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We are all in shock hearing the emerging details of the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School. It is impossible to imagine the terror experienced by those young first-graders as this deranged person entered their classroom and started shooting. It is beyond impossible to imagine what is going through the minds of the parents of the 20 first-graders who were murdered, even for those of us who have had grown children murdered. The difference between losing a 31-year-old son in Iraq and losing a 6-year-old in a school mass shooting is incalculable.
We are already hearing about the need for a “national conversation” on “common sense” restrictions that reasonable people might support; that we need “a dialogue about gun control” to make sure that more Connecticuts can’t happen; that the assault weapons ban needs to be renewed; and that “everything needs to be on the table.” The problem I have with this is everything is not on the table and the gun ban folks refuse to accept that bans do not work, abandoning the concept of common sense. The assault weapons ban was in effect in 1999 when two teenagers shot and killed 12 schoolmates and a teacher at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., before killing themselves.
Our schools have developed emergency response protocols, standardized response language, increased electronic communication with parents and continually practice lockdown drills. Unfortunately, these are all procedures to react to or report something after it has happened — none of it will prevent the murders in the first place. First responders are just that — responders, not preventers. These incidents are on the increase and fear of violating gun laws does not deter the shooters — only the fear of being shot before they can complete their murders and gain the notoriety brought by media attention will deter them.
The first thing that needs to be acknowledged is that Gun Free Zones aren’t! They are only free of legal firearms carried by law-abiding citizens. Gun Free Zones are really what we in the Army in Europe in the ’70s used to call a “target rich environment,” where a shooter has the expectation of more targets to shoot at than they have ammo. Only in Europe at that time we were talking about the Russians coming through the Fulda Gap with tank formations driving across the Steinbeck plateau and shooting back at us. In Gun Free Zones, there are no shoot-back targets — just innocent unarmed victims.
The Israelis and Secret Service have figured out the solution to school attacks, armed teachers or agents. There are armed agents in the Gun Free Zone at the school the president’s daughters attend. If it works for him, why not for us? I believe that until there are armed, trained staff members spread throughout our school buildings, our schools will continue to be targets. If the principal had carried a firearm in Newtown when the gunman came in the window he shot out, it would have ended at the front door. Our schools are legally prevented from fully protecting our children by state and federal laws — that needs to change. If I had school-age children today they would be home schooled until that changed.