The news out of Newtown freezes everything.
Children shot multiple times, some shot as many as eleven times at close range and none of them over eight years old. Six teachers killed. Elementary school teachers, some of the most generous-hearted people we have, doing some of the most important work anyone can do.
Emotions battle with each other when an atrocity like this is the day's fact. Anger, grief, amazement, sorrow, fear, all whirling about, talking over each other, nothing making any simple sense. But a terrible event, even one as terrible as this, always delivers one, and only one good thing: clarity.
We need, as a nation, and as individuals, to take this moment of clarity and grief and sorrow and anger and fear and honestly work together to do our best to insure that these things stop happening with such heart-breaking frequency.
I've sketched out three possible ways forward. There are certainly more, but here are the ones I've come up with. Take a look and maybe we can start a conversation.
1. Arm everyone.
And, to avoid the inevitable personal arms race, arm everyone, every citizen, with the top-grade military equipment currently available. As soon as better technology, stronger body armor, more lethal bullets, faster-shooting weapons, whatever it is, as soon as it becomes available, issue it immediately to all citizens.
This will be expensive, but safety first. And actually, a war economy is a healthy economy, so the need for increased production of all of this weaponry will create jobs. This fully weaponized society, with every citizen at a moment's notice able to unleash thousands of bullets in a matter of minutes upon any and all other citizens, will, according to all of the National Rifle Association's arguments, logically result in a safer country. There may be some isolated, tragic cases, perhaps, where someone who has had a bad day and who, without immediate access to high-grade military weaponry, would have simply punched a wall or maybe even got involved in a pushing and wrestling match in a parking lot, will, instead, gun down twenty strangers. But on the balance, clearly, it will make for a safe environment.
So, that's option one.
2. Keep the access to guns the same, just make the environment safer.
This is basic lockdown, a strategy that is routinely employed in high-security incarceration centers across the land. Every public area: stores, banks, movie theaters, schools, restaurants, office buildings; any place where you have to walk through a door; is equipped with a metal detector and a minimum of one armed security guard. When you enter, you place your belongings on the belt, wait until the guard waves you forward and step through the metal detector. Just like the airport. The technology is there, it just has to be put into place. Also, all citizens will agree to random pat-downs and bag searches by armed security personnel. If you are carrying a concealed weapon and can produce a license for it, then you go on your merry way. If you do not have a concealed weapon, you thank the security guard for protecting you and go on your merry way. If you are carrying a concealed weapon and do not have a license and are, in fact, planning on committing a mass murder, the armed security guard will find your weapon, you will hand it over to him without any kind of struggle and society will be safe.
In rare, tragic, isolated cases, some individual, planning a mass murder and carrying a concealed weapon or weapons, upon being approached by an armed security guard may take advantage of the element of surprise and before submitting to the pat-down may open fire and kill the security guard and anyone else who may be standing behind or next to the guard. But on the balance, clearly, this would make for a safer country with, admittedly, a regrettable loss of civil liberty and a small increase in the degree of daily personal invasion.
So, that's another possible way forward.
3. Regulate gun ownership as we do everything else in this country that may cause death or injury.
Like automobiles. Like switch-blades. Like alcohol. Like cigarettes. Like everything else. The only difference being that handguns are designed for only one thing: killing other humans. So, perhaps they should be regulated with a little more thought and rigor than other things.
Everyone who wants to own a gun, no problem. You take a test showing you know how to use it, you get a quick eye test and you get a license. And if it turns out you're mentally unstable, you don't get the license. Otherwise, you want to hunt, you want to keep a gun in your home or on your person for protection, no problem.
Although, I'd suggest we look to the Constitution for some guidance on this. The Second Amendment clearly states that "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the
security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms,
shall not be infringed." And, of course, we have well-regulated militias in every state in the union. We call them the National Guard. So, if you want to own a gun, you join the National Guard. Every month you take a weekend and train. This will dramatically increase the people in the National Guard, which will help in times of emergency. That's a win win right there.
And the course of regulation isn't that difficult to imagine. We could look at the regulation of automobiles as a possible model. Automobiles are very, very regulated in safety and speed. And there are, of course, cars available that go much faster and are not as "safe" as the car in your driveway. These are racing cars. They're legal. You just can't drive them down the highway. So, if you want to own a semi-automatic pistol or a rocket-grenade propeller or many, many machine-guns, that's fine. But you can only operate them in certain areas, cordoned off from the general public. That's just basic safety and common-sense.
So, we've got three options:
1. Arm everyone, make it mandatory. This would be the NRA's choice, based on their public statements.
2. Impose universal, national lock-down. Will slow things down, but everyone gets to keep their guns and you will know, once you're inside somewhere, that you are, probably, safe.
3. Regulate guns. Like we do with everything else and like every other civilized, industrialized nation on the planet does.
There is a fourth option, of course. It's the one we always reach for and will, sadly, most likely choose this time as well.
We can do nothing. We can grieve, mourn and question. We can shake our heads in dismay. And do nothing. And if we choose this option, as I'm so afraid we will, if we choose door number four, then when the next massacre occurs, as it will, as you know it will, then also know that we, you and I, share responsibility in the next round of murders. Because we did nothing to prevent them. We did nothing, knowing that they were inevitable, that they were certain to occur as long as we allow virtually anyone in this country easy access to military-grade weaponry and allow others to call this access "freedom".
Those are the four options I see going forward.
I hope this has been helpful.