No easy solutions

By Tom Cardella

Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 13 | Posted Jan. 3, 2013

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The debate rages. The only thing that we agree on is we don’t want any more Sandy Hook tragedies. Everyone has their own solution. We have heard them all before because we have seen these mass shootings before. Columbine melts into Virginia Tech into Sandy Hook and inevitably into some future American school. 

Our retention span is shockingly brief — about the time it takes to flick from one channel to the next with our remote control. Nothing seems quite as horrific as the massacre of innocent children, but alas, even this searing heartbreak will fade until the next tragedy strikes. We are easily distracted. It is one of the less admirable qualities of the human condition.

Both sides in the debate make possible solutions sound amazingly simple. The first step we can and should take is the realization that there are no simple solutions. When 77 people can be slaughtered in a country like Norway, maybe the apocalypse has begun and we just haven’t noticed. Yet it is much too facile, as some suggest, by the Norway example to conclude that our problem in America is no worse than anywhere else. In Norway a mass shooting is once in a lifetime while here it is seemingly an annual ritual of horror with only the names changed.

The National Rifle Association suggests we place trained, armed security guards in every school in America. The idea has been greeted with much derision. Opposition to the idea is that they are too expensive, not conducive to a learning environment or simply guns don’t belong in schools. I don’t often agree with the NRA. I find their “solutions” are mainly ways to distract us from imposing any bans or limitations on owning a weapon. But if we can tolerate armed security guards in other areas of our lives to protect us, I have no problem with doing so in schools where the commodity that we are protecting is so much more precious. We could even hire more police to serve the function. Of course, mass shootings don’t just occur in schools. They occur in any public place where crowds gather — movie theaters and shopping malls to name just two. And critics are correct that there are considerable costs involved. But they ignore the considerable costs involved in their own solutions. 

On the other side of the debate, most of the talk is about restoring the ban on assault rifles and other semi-automatic weapons that Congress allowed to expire in 2004. We must also do a better job this time around in defining assault weapons, something we didn’t do under the previous ban. Once we reinstitute the assault-weapons ban, there is the problem of the estimated more than two million assault weapons already out there. In order for the ban to mean anything, someone must get those weapons off of the street. 

In 1996, Australia faced a similar problem. In addition to imposing severe restrictions on gun ownership, the government imposed an 1 percent tax levy to raise $500 million in order to buy back about 600,000 guns. Since we have about three times the number of assault weapons in circulation, any buyback program would cost about three times as much. Would the public support a federal buyback program that would mean more taxes? And even if we did, would a Republican-controlled Congress that refuses even to impose a modest increase in tax rates on the wealthiest among us pass such a measure? We shouldn’t kid ourselves; the political hurdle is formidable.

One suggestion on which both sides of the debate seem to agree is the negative effect of violent video games and movies. But what most don’t realize is that video games are rated much the same way as movies. The Entertainment Software Ratings Board issues ratings for video games that have as little effect as movie ratings. In theory, ratings are a good idea, but in reality, they are ignored for the most part. There is no good way to enforce the ratings system without the cooperation of parents. Sad to say that many of the same parents that complain about their children being exposed to violent entertainment are the same ones who give in to their demands for popular video games and films. Government restrictions of these games’ and films’ content run into constitutionally protected free speech.

By outlining the difficulty of the problems we face in preventing another Sandy Hook, it is not my purpose that we throw up our hands and do nothing. But underestimating the difficulties ahead is a sure way to court failure again. It is a sure way to ensure that we will be wringing our hands in horror at the next Sandy Hook-type tragedy. We will have to pull together as a nation. Previous opponents of gun control will have to understand that banning assault weapons and tightening requirements at gun shows will not be a first step toward outlawing legitimate hunting or home-protection interests. Gun-control advocates will have to understand the legitimate interests of gun ownership, as America is a land of diverse cultures. Both sides must respect each other in order to get these killing machines off of our streets.

There is no better time to start than now.

Contact the South Philly Review at editor@southphillyreview.com.

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Comments 1 - 13 of 13
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1. NRA said... on Jan 3, 2013 at 03:04PM

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

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2. Anonymous said... on Jan 3, 2013 at 03:45PM

“You stated that "We shouldn’t kid ourselves; the political hurdle is formidable".

I wish I could find that speech where Obama says that he doesn't need Congressional approval to do what he wants to do in banning guns.
As he has done other things without Congressional approval, such as the war in Libya, he may get away with this one also.

But seeing how Congress passed the 2013 version of the NDAA, which is unconstitutional, it seems as if Congress will approve anything he wants anyway.

When I come across the link pertaining to this, I'll send it along.”

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3. Fred said... on Jan 5, 2013 at 07:22PM

“Hey NRA,

Was the gun-owning mother of the killer in Connecticut a member of a well-regulated militia? Or are you in denial about Connecticut.”

