictionary on God’s green earth that defines “to bear” to mean, “to own,” “to buy,” or “to sell” anything, much less lethal weapons. No citizen can be denied to right to carry arms in the defense of our nation and may receive arms through participation in a well-regulated military force, i.e. the Army, other military services, the National Guard and Reserves.
States, under the 10th Amendment, may have the constitutional right to legislate restrictive or permissive gun laws. The claim of the unlimited right of any private individual to own, buy or sell such weapons as granted by the Second Amendment is blatantly false and those who claim it are ignorant to a fault.
As recent tragic events amply demonstrate, ignorance and guns are a deadly partnership.
I have a few questions for the “geniuses” who suggest that we arm the teachers.
First, do they wear the guns strapped to their hips to give the children comfort? Do they keep them in their offices? If so do they keep them readily available where the children can get them? If they keep them under lock and key will the gunman wait while they get them? Finally does this really solve the problem?
It seems to me that it is like cutting off the top of a weed in the garden. Doing this doesn’t stop it from coming back. I would hope that the rest of us can come up with a better solution.
The best defense for the children killed in Newtown is a good offense. The NRA has shifted the subject and focus of the argument from the need to ban assault-style guns to placing good guys with guns, in schools. Should we also be putting good guys with guns in all places of public assembly: theaters, churches, country clubs, etc.? Where does the romance with guns stop?
I like guns and own a gun -- but I don't need a machine gun. When I was in the military going through basic training, I was issued an M-1 rifle. When I reported to my unit, I was issued an M-14 rife. Both rifles essentially fired one bullet per finger pull.
Within each squad, one person was issued an M-14 that had a selective switch to allow rapid fire of bullets. Back in the 1960s, when I served in the military, there was recognition of the fact that everyone in the military unit did not need to have a machine gun.
At this stage of my life, I am trying to understand why anyone in civilian life will have a need for a military-style assault weapon and high capacity ammunition clips. The nation’s gun laws need to be reevaluated and done as soon as possible, out of respect for the children killed in Newtown, Conn. Civilians do not need machine guns.
Vincent M. Spaulding
The desperation of NRA officials is becoming more strident with mounting opposition to the availability of assault weapons in our society. They are still clinging to Second Amendment rights, which have been upheld by some courts partial to right-winged ideologies.
Adopted in 1791, this amendment appeared necessary in order to equip militias to preserve peace and order. We now have a National Guard and law enforcement agencies which are not dependent upon well-armed private citizens. This amendment never envisioned the development of rapid-fire weapons, which could be used to slaughter innocent people in mass.
The off-the-wall proposal to place armed guards in all public schools is another instance of desperation. The implementation of such measures is not initiated by federal legislation, but by local school boards and law enforcement agencies.
We are all at the mercy of deranged persons equipped with assault weapons – in theaters, shopping malls and work places. It is time for sane and responsible lawmakers to place restraints on the sale and possession of these "weapons of mass destruction."
Thomas K. Spence Jr.
I've been a very good girl. Please, Santa, may we have stricter gun control laws?
How compassionate! How heart-warming! How public-spirited!
The NRA’s response to the unspeakable events in Connecticut: armed guards at every school.
Arming teachers is even being considered in some school districts.
Of course, a trigger-happy guard may mistake Johnny’s pulling a package of gum from his pant’s pocket while walking to class or Julie reaching inside her backpack as a provocation. Goodbye, Johnny. So long, Julie. But heck, don’t blame the guard! Nobody’s perfect. He was only doing his duty!
Have we really come to this? Armed guards and armed teachers in our schools?
God help America. Protect us from the NRA.
Nancy Rogers Yaeger
The shooting in Newport was a tragic event, and the suffering of the families is heartbreaking. However, another cause of death is even more tragic because these deaths occur in greater numbers every day and affect many more people. They come from the misuse of alcohol.
Although alcohol-related accidents account for far more deaths each year than deaths caused by guns, there are almost no controls over the sale and use of alcohol. Even people with a record of arrests for DWI can purchase alcohol legally, as can those with criminal records or a history of mental illness.
Alcohol-related deaths are tragic and horrific. Why no outcry for better controls over the sale and use of alcohol? Is it because alcohol-related deaths are not as sensationalized by the media and because the “drinking culture” is more acceptable than the “gun culture”?
We may or may not need more gun control, but we definitely need better control over the sale and use of alcohol. How about making buyers of alcohol go through the same screening as those who purchase guns?
How much longer will we be held hostage by the NRA and our legislators who do not have the intestinal fortitude to stand up to that organization? More guns are not the solution to this problem.
Assault/military weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips should be available only to our police forces and the military.
