Guns the problem, not the solution

Shane Wade
Opinion Editor

After the Newtown school shooting, Gov. Bob McDonnell issued an executive order to establish a multidisciplinary task force to review school and campus safety. The governor and Prince William County’s Delegate Robert G. Marshall (R) have also expressed differing levels of support for legislation to arm school officials, including principals and teachers, with guns. While it’s a smart move to assemble a diverse group of individuals to open a dialogue, the governor must realize that some unpopular, but necessary restrictions and legislative solutions must also be implemented.

Illustration by Dan Nacu

We can’t fight fire with fire. By definition, reactive measures are not deterrents. On Nov. 11, 2009, at Fort Hood, a single gunman proved that no matter how much security a place has, it’s still susceptible to destructive violence. Adding guns to schools won’t necessarily prevent shootings from occurring. It will, however, increase the proliferation of guns and reinforce the perception of ours being an either do-nothing or reactive society and solidifying gun-obsessed culture that allows weapons to be easily accessible. Gun ownership rates, despite proliferate media reports, is in decline in America. Instituting a new standard that includes armed security officers patrolling public schools introduces an Orwellian twist to an already edgy nation. The governor’s proposal is not a solution to gun violence, albeit it be school-related or crime-related; it’s part of the problem.

What we don’t need are the unnecessary trigger reactions like assault weapon bans. Fully automatic weapons are already off-limits to civilians; semi-automatics, which have been around for over 100 years, are still available to the public, as they should be. Americans want to own guns, as is their right; it’s not the government’s job to blankly limit that freedom, but rather curb it in favor of sensible policy decisions that keep guns out of the hands of the untrained and unstable. Congress’s 1994 federal assault-weapons ban didn’t achieve success because it didn’t account for weapon modifications (as highlighted in the Aurora shooting) and it banned only “assault weapons,” which, according to a 2004 research report submitted to the Department of Justice and the National Institute of Justice, “are rarely used in gun crimes” outside of mass shootings.

Preventative measures, not reactive measures, are needed to address the issue of gun violence in America. Virginia’s gun show loopholes need to be closed, as well as tougher restrictions on who can own and carry weapons. Legislation that prevents guns from being placed in the hands of potentially violent and mentally unstable individuals and limits the lax accessibility of weapons is the action we need. Although the governor has advocated for establishing a dialogue about mental health in its relation to gun laws, he’s also cut funding for mental health services. Mixed actions send mixed messages.

Having armed guards in school isn’t a stupid idea; it’s just not the best, most effective or well thought-out idea. It creates a more passively oppressive environment for children, results in higher costs for schools and local governments and doesn’t accurately address gun violence. It’s not a solution, it’s a reaction.

The safety task force, as it now stands, is limited to concentrating on measures to improve safety for students at school. But it’s also important to realize the reality we face as Americans: of the 32,163 firearm deaths in this country alone, GunPolicy.org found that 19,766 come from suicide and 11,101 from homicide. For the United States to be the leader in this statistical field is disastrous and shameful. Gun violence in America is a serious issue that needs immediate and efficient congressional action.

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