There was a moment of silence after Sandy Hook, then the National Rifle Association’s madness resumed.
A wise man once pointed out that if we don’t learn from the errors of the past, we are doomed to repeat them. Are Tennessee students and teachers now doomed to die because the NRA and its political lackeys refuse to learn from their egregious errors?
According to a U.N. report, the U.S. has by far the highest rate of gun-related deaths among the world’s 23 richest nations, averaging 20 times more such homicides than its peers. Tennessee probably has one of the highest gun-death rates in the developed world, since according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, we ranked eighth among the states with 966 shooting deaths in 2009.
The center gave Tennessee gun laws an “F,” and that was before some of the even crazier legislation of recent years.
After the Sandy Hook massacre, the NRA went through a silent period during which it stopped sending out Tweets and made no public comments about the murders of 20 young children and six educators. Many of us hoped this silence indicated that the NRA was really thinking for a change, rather than just relentlessly pursuing its rigid ideology of “the more guns, the better.”
But when the NRA finally spoke, it was the same old funny farm looniness. There was no admission that flooding the nation with weapons, including assault weapons, is getting children and teachers killed. The solution, according to the NRA, is to put an armed policeman in every school.
But the Columbine and Aurora massacres illustrate why this is not really a “solution.”
When two heavily armed killers attacked Columbine, Neil Gardner, an armed sheriff’s deputy who had been policing the school for almost two years, was on duty. Gardner confronted the killers and exchanged shots with them, but he was outnumbered and they had the advantage of surprise and superior firepower. Gardner had a handgun. The killers had semi-automatic weapons, shotguns, and a variety of bombs. Gardner was also handicapped by not wanting to accidentally harm innocent children and teachers. The killers obviously had no such compunctions. So as soon as they were inside the building they had every advantage, including potentially a large number of hostages. If Gardner had gone into Rambo mode, entering the school in a hail of bullets, he might have been killed and more innocents along with him.
The Aurora killer wore full body armor: ballistic helmet, ballistic vest, ballistic leggings, throat protector, groin protector and tactical gloves. He carried an assault rifle with a 100-round magazine, a 12-gauge shotgun, two semiautomatic pistols and gas canisters. Could a single policeman armed with a handgun have overcome all those advantages?
The NRA wants us to believe that real life is like a cowboy movie, where one Lone Ranger can defeat any number of villains even though all the odds are stacked against him. Here’s what Wayne LaPierre said in the NRA’s first public statement after Sandy Hook: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” He also claimed that confronting guns with guns is “the only line of positive defense that’s been tested and proven to work.” But that simply isn’t true. Other nations have demonstrated that there are better ways to reduce gun-related deaths.
Here are three quick examples: (1) Our closest “relative” among the nations is England, but we have more than 40 times as many gun-related deaths per capita as the United Kingdom. (2) Japan has ultra-strict gun control laws, and gun-related deaths there are very rare. (3) After a shooting spree stunned Australia in 1996, leaving 35 people dead in Port Arthur, the government quickly issued sweeping reforms of its gun laws. There hasn’t been a mass shooting since. Australia’s National Firearm Agreement, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of automatic and semi-automatic weapons being bought back, then destroyed, has undoubtedly saved many lives.
The fearmongering NRA is lying to the American public. The earth’s richest, most developed nations have proven that gun control can and does save lives. The stronger the gun control — as in England, Australia and Japan — the fewer the gun-related deaths.
The NRA wants to sell tons of guns and is willing to put profits above the lives of our children and teachers. It’s time to tell the NRA in no uncertain terms that we intend to put the lives of our children and teachers first.
Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary” at www.thehypertexts.com.