The responses drawn from the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary range from simplistic and entrenched to complex and inclusive. Underlying each of them is a deep sympathy for the losses Newtown, Conn., families are enduring, as well as the unspeakable tragedy that wrought those losses. Beyond that commonality, though, there is wide divergence among the proposed solutions for preventing future such events. On the least appropriate end of the spectrum is the National Rifle Associations plan.
At a much-anticipated press conference and subsequent visit to the Sunday morning news shows, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre stood firm on the organizations opposition to any new gun laws, instead offering an inadequate, unrealistic and offensive alternative. LaPierres plan for warding off future shootings would place armed guards police officers, security guards, or NRA-member volunteers in each and every school across the country. Doing so, LaPierre claims, is the one thing that would keep people safe, he said on Meet the Press. Not likely.
Instead, LaPierres proposal would contribute to a culture of fear, or worse, a police state wherein children are reminded daily of the threat of violence while any realistic notion of stopping a gunman intent on committing a horrific crime such as that at Sandy Hook could be quickly dispelled through bloodshed. In making such an outlandish proposition while adamantly rejecting any curbs on the sale or possession of any type of firearm whatsoever, the NRA reveals the rabidity of its ideology. It is gun fundamentalism, regardless of the costs.
The simple fact is that there are no simple facts surrounding public mass violence. Those who carry out such deeds are, of course, deeply troubled. The shooters tend to be adolescent or young adult men, but, beyond that, there is no monolithic profile of the factors that create a killer such as Adam Lanza.
A conversation about how to address those variant factors through a number of means is critical and has begun in Colorado, among other places. Access to mental-health services and more careful screening of would-be gun purchasers is a start. So is limiting, in reasonable ways, the types of guns that are in circulation. If one or several lives can be saved by removing military-style assault weapons from the marketplace, that is a societal good. It is not an undue infringement on the Second Amendments protection.
Holding on to the idea that more people with more guns in more public places will prevent more violence does not hold logics water. Arms races rarely serve to de-escalate tension. In proposing such a plan, LaPierre and the NRA show they lack concern with societal good, and are committed more so to ensuring that guns are enshrined above human life in American culture.
That is the wrong answer and an even more inappropriate message to send when the collective shock of such profound violence as that demonstrated at Sandy Hook is still so raw.
The answers to how to prevent future tragedies may be elusive, complicated and ultimately unattainable, but they are certainly not found in the NRAs proposal.