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4. Anonymous said... on Jan 6, 2013 at 07:43AM

““Government restrictions of these games’ and films’ content run into constitutionally protected free speech”.
 Constitutionally protected.
So the first Amendment to the Constitution in the bill of rights protects violent games and movies. What does the second Amendment to the Constitution in the bill of rights protect?
“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”.
The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”.
“Shall not be infringed”.
1. Disobey or disregard something.
2. Encroach on somebody’s rights or property.
Infringed (verb) Transitive and intransitive verb to take over land, rights, privileges, or activities that belong to somebody else, especially in a minor or gradual way.
Transitive verb to fail to obey a law or regulation or observe the terms of an agreement.

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5. Tom Cardella said... on Jan 6, 2013 at 12:09PM

“Despite the paranoia exhibited in the comments of ANONYMOUS, no one, not the President, his special commission, not even this column to which he has responded, suggests prohibiting gun ownership. If ANONYMOUS is arguing for unrestricted firearms, I don't believe that even the NRA takes that position.”

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6. Anonymous said... on Jan 7, 2013 at 01:15AM

“The Problem doesn't lie in "evil" black rifles, assault weapons, or even handguns; the problem lies in evil residing in the hearts of men. I'm a young secondary school teacher, and also a gun owner, and concealed carry permit holder.
I own several of those rascally assault weapons... and have to lock them up in a safe so they don't drain the blood of the neighborhood kids. Attempts at humor aside, I did ROTC in college and know the difference between an M16a2, a Kalashnikov (AK47), and what I've got locked up in my safe along with my Grandfather's ancient M1 Carbine from when he was fighting in WWII, which oddly enough is also listed as an "assault weapon." Without getting technical, you can't go to 9th and Ellsworth and buy an honest to goodness M16a2; you have to go through the ATF to get those.
But back to the problem at hand, evil in the hearts of men. It's always going to exist, no matter how many laws we have, or how many guns we put on lists and make forbidden. As good people”

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7. Anonymous said... on Jan 7, 2013 at 01:24AM

As good people, we need to be responsible enough to meet and resist evil, with lethal force as need be.
In my own opinion, we should allow for teachers to carry concealed in schools if they so desire. no mandate, if you've got a CCW permit, as I do, then you can carry in school. Now, before you go off and say this is ridiculous keep in mind that to be a gun owner, and to have a CCW permit you need to pass a criminal background check (with each gun purchase), and get finger printed for your CCW. In order to be a teacher you need too... wait for it... get an FBI criminal background check, be finger prined, pass a PA state police criminal background check, and a child abuse check. Our teachers, and our gun owners are already highly vetted for criminal backgrounds.These cowardly, evil men who attack our schools are not highspeed USMC studs; they're untrained wimps, when they are confronted with lethal force they will check out by eating a bullet. why wait for the cops?”

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8. Anonymous said... on Jan 7, 2013 at 10:31AM

“I was just making the point that the words “Shall not be infringed” contained in the second amendment carry the same weight as those in the first.
“Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people to peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for redress of grievances”.
To Anon above. Great Job!

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9. Fred said... on Jan 8, 2013 at 05:31PM

“I understand "infringed". You don't understand "militia". Look it up. You nor I nor the asshole in Connecticut was a member of a militia.”

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10. Fred 1 said... on Jan 10, 2013 at 06:42AM

“I think the US Supreme Court understands the United States Constitution better than you, District of Columbia vs. Heller, McDonald vs. Chicago.”

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11. Tom Cardella said... on Jan 10, 2013 at 09:54AM

“The comments about the constitutionality of the law are a smokesscreen here and just an indication of how difficult it is to get reasonable restrictions on assault weapons while still protecting the rights of gun owners and collectors.”

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12. Anonymous said... on Jan 15, 2013 at 04:47PM

“Fred this is just my first two minutes of looking into a militia
George Washington: “A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government.”
"I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people, except for a few public officials."
— George Mason, in Debates in Virginia Convention on
Ratification of the Constitution, June 16, 1788
"Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man against his own bosom? Congress shall have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birth-right of an American ... The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the People."
— Tench Coxe, 1788.
Rep. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts: “What, sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty.” Rep. of Massachusetts, I Annals of Congress at 750 (August 17, 1789).

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13. Anonymous said... on Jan 15, 2013 at 04:48PM

“James Madison: “A WELL REGULATED militia, composed of the people, trained to arms, is the best and most natural defense of a free country.” (1st Annals of Congress, at 434, June 8th 1789, emphasis added.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Back in the 18th century, a “regular” army meant an army that had standard military equipment. So a “well regulated” army was simply one that was “well equipped” and organized. It does not refer to a professional army. The 17th century folks used the term “standing army” or “regulars” to describe a professional army. Therefore, “a well regulated militia” only means a well equipped militia that was organized and maintained internal discipline. It does not imply the modern meaning of “regulated,” which means controlled or administered by some superior entity.


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