It happened again. On Thurs. Jan. 6, 2011, a high school vice-principal was shot and killed, and her principal-colleague was shot and seriously wounded. This time the shooting hit close to home—our home. In fact it was only about two miles away.
I find that there is a bizarre dichotomy at schools here in the US. On the one hand, the acceptance of minorities and different cultures is simply awe-inspiring. From a very early age children learn to naturally accept others who are different from them in any way. It really is a remarkable feat of which Americans should be very proud.
In addition, there are very strict regulations in place against any form of bullying (“no tolerance”)—whether it be physical, verbal or virtual. Although I must add that there have been worrying reports that online bullying is a growing problem that schools are having a hard time dealing with. However, if I compare the rapid action that I have witnessed principals deploy to deal with students who bully to the lack of action during my own childhood in a Canadian school, I am extremely happy that my own children are here now. And yet…
And yet—another case where schools have come under attack from loaded weapons has occurred. Here in the quiet midwestern city of Omaha, where the people are wonderful, and life is generally calm.
According to the newspapers, the 18-year old student was upset about being suspended for bad behavior, and took his policeman-father’s gun to carry out his murderous attacks and subsequent suicide. So in this particular case, my questioning the whole issue of ‘gun control’ isn’t really relevant. Or is it?
True, in this sad story, where the gun should have been either in his father’s custody or locked safely away, the gun came from a source that would have been available even had there been strict gun control laws. But this is an unusual case.
Frequently, horrible shootings are carried out by people who purchase and own their own guns. In many cases, it is hard to understand how people with a history of violence, mental illness or instability, or criminal records are able to obtain weapons so readily. Almost every time such a shooting rampage occurs, we are forced to ask, again and again, how do we let this occur? The Virgina Tech shooting was carried out by a loner who was definitely mentally unstable, and suffering from severe anxiety. Why was he able to obtain a gun so easily? The University of Alabama assistant professor who killed 3 colleagues and wounded three others in a faculty meeting had several violent incidents in her past—how did she obtain a weapon? And during the preparation of this commentary, another incident in Tucson, Arizona left 6 dead and thirteen wounded. This investigation is still in its early stages.
What else can I say? I understand the rationale of those who oppose gun control; I know that freedom to bear arms is considered a constitutional right—back from the days of the wild-west when citizens often had to rely on their own preparedness for protection against criminals. But is that not anachronistic?
Okay—so the argument is then that the criminals can obtain weapons illegally in the street—why prevent ordinary citizens from defending themselves?
Well the answer is here before us. The vast majority of these horrible shootings is carried out not by the “garden-variety criminal-in-the-street” element, but rather by people who probably would have had a difficult time obtaining a weapon. Yes, there are ways around these obstacles, and certainly some of the murderers would have succeeded nonetheless—but my reckoning is that university researchers and college students are unlikely to have ready underworld connections to purchase automatic weapons.
With regards to ordinary citizens defending themselves; well it may take a generation, but if weapons were to become largely unavailable, then eventually there would be little cause for ordinary citizens to defend themselves. It’s time to start. There are too many educators right now on the front lines, and it’s time to afford them the best protection possible: by not allowing easy access to dangerous weapons.