It will take more than gun control

Published 12:44 am Saturday, December 22, 2012

When he was 5 or 6, my youngest brother spent a Sunday morning with our brother and a close family friend on the friend’s family farm. The older boys weren’t yet 16, but they were allowed to drive on the farm to hunt and feed cows. Eric loved being part of their activities.

On this particular Sunday, both big boys were feeding cows. The little boy sat in the cab of the truck, fascinated with the gun in the rack.

He reached up and pulled the trigger, not aware that the gun was loaded. Fortunately, the truck was his only victim, but the older boys were close enough that the possibilities were scary. Real scary.

Then there is the story of our friends’ child, Elizabeth, who at 14, in a moment of irrational anger, took her own life. She used her father’s handgun.

It is stories like these, and the story of my husband’s sister being accidentally shot by a first cousin when the two were about first graders, that give me a very healthy respect for firearms.

It also makes the prospect of arming teachers appalling, one of the many reactions to last week’s school massacre in Connecticut.

It would take only a moment’s inattention by a teacher for a precocious child like my little brother to cause a horrible accident.

On Friday, an angry National Rifle Association spokesman reacted to calls for some form of gun control. More guns, not fewer, provide true security, they say.

Its position is clear: The group will not budge an inch toward discussion of gun control. To the contrary, the group announced it will fund a team that will design a program to get armed security personnel on school grounds across the country.

So put an armed guard at the front door. If a madman wants to get inside, the guard is the first person he’ll shoot.

Think of the layout of a school you know. As Lt. Paul Dean of the Andalusia Police Department, a skilled marksman, explained at a school safety meeting this week, “If I were at the front door of Andalusia Elementary, and a gunman came in the back door, he could do a lot of damage before I could get to him.”

Arming teachers won’t solve the problem of school shootings any more than putting armed guards there will.

But a multi-faceted approach that looked at some weapons bans, some limits on violence in electronic games popular among teenagers, and the ratings of violent movies, coupled with smarter security and a serious look at services available for mental health patients might help.

We’ve all got to give a little to change this culture.