December 24, 2012

Denton, Texas Courthouse

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Had the opportunity to go to Texas for a few days and while there, found out that Texas has 254 counties, each with a courthouse similar to the one above.  It’s my understanding that these courthouses are encircled by a square and the area is then referred to as “courthouse square”.  This one is in Denton, Texas, and the square contains an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants.  It was a pleasant place to be.

United States and Texas state flags at half-mast

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Outside the courthouse, the United States and Texas state flags were flying at half-staff in memorial to the Shandy Hook Elementary School shooting that took place just a week ago.

The National Rifle Association  (NRA) also announced its response to the Sandy Hook killings in the form of a press conference wherein  Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre stated the organization’s solution-the use of armed guards in all schools.   Any form of gun control would be unacceptable as guns are not the problem according to the NRA.  While not an entirely surprising answer from this group, it is important to remember that the Aurora, Colorado shooting occurred in a movie theatre and the Tuscon, Arizona shooting was outdoors at a shopping center.  Will there be armed guards to protect individuals in these venues as well?

Citizens of the United States are certainly well-armed and it worth examining the scope of the firearm ownership in the US and this report discusses the topic from a variety of angles, including gun deaths, as a result of said ownership.  Of particular note are the Centers for Disease Control statistics cited.  Here is the CDC site.

Relative to the of the use of armed guards to protect schools, the United States is currently facing the “Fiscal Cliff” wherein there is much debate, if not actual results, in controlling the federal government’s expenditures thereby bringing down the national debt.  Too much money being spent on too many services is an argument voiced by many.  Programs are to be cut as it is not acceptable to raise taxes in order to generate revenue is another theme.  This presents quite a problem to the NRA’s response as, on a local level, many states have been facing financial problems which could lead to bankruptcy-this report is one example from 2011.  Given these local and national fiscal concerns, from where would the funds be found to pay for the NRA’s call for police officers in all schools?  The NRA appears to have an answer as it is proposing the use of  well- armed volunteers and an NRA-approved “National School Shield” program that would be used to train security personnel for free.

Which brings me back to Texas.  Representative Louis Gohmert, R-Texas, argued the concealed-carry position and suggested that the Sandy Hook shooting would have gone differently had school personnel been armed. Perhaps, but that is not a guarantee. (As an aside, that same article also contains additional information related to the overall issue of gun control.)  However, meeting guns with more guns conjures up the specter of MAD-Mutually Assured Destruction-the precept that fueled the Cold War nuclear arms race between the United States and the then Soviet Union.  Granted, nukes were not used during this time period, but we sure fought a couple of wars (or “police actions”), Korea and Viet Nam, using conventional weapons.  Having guns available did not solve those political problems as eventually both sides started shooting at each other with civilians being caught in the cross-fire.

And that cycles us back to Sandy Hook.  One of the weapons used in the killings was a civilian version of the M-16, the mainstay of the United States military during the Viet Nam era. Mr. LaPierre is right, this level of violence is a cultural issue within the US and is a complex, multi-factorial problem requiring a multitude of changes.  However, in my opinion, the NRA is absolutely wrong in the assertion that assault rifles and 30-round magazines are not part of the problem.  These are weapons designed for military applications and adapted for civilian use-that is, they are not fully automatic and require the pulling of the trigger for each round to be fired.  Even with that “liability”, these rifles put out enormous firepower for which, arguably, there is no valid civilian use.

In my mind, this brings to focus the cultural issue that we continue to bump up against as we try to resolve chronic issues such as gun violence:  as long as certain options are declared to be “off the table”, be they taxes (the Fiscal Cliff point again) or firearms, then we will continue to chase our tails as a society.  And many will suffer needlessly.

Take care.


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