Armed Guards, Gun Control Fall Short in ‘Violence Culture’

First published on Finding UnCommon Ground on January 9, 2013.

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Until now, I’ve resisted writing about Sandy Hook

What can I possibly write in the wake of the unimaginable pain of the families involved? We may empathize, but we’re far removed from the shroud of grief that covers them. On the other hand, the reason this shooting has elicited such strong reactions across America is because it’s so relatable. As parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors, and friends, we love and care about the children in our lives. We know children at tender ages like six and seven, eager to go to school and learn. We know that if it can happen to Sandy Hook, it can happen to us. 

Do I want armed guards in our schools? No, of course I don’t want that. As a school administrator told me, we don’t want to communicate to students that they should be afraid to go to school. If someone is determined to do evil—and the shooting at Sandy Hook was evil—there may be very little we can do to stop that person. An armed guard may help. In 2010, armed resource officer Carolyn Gudger saved the principal’s life and probably others at Sullivan Central High School. However, the incidents we remember are the ones where killers slipped through (or shot through) doors, guards, and security systems. We mourn Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech and Columbine the way we mourn 9/11. Our precautions failed us. Those intent on killing succeeded.

Excessive gun control is also problematic. Whereas armed guards institutionalize fear when there should be freedom to learn, rewriting the Second Amendment impedes the freedom of responsible citizens to bear arms. The Second Amendment empowers us, a self-governed people, to defend ourselves against physical threats, including an oppressive government, should the need ever arise. The spirit of the Second Amendment doesn’t intend to arm criminals or people bent on violence; it intends to protect against them.

Responsible gun owners respect life. They take care to prevent guns from being used to hurt others. They buy guns legally and keep them locked away. They hunt game or shoot targets, not people. They follow the rules. Criminals and people bent on violence don’t follow the rules. They get weapons on the streets. They steal guns, sometimes from their parents. Proposed measures like more stringent background and mental health checks, restricting the sale of certain types of weapons, and setting up a gun database all sound like great ideas. In reality, these measures may be ineffective to keep guns away from the people most likely to use them for violence.

Gun violence is a symptom of a larger, systemic problem. Phrases like “gun culture” have resurfaced since Sandy Hook and “rape culture” with the horrific reports of recent attacks. It’s more accurate to say we’ve created a “death culture” or a “violence culture,” one where human life is cheap and expendable. A few sobering statistics about American children:

We wonder how could a troubled young man ever dream of the evil he carried out against Sandy Hook? Look long and hard at the society we’ve created and tell me, how could he not? 

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