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Published: Monday, 12/2/2013 - Updated: 7 months ago

COMMENTARY

A near-miss; what more can we do?

Scott HS standoff resolved well, but makes call for attention.

BY KEITH C. BURRIS
COLUMNIST FOR THE BLADE

The incident Monday at Scott High School ended well.

The Toledo Police Department did what it had to do. Let’s give the department all the support it needs. Always.

Ditto the Toledo Public Schools teachers. (Lockdowns were not part of the job description 30 years ago.)

Turned out the boy had a pellet gun.

But what if it had not been a pellet gun?

Less than a year ago I lived in Connecticut, where I raised my kids and worked for 25 years. Connecticut is a small state, like Toledo is a small town — instead of six degrees of separation you get one or two. People know each other, and when they don’t, they think they do.

The Scott incident makes me think of the Newtown, Conn., shootings.

I didn’t know any of the families. But I met many people who did, and I knew well many state legislators who were traumatized by what happened, and a governor who had to personally inform the Newtown parents their children had been killed.

Together, they later passed the strongest gun control legislation in the nation. They took their time. They didn’t rush to an easy, or demagogic, fix.

But in the face of a horror that will never heal, that community did ask: Are we doing enough, and, if not, what else can we do?

Let’s not wait for tragedy.

Let’s take advantage of this wake-up call at Scott. And I am talking down the line — police procedures, school procedures (both were well executed but perhaps can still be improved), our efforts to reach out to hurting youth, and our efforts to control the gun culture.

Yes, I used that scary word.

We need more gun and violence control — specifically, the extension of background checks to private gun sales via gun shows and the Internet. And, specifically, a ban on assault weapons.

I say this as one who grew up in rural Ohio and took a 4-H safety shooting course at age 12. I say this as one who went target shooting with my professor in grad school. I also think the NRA does some excellent training programs that enable people, especially women, to defend themselves.

The Second Amendment counts.

That does not mean that high school kids or violent husbands have a constitutional right to a weapon of war, be it an assault weapon or a bazooka.

I know the ability of government to reduce the number of guns on the street is limited.

And that guns are only maybe 30 percent of the problem.

Mental health is also a part of the problem. We need to do treatment better.

As are fatherless boys. Romules Durant says administrators, and do-gooders, need to actually rub shoulders with specific kids, not just care about them in the abstract. We can’t start too many mentoring programs. We will never have enough coach-mentors.

And violent movies and video games are a part of the problem.

A friend of mine once called me a “First Amendment fanatic.” I hope so. But the right to speech does not give the popular media the right to program our kids for violence. We can jawbone for self-restraint. That’s free speech.

Similarly, the Second Amendment does not limit “the authority of Congress to regulate the use or possession of firearms for purely civilian proposes.” Justice John Paul Stevens said that.

Let’s take this wake-up call.

Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade.

Contact him at: kburris@theblade.com or 419-724-6266.



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