A sensible path to safety

A sensible path to safety

December 24th, 2012 in Opinion Times

House Speaker Beth Harwell presides over a floor session in Nashville in this file photo.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

Despite the concerns of House Speaker Beth Harwell, several Tennessee lawmakers apparently agree with National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, who said Friday that more guns in schools is the best defense against deranged shooters. And if communities can't afford enough law enforcement officers for all their schools, LaPierre and several of our legislators say, then schoolteachers themselves should be trained and armed to shoot it out with potential mass murderers.

From there, we suppose, they would say we need arms training and more guns for theater owners and moviegoers (Aurora, Colo.), college professors and students (Virginia Tech), shopping mall store owners and casual shoppers (Oregon), church and temple visitors (Wisconsin). By their perverted logic, people in these and other daily pursuits all need to go armed and ready to duel at all times with crazed shooters who may pop up any moment with rapid-fire assault rifles, 30-bullet magazines, armor-piercing ammo, the surprise factor, and an ample will to die quickly.

So much for rational legislative thinking, a safe civil society and freedom from the need to go armed and ready at all times to assert vigilante justice. Never mind the physical, mental reality that few among us could suddenly engage a gunbattle without an adrenaline rush, shaky hands, nervous aim, and a propensity to dive for cover when a rapid-fire shooter opens up the artillery.

No thank you.

There are good reasons why a large majority of Americans don't own a gun, have never fired one and don't want to assume, or feel capable of assuming, full-time gun-carry and deadly duty self-protection.

Most people, these numbers suggest, don't want to make safety from irrational gunners a fearful, full-time priority in their lives and daily activity: that's why we have laws and police. Most likely believe it would be hard to aim and shoot straight first -- an especially valued skill if you're in a crowd of innocents -- when fear drains your blood, and possibly your bladder. As most professional police officers report, even the most well-trained officers shake with nervous fear in gun-related encounters

A far better strategy for a safer society lies in an outline presented by the nation's more thoughtful mayors' coalition to President Barack Obama last week. It calls for a range of needed reforms, including: Require every gun purchaser to pass a criminal background and mental health check, which only happens in about 60 percent of gun purchases because of so many loopholes and gaps in voluntary state data to federal agencies. Block sales of high-capacity rifles and ammunition magazines, and prosecute violators of this law. Make gun-running a federal crime. Require federal agencies to report records to NICS. Repeal blocks on gun sales data that hamper law enforcement.

Sensible gun laws would not violate the Second Amendment. They would merely restore a sense of reason in our safety standards.