Paul W. Barada
The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut just a week before Christmas has saddened and angered an entire nation because of its apparent senselessness and, more significantly, because of the loss of the lives of 20 little children and six adults. Every school principal across the nation has been considering what more can be done to insure the safety of children, as well as teachers and administrators since that terrible day.
In the case of the Sandy Hook Elementary School, it appears that they had all the safety features in place; locked doors, a visual identification system, a remote buzzer to open the door only if the person seeking entry could be identified. This is just as we have at all the buildings in Rush County Schools. What makes this tragedy so terrible is that the deranged intruder broke through the glass by firing several rounds from a semi-automatic assault rifle to break the glass and open the door.
The fact that the deranged killer was carrying three weapons, two semi-automatic pistols and a semi-automatic assault-type rifle raises two important issues: One is how to better determine who is suffering from serious mental illness and, two, the ease with which weapons can be obtained in this country. The ultimate tragedy may be that it’s not possible to protect our children in situations like the one that so recently occurred. What more could have been done? Should all the glass doors and windows have bullet-proof glass in them? Should every school have armed security guards in the halls? Should a “lock-down” mean that the door to every classroom is automatically locked the moment an intruder enters?
The debate is also raging again about the types of firearms that ought to be available for purchase by the general public, but that issue is really beside the point, it seems to me. There are already millions of weapons in private hands in this country that could never be confiscated (even if it were lawful to do so, which it isn’t). The “right to keep and bear arms” is protected by the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. While that amendment and what it means will continue to be debated, a couple of issues are clear. Everyone has a right to purchase and carry a handgun for personal safety and the right to possess a hunting rifle for sport. But there is a huge difference in deadliness between a revolver that holds only six rounds of ammunition and a semi-automatic pistol that holds 12 to 15 cartridges and can be re-loaded much more quickly than a revolver can. There’s also a huge difference between a hunting rifle and a semi-automatic assault rifle that will fire up to 30 rounds/cartridges as fast as the shooter can pull the trigger. Another important point to keep in mind is that, regardless of whether we’re talking about a semi-automatic pistol or assault rifle, it’s very easy for the shooter to switch magazines which can easily be carried in vests made for that purpose. All that’s required to resume firing is to hit the release button on either weapon and slide in another fully loaded magazine almost immediately.
Although the previous description is lengthy, I think it makes a point worth noting. What sportsman or citizen concerned about self-defense needs a semi-automatic weapon in the first place? Does any real sportsman need to hit a deer 30 times to kill it? What self-respecting sportsman would do that? Therefore, why does anybody need access to a semi-automatic weapon for hunting? They don’t, unless the hunter is a really, really poor shot. Now, what about a semi-automatic pistol? If a citizen purchases a pistol for self-defense, what’s the likelihood that more than six shots will be needed to scare off or, perhaps, kill an intruder? The mere sight of a pistol is ordinarily enough to make most would-be burglars take flight, particularly if it’s a large caliber pistol like a 357 Magnum, a la the “Dirty Harry” movies. For hunting purposes, anyone who knows anything about firearms knows that it’s far easier to hit a target with a rifle than with a handgun. Handguns, in point of fact, were designed for shooting at targets at close range (for “close combat” to use military jargon). Why is that? The length of the barrel mostly, the point being that it is far more difficult to hold a pistol steady than a rifle.
So, what did our mental patient in Connecticut do? He shot his victims at close range: perfect for an assault rifle or hand gun! Ultimately, however, we are bound to ask the question, “Why does anyone need to own a semi-automatic assault rifle with a 30-round clip of ammunition?” Should assault rifles be banned? Yes, they probably should, if only to reduce incidents like the one that took place in an elementary school in Connecticut. But the debate, in fact, is totally unnecessary. With as many weapons lawfully in private hands already, what good would it do to further restrict the sale of semi-automatic weapons? There are already over 300 million firearms privately owned by people in the United States. That’s nearly one deadly weapon for nearly every person in this country. Banning them or making ownership of certain types of firearms illegal is a ridiculous proposition; the weapons are already out there in private hands. People aren’t about to surrender their weapons. And, no matter what, the day will come again when another mentally ill person, armed with one or more semi-automatic weapons, will try to break into a school to kill our children and, frankly, there’s not much that can be done to prevent it from happening again.
That’s –30- for this week.