What do we do to protect our schools? Is this one of those questions that have no real answer or at least not one definite answer? What can we propose that does more than give in to the predictable shouts and demands of the irrational and angry and fearful and uninformed? What can we do that isn't something that has already failed to have any effect or that we're already doing? What can we do to calm the irrational, the ill informed, the hysterical and fear ridden?
Certainly none of the solutions we've so passionately offered and instituted and defended against criticism have done anything we can point to as having helped: the three day waiting period, the background checks, the late "assault weapon" ban, the ban on "Saturday Night Specials," the ban on sending guns through the mail without a Federal license, the ban on automatic weapons that's been here since 1937, the restrictions on how many guns you can buy in a year, how much ammunition. . . the need for criminal background checks and fingerprinting -- how short a barrel can be and even whether a sporting gun can legally be made to look like a military weapon -- Sure, the overall rate of violent crime may continue to decline and perhaps some of that is due to these measures or to more people being in jail, but there will be more incidents as there are in countries with draconian gun control laws. At every one we can be sure there will be calls to make murder even more illegal, to somehow confiscate all guns from the 175 million people who own them -- and the same mouldy arguments will be trotted out again and discussion of whether experience anywhere has given us a reason to be hopeful, will not be heard. Still I have a good idea what will happen.
The media will chew on this for days striving to raise the discussion to the point of mania, because it's good for ratings. As I watch, the network nitwits are prattling about whether we should go back to that fraudulent "Assault Weapon Ban" which really only banned newly made fake assault weapons made overseas and left millions already in circulation. It made us liberals feel good. It made nothing better.
People will be afraid to send their kids to school. When heads begin to cool, there will be a search for heroes and the folk psychoanalysis of perpetrators by the usual hired opinionators. The same old axes will be ground.
There will be more earnest insistence that banning things make them go away, even if there are 200 million in the country, perhaps much more. More idiocy about making psychotics "just say no" by passing a ban, a restriction, a law.
What we should be asking is what I asked just now -- how do we protect the innocent, the helpless without increasing helplessness? How do we protect our schools? How do we keep the dangerously insane off the streets and how do we keep them from acquiring bombs, guns, crossbows, knives and yes, airplanes? How do we do this without harming those people who need guns: farmers, for instance and people who use them to feed their families. Do we need to argue for weapons with smaller magazines? Shorter barrels, longer barrels, longer waiting periods, sanity checks? All I can say is that we'll argue and in a fashion no more or less likely to produce an answer then in the past. There will be all or nothing parties and neither will make any sense. The NRA will act as though Obama is going to take all our guns, Fox will imply that he already has. Bumper stickers will appear on cars and trucks.
Will anyone ask that we calmly assess how much danger must be seen as unavoidable in a free society and how much authoritarian control and how much less liberty we will or can accept in the interests of safety. One side will say arm the kids and blame Obama, the other will insist that the theoretical saving of one life justifies anything at all. Anyone in the middle won't be heard and the extremes won't listen.
I've always thought that the outcomes of a policy are the necessary test of it's effectiveness, but we're talking about America the hysterical and ill informed. It's about believing in a policy and if it doesn't work, it's because you didn't believe or didn't make it authoritarian or even Draconian enough. And so I have to ask again -- what can we do to protect the weak, the helpless, the innocent that works and doesn't unnecessarily tread on the rights of all? I fear, given the way we are, that the answer is nothing.