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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Would anything have really stopped Adam Lanza, and if so, what?

That's the only question we should be asking and answering for ourselves now.

I am a parent. Of a grown 20-something young man. Who played sports on Newtown's fields in grade school, having lived in the next town over. The middle school my son attended will be the new temporary home of the children who attended Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Although my son was far from harm on December 14, 2012, the news bit into me as if my son was still in grade school. A natural reaction for any parent. But never so literally close to home as this.

I weep reading how Dylan Hockley died in his teacher aide's arms, Anne Marie Murphy, as she tried to shield him. I get angrier when I see callous, heartless political cartoons, like the Christmas wreath demolished by bullets. Are these cartoonists so full of their own cleverness that they can't resist torturing those parents with an image they don't ever need to have burned into their brains?

I'd wanted to wait to post this, but the anti-NRA frothing is just too much. People are being duped, making it more possible that there will be more Newtowns.

I'm not an NRA member. But the way this country is going, I will be a gun owner someday, and soon.

Do we ban assault weapons? I say yes. Had we done so, Adam Lanza wouldn't have had access to one. Some may have died, but perhaps not as many. Rapid fire, machine-gun style, yes, only the military needs them, at least unless we have another civil war someday, then those who want them will get them anyway, I suppose. I wouldn't expect to survive that event anyway, unless I'm already in a red state by then and have gotten my own guns. I have fired guns before. I was a pretty good shot.

Do we "ban those who have been hospitalized for serious mental illness or have a history of drug abuse" from ever being able to purchase weapons? Do we better enforce the National Instant Criminal Background Check system? Yes to both. That still wouldn't have stopped Adam Lanza. He had neither history.

But if you have half a brain, you will do your own homework. You will stop being held in near-total ignorance by the mass media who give the gun control politicians all the ink they can stand while ignoring the facts.

You will educate yourself to the facts that 99% of the mass media won't tell you because it isn't politically correct:

  1. The worst school killing in United States history was not Virginia Tech, and was not done with guns but massive sets of 500-pound bombs buried in and surrounding a grade school in Michigan.
  2. "Places and times with the strongest gun control laws have often been places and times with high murder rates. Washington, D.C., is a classic example, but just one among many."
  3. "Britain has had a lower murder rate than the United States for more than two centuries-- and, for most of that time, the British had no more stringent gun control laws than the United States."
  4. "In the middle of the 20th century, you could buy a shotgun in London with no questions asked. New York, which at that time had had the stringent Sullivan Law restricting gun ownership since 1911, still had several times the gun murder rate of London, as well as several times the London murder rate with other weapons."
  5. "The crime rate, including the rate of crimes committed with guns, is far higher in Britain now than it was back in the days when there were few restrictions on Britons buying firearms."
  6. "...other countries with stronger gun control laws than the United States, such as Russia, Brazil and Mexico... All of these countries have higher murder rates than the United States."
  7. "Gun ownership has been three times as high in Switzerland as in Germany, but the Swiss have had lower murder rates. Other countries with high rates of gun ownership and low murder rates include Israel, New Zealand, and Finland."

When you "control all the guns," history shows, the murder rate goes up even more, and the madmen use other weapons as well. What will you do then, America, that you could have done now, to protect our children?

Adam Lanza had legally obtained guns— his mother's—so how do we stop all people from taking someone else's guns? We probably can't.

He probably did this because he was afraid his mother was going to commit him to a mental institution, even if she was looking for other suitable longterm care such as the many group homes that exist throughout the state and the nation in spades and that we never hear about.

So how do we help mothers like Nancy Lanza and Liza Long, whose story I linked to earlier. How do we help their sons, and prevent them from carrying out their revenge/prevention threats or unspoken plans?

The second part of that question is the only one we can address quickly.

Newtown schools are reported to have had the best-prepared emergency procedures of almost any school in the nation, and practiced them more than most. So we need to do more, but what?

Metal detectors wouldn't have stopped Adam Lanza. He blasted the windows in the lobby to gain entrance.

Bulletproof glass in all entryways? Sure, that would have stopped him. Period. End of story. His guns would have been useless. We give bullet-proof glass to the White House? Is the President worth more than our kids? Why don't all the D.C. politicians belly up some of their 13.8% increased income (way higher than the rest of the country got since the recession began in December 2007, a USA TODAY analysis found) to fund that glass for all schools in the nation? Surely it won't add even another trillion to the deficit and if it did, I dare anyone to object. Our kids are worth it.

Do we arm a retired (but in relatively decent shape) cop and put a couple at every door to every elementary and middle and high school? I say, yes. Put it in the damn school budget. If you think our kids' lives aren't worth those salaries and the cost of the bullets, or if you think stricter gun control will be all that saves them, then frankly, you're choosing to be either ignorant or an idiot.

It might be a lot less expensive to do this than to build and staff more psychiatric long-term care facilities, which isn't likely to happen because Washington thinks gun control is the only answer. Further, having new facilities is so nebulous and far-off a solution, though one we as a nation must answer.

