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Saturday, August 23, 2014
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Published: Saturday, 1/26/2013

This gun owner looks for an end to the armed chaos

BY MARILOU JOHANEK
BLADE COLUMNIST

I am a car owner, property owner, and gun owner. Each responsibility is regulated. Law is what gives order to a civilized society.

It brings clarity to chaos. It establishes uniform conduct. Firing a gun in my rural Ohio village can get you arrested.

In the neighboring township, random gunfire pierces the air. The unmistakable sound is close. I pray the shooters are aiming at targets in the dirt in a hillside.

My fears are reasonable. I don’t worry about my kids being harmed by the locked and unloaded shotgun and .32-caliber handgun in my house. I worry about a fusillade of bullets fired within hearing distance of kids playing in the yard.

It doesn’t matter that a majority of gun owners are responsible. All it takes is one who is too reckless, careless, or lax with a lethal weapon.

Accidental shootings are as common as intentional ones. It’s reality in America. Get used to it.

Tune out the target shooting over the hill. Gloss over the daily litany of deaths linked to gun violence.

Shrug off the gun-related slaughter in workplaces, schools, campuses, a theater. It’s hard, but you’ll manage.

The saga of twisted souls who kill indiscriminately with semiautomatic weapons has become a serial event. We brace for the bloodshed, resigned to the easy killing that comes with easy access to deadly arsenals.

Guns are ubiquitous. Anyone can get one. It’s the culture. It’s concealed carry. It’s the Constitution.

It’s inevitable that unstable minds will possess guns and open rapid fire on a member of Congress, other adults, children. Conventional wisdom says too many guns, unpredictable humans, and powerful gun lobbyists make change impossible.

Yet the slaying of 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut grade school changed everything. What kind of a nation accepts what happened in seconds at Sandy Hook Elementary?

The massacre brought a pivotal moment of pain to Americans that challenged culture, the Constitution, and conventional wisdom. Burying 20 first-graders just before Christmas has emboldened state and federal politicians to adopt stronger measures regulating gun ownership.

But the sorrow of Sandy Hook is driving a national dialogue to find a new acceptable standard for guns. Gun-rights advocates, following the lead of the National Rifle Association, favor arming teachers as a precaution.

Jim Irvine, chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Association, told me his organization was willing to pay $1,000 per teacher/administrator for a pilot program to train a couple dozen Ohio teachers to carry firearms. “Volunteers who take on that role require skills to do that well,” he said.

“The vast majority of teachers don’t want to carry guns in school,” Mr. Irvine conceded, “but others are willing to take a look at the issue.” He said schools must be proactive about protecting students and “arming teachers is a piece of the puzzle.”

“It’s not about guns,” he said. “It’s about saving lives in the fastest response time.”

“It’s crazy,” countered Toby Hoover, director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence.

“Arming teachers is the worst thing, a stunt to get the NRA more attention that doesn’t make sense to a majority of people,” Ms. Hoover said. “It gives a false sense of security to someone about what they can accomplish, when to shoot or not shoot with bullets flying faster than you can imagine.

“The thinking is, if I have a gun I can take out all the bad guys,” she said. “It’s just not true.”

After the slaughter of children last month, both sides in the gun debate professed support for meaningful steps to prevent more tragedies. Those who are sincere will embrace a reasonable middle ground on better background checks, improved data collection, and stronger school safety measures.

Both sides agree that another mass shooting by another disturbed individual makes attention to mental-health services and solutions paramount.

“We need to focus on warning signs, things to look for, intervention if we can do that,” Mr. Irvine said.

Ms. Hoover added: “We have real anger problems — people mad at a boss, ex-wife, drinking too much, using guns to solve every problem.”

Gun violence needs research.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and Explosives needs a director to do its job. The country needs clarity.

The armed chaos is killing us.

Marilou Johanek is a columnist for The Blade.

Contact her at: mjohanek@theblade.com



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