The senseless massacre of 20 children and six educators in Connecticut has spawned another chapter of the national debate on gun control, with the nation's biggest gun lobby calling for putting armed police officers and other armed guards in schools.
Wayne LaPierre, who has spent 21 years turning the National Rifle Association into a formidable foe of gun control, blamed the Connecticut tragedy on a culture of violence and called for more guns.
Even though the United States has a staggering number of arms -- 89 guns for every 100 civilians, according to the Small Arms Survey, LaPierre said Friday, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."
In what he called a "meaningful" response to "monsters" who kill, LaPierre said the NRA is developing a model security plan for schools that would involve the NRA training qualified volunteers to patrol schools and redesigning school buildings to stop the next murderer "waiting in the wings."
We have so many questions about this we hardly know where to start. Who would pay the salaries for police officers in every school in an age of cash-strapped states and localities? Who would do the background checks to make sure mentally ill people were not given guns to patrol schools? Who would assume liability if an armed officer mistakenly killed an unarmed student? Highly trained New York City police officers chasing an armed man have shot innocent bystanders.
LaPierre speaks with horror of "monsters" that lurk in our midst, but he does not address how to keep them from getting guns and acting on their anger.
There is even a debate now about arming teachers. This trend is spreading from Texas, where Gov. Rick Perry says he's happy to lead a state where some school districts permit staff to carry concealed weapons. Legislators in such disparate states as Minnesota, Florida, Oregon, South Dakota and Oklahoma are either considering legislation to permit teachers to carry guns or have already introduced such bills.
There is a danger that the nation's agony over the heartbreaking Connecticut carnage will fade and nothing will happen. There is also a danger that we will act precipitously to put more guns in the hands of civilians and suffer frightening, unintended consequences.
Scripps Howard News Service