More such facilities and group homes, even if better run than those of the past, might not have stopped Adam Lanza anyway since he seems likely to have killed to avoid being committed. The state of Connecticut even closed several such hospitals, ironically one right in Newtown itself, because they were too costly to maintain after deinstitutionalization left them with too few patients.

Do I think the principal could have stopped Adam Lanza if she'd been armed? No. She would've had a handgun. If he came in pointing the Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle, her chances would have been almost nil. If she was a crack shot, she might have hit him when he came through the office door, or she might have missed. She'd only have had one chance. Could someone standing behind a raised counter or sitting at a desk have shot him? Perhaps, but not without hitting an obstacle or a child.

Do we allow—not require—some specially-screened, well-trained teachers to carry a weapon in school? I don't know. Part of me says yes, part of me worries about the possible dangers to the children. Rules would have to be: 1) keep the gun physically attached, holstered under the shirt, not visible to the students, AT ALL TIMES. 2) Keep it unloaded but with the ammunition clips locked in the teacher's classroom, with one clip on his/her person at all times.

This would not be a solution in city schools where teachers have been assaulted by students or where there is potential for this. There, the gun could be wrestled away from the teacher, with terrible cost.

Could a teacher, armed and waiting behind the classroom doors where Adam Lanza continued killing, have shot him as he entered the room? Possibly. I have some friends who are teachers. Male teachers. They might consider being among those who go through extensive background, criminal, drug and fingerprint checks, become trained and carry a firearm in school. If there were a few such teachers—and their classes were always next to all the entrances—it might give the school a fighting chance.

Because right now, they're all still sitting ducks. They may be hiding in a locked bathroom or under a desk. But they're still sitting ducks. Today. And every day, still.

The fastest remedies include hiring the armed retired cops and arming a few teachers whose classrooms sit next to entrances. Maybe also an active-vehicle-search security checkpoint at the entrance to the parking lot, the way all military contractors and facilities have. Yes, it would take forever for high school kids who drive to school to get through. Which is worse to have: long lines, no cars for seniors, or dead children and teachers? Who says seniors can't still take the bus, if it means all the kids are safe? I say, grow up, seniors: you can drive after school. A car is a privilege, not a right, in high school.

The next fastest is the bulletproof glass.

Those steps might stop the gun violence in the non-college level schools. And that would be worth it. If my son was still in school, I wouldn't give a rat's behind if he had to see an armed guard and bullet proof glass at his school every day, as long as I knew he was guaranteed to be safe while there. I guarantee you every one of those 26 families would agree because it would have meant their loved ones were still safe today.

But even if this all stops the gun violence in our schools, what will the mentally insane do next? Will they revert back to what Andrew Kehoe, a 55-year-old school board member and school caretaker, did in 1927, when he killed 45 people—38 children and 7 adults—in a K-12 school in Bath Township, Michigan, by blowing it to smithereens?

"Then on May 18, 1927, he beat his wife to death. Then he set fire to his farm and drove to the school where he served as caretaker. Kehoe had been busy for more than a year, secretly setting bombs of dynamite and explosive chemicals. He ignited the first wave of bombs, and when townspeople ran to help, he set off the second wave, which claimed his life as well. Authorities later found an unexploded 500-pound bomb in the rubble."

You see, it isn't the guns. It's the mental illness. As the writer of that article states so succinctly:

"Madness is not some modern affliction — it's a human condition."

Maybe an active-search security checkpoint might have stopped Andrew Kehoe from bringing in those bomb materials in the first place. Maybe not. It would have stopped Adam Lanza.

But if madmen really are intent on killing, they can find a way. Terrorists couldn't bring down the World Trade Towers by parking a bomb-laden truck underneath it. Years later, they succeeded with box-cutters and airplanes loaded with fuel. Unthinkable.

But what is the next unthinkable? We don't want to think about it, but how can we prevent it if we don’t think, "What is the next unthinkable?"

As this story proves, arguing about gun control is probably moot. As the article puts it, "You can't argue with evil. And you can't use rhetoric to protect yourself from a psychopath."

So let's just do what we can do—Right Now—that will protect our kids from psychopaths. What can be done, RIGHT NOW?

Do Not Pass Legislation. Except to allow teachers and guards to carry firearms at school. Ban those with serious mental hospitalization and/or drug abuse histories from possessing. Otherwise, it will take too long and won't answer all the problems. Pass the assault/automatic ban later.

Do Not Collect $100 from Washington to fund anything. Get the bulletproof glass, get the armed security and the vehicle-search checkpoint at the perimeter, maybe get a few good & willing, volunteer teachers, male or female, trained, armed and teaching near the entrances. If Newtown, Connecticut can receive donated money and building services within days to tear down Sandy Hook Elementary School and build a memorial to the fallen, surely this nation's citizens and businesses can donate to fund these simple remedies.

And if you think that means our kids Go Directly To Jail/School, you've got it wrong. It's to keep OUT the criminals, and to safeguard our children. We owe it to them, don't we?

Maybe this will be the finest tribute to these 20 children and 6 educators in Newtown: that we did stop the next one from happening, without waiting for Washington's "help."

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