Freethought San Marcos: A column
by LAMAR W. HANKINS
I had a talk with my old friend Wayne the other day. We hadn’t seen each other for a while, so we had a lot of catching up to do. After we talked about our work and compared how many fish each of us had caught on our last fishing trips, talk turned to politics. Wayne owns several guns, so it was no surprise to me that he had gun control on his mind.
Wayne said that he had been following the new gun legislation being considered by Congress. He said it concerned him even though he doesn’t think there’s much chance any kind of gun control laws are going to pass this Congress. “Hell,” he said, “both of our Texas senators are completely behind the right to own guns. In fact, Sen. Ted Cruz is completely against unreasonable and burdensome gun restrictions that limit our liberty.”
I asked, “So you think requiring background checks is unreasonable and burdensome?”
“Well,” said Wayne, “Sen. Cruz thinks all of this new regulation won’t do anything to stop violent crime. It’ll just undermine the constitutional rights of all citizens to own whatever guns they want to own. That boy up in Connecticut who killed all those children and teachers was just a criminal using guns inappropriately.”
“Well, how could we have prevented that criminal from getting the guns he used?” I asked.
Wayne responded, “We need to keep the mentally ill from getting access to guns.” I acknowledged that this was a good idea, but I wondered how we could accomplish that.
“As I recall,” I told him, “the mentally ill criminal in Connecticut who killed those kids and their teachers got his semi-automatic weapon and large clips of bullets from his own mother’s stash of weapons, and he even killed her before he left for Sandy Hook Elementary School.”
Wayne replied that every gun purchaser should be checked for mental illness. When I noted that this wouldn’t have prevented the Connecticut shooter from taking his mother’s guns from the home that he shared with her, Wayne suggested that maybe family members of gun purchasers needed to be checked out also. I said, “Ted Cruz is not going to like that idea.”
Wayne agreed. “Maybe we just need to require people to keep their guns locked in a secure gun safe.”
“That sounds like a good idea,” I responded, “but wouldn’t that cost a lot and involve the government even more in my life?” Wayne agreed that maybe this wasn’t such a good plan. “What if we just close the gun show loop-hole that allows people to purchase guns without a background check?” I suggested. Wayne agreed, but pointed out that this step would not have prevented the Sandy Hook killings. He had another idea.
“What if we put armed police officers at every school,” Wayne asked. “Wouldn’t that have stopped the Sandy Hook killer?”
“I don’t know,” I responded, “I seem to remember that there was a sheriff’s deputy assigned to the Columbine high school, and he was easily outgunned by the two kids who killed those 12 students and injured 21 more out there in Colorado. And that brings up even more questions. How many officers would we need at every school in America – over 132,000 schools – to provide it adequate protection? Officers make an average of of over $56,000. Just ten officers at every school (and that may not be enough) would cost over half a million dollars per school, and more for their benefits. That’s over $6.6 billion per year, plus benefits. Do you think that the taxpayers would go along with even those minimal increases in costs?”
“Well, why don’t we arm all the teachers?” Wayne asked. “One of them should be able to kill or stop a shooter.”
I replied, “Teachers are not trained to use guns and might have difficulty taking on the combined roles of police officer and teacher. Some may not want to carry guns, and others just might not have the right personality or disposition to be good police officers. If fire fighters resist cross-training as police officers, which they often do, how much more difficult would it be to cross-train teachers as police officers? It is not currently part of a teacher’s job description to shoot and kill someone.”
Wayne agreed that those points were worth considering. After thinking about it for a minute, he asked, “Why don’t we re-design our schools to be as safe as prisons?” he asked.
I replied, “Wouldn’t that still require a large number of police officers to provide security? How would we pay for all those extra officers, not to mention the costs of making our schools as safe as prisons?”
“That is a lot of money,” Wayne said. “But I’m not a politician. Why can’t they figure out how to keep our schools safe from gun-wielding killers?”
“They keep trying, but every time a bill comes up the NRA defeats it,” I said. “Do you know that the NRA has even prevented government agencies from studying the problem? And they don’t even want to prohibit what are called cop-killer bullets or put tracers in gun powder so that law enforcement agencies can solve crimes after they are committed.” Wayne agreed that not allowing government agencies to study those ideas didn’t make a lot of sense. He avoided my other points.
Wayne seemed to be growing frustrated with our discussion. “I don’t want kids killed,” he said, “but I don’t want anyone taking away my right to own an AR-15 semi-automatic. I paid over $1,000 for that gun last year. Maybe we need to realize that just because a bad person does something bad doesn’t mean that you get to put some government bureaucrat in charge of my life. I’m sorry those children in Sandy Hook were killed, but you know what? Deal with it, and don’t force me to lose my liberty to buy any gun I want without a hassle, which would be a greater tragedy than having twenty children killed by some deranged guy.”
“I guess your liberty to buy any gun you want, anytime you want, is more important than the lives of our children,” I said. Wayne agreed.[Author’s note: If you have difficulty accepting Wayne’s views about this, check out and/or participate in an initiative of the survivors of Sandy Hook who are interested in finding common sense solutions to senseless violence. Go to http://www.sandyhookpromise.org/
© Lamar W. Hankins, Freethought San Marcos
LAMAR W. HANKINS is a former San Marcos city attorney.Email | Print