I am sure our founding fathers did not intend for the Second Amendment to be used to murder innocent victims. I believe in the right to bear arms but not to the extent that it is used today. If our legislators cannot stand up for us in this instance, we do not need to re-elect them. Something must be done. Enough is enough!
Georgie F. Brizendine
I worked as a teacher in a trailer behind a Raleigh school. Trailers house classrooms throughout the country. This is a tremendous security risk.
An armed guard would not prevent an intruder from breaking classroom windows or entering trailers. Also, a campus of separate buildings is difficult to guard. Funding is needed so that all students can be inside a school.
Teachers in our mobile units were not given keys to the school and were told to prop open the door to the school with a rock, in itself a compromise to school security. Students were often locked out when trying to go into the school to reach the bathroom, because the rock was not in the door.
If we were locked out, I had to walk my students around the whole building to get into the school for a tornado warning. The Newtown Conn., killer had 10 minutes with an assault weapon before police arrived. Could a guard reach trailers in time?
At Columbine the armed guards were killed by assault weapons. Do we really need to have assault weapons and armor-piercing bullets so much for target practice that our children have to live in fortresses?
Regarding the Dec. 23 letter to the editor, “We forget God,” are you kidding?
You have the nerve to blame a national tragedy on a health care issue, abortion? If anything, suggesting that God has anything to do with what happened in Connecticut is preposterous.
I am absolutely dumbfounded by such inconsiderate comments. The reason why 20 innocent, precious children and six adults lost their lives, is inexplicable, senseless. There is no God involved in this. Only God’s comfort toward hurting mothers and fathers who don’t have a child this Christmas.
Stop trying to vent your religious viewpoints, especially when the nation is grieving. You should be ashamed of yourself.
No parent should have to bury a child. The pain and suffering felt by family and friends of those murdered in Newtown is beyond comprehension. They will never recover from this tragedy. If they are lucky they will survive and go on with their lives.
We all have questions and want to place blame. Does it lie with the mother of the killer for the way she raised her child or for not securing a firearms? Was the government to blame for not funding mental health care properly?
Maybe it lies with the local board of education for not providing a safe and secure place for their children to learn. Perhaps, it lies in the gun that was used.
The solutions are not easy, but there are those who have been waiting for some tragedy to occur so they could press their agenda. The president and other politicians are now pushing to restrict the ownership of firearms. My response to their proposals is this: if any elected official promotes the restriction of the right to own firearms, I will do everything legal in my power to prevent those individuals from being reelected.
All the talk about arming teachers in schools made me remember Archie Bunker’s response to airplane hijackings in “All in the Family.”
His solution was to arm all the passengers. Give them guns when they boarded and have them turn them back in when they got off.
Archie was a man ahead of his time.
I feel I must respond to the Dec. 19 letter-writer who said that, “Blaming the NRA or guns in general for an act of senseless violence is like blaming a flea for the bubonic plague.”
While the flea may not have caused the bubonic plague it certainly played a role in spreading it. If that had been known in the 1600s, efforts would have been made to eradicate fleas, not multiply their numbers.
Reasonable people take reasonable precautions. I believe in this case those precautions should include a ban on assault weapons, expanding ammunition and high-volume magazines.
I am a retired Wake County Public School educator having spent over 30 years serving our state and county.
Our Wake County schools have been served well by the Raleigh Police Department’s School Resource Officers and Wake County Sheriff’s Department.
My high school had over 2,000 students for our one resource officer. It is high time that the NRA (Wayne LaPierre) admits that gun control is necessary and needs to be highly regulated.
I can just imagine that LaPierre’s next recommendation will be to put prison fences and guard towers on the playgrounds once the bad guys figure out they cannot get into the school buildings.
The NRA statement reaffirms that guns don’t kill people, people kill people – and that mental illness is a factor. Therefore, people who are mentally ill should not have access to guns. I couldn’t agree more.
Based on his performance at his news conference, should Wayne LaPierre be allowed to own a gun?
What could be more predictable than the NRA response to the tragedy in Newtown (“NRA: Arm guards in schools”) that the answer is more people with guns?
But all we have to do to recognize how ludicrous – and sad – such a response would be is to recall all the other settings for mass shootings in the past decade or so: movie theaters, college campuses, fast-food restaurants, shopping malls, big-box stores, post offices and other work places, etc.
There are literally hundreds of thousands of potential targets, essentially any location with a minimal “mass” of people.
So I guess the NRA is actually proposing an armed guard in every McDonald’s, Walmart, campus building, theater, church and any other place where more than 25 people might congregate.
Since weak gun-control laws haven’t worked and armed guards everywhere is both impractical and dangerous, why don’t we try the opposite approach for a change: close the loopholes for private sales, limit ammunition magazines, ban assault weapons, etc.
I would feel more secure than living in a “police state” where I would encounter an armed guard everywhere I go.