Horrible. There are no words. I can only express my grief for the victims and my condolences to their families.
Beyond that, I can only wonder, along with the rest of the nation: is there a way to prevent these terrible shootings?
The most common idea I’ve heard is gun control laws. You all know the claim: “We need more sensible gun laws, we need to ban weapons like this, and that will stop the problem. But the NRA will never allow the government to do so, no matter how many shootings there are.”
The second part seems true, although with a really big effort and favorable press, it might be possible for the Executive branch to unilaterally take some measures to deter gun sales. But that’s not the real question. The real question is: would gun regulations have prevented this?
Maybe. I am not sure that tougher gun laws would prevent this sort of crime, as the killer was obviously hell-bent on carrying it out. Norway has some of the toughest gun laws in the world. That didn’t prevent a madman from getting hold of weapons and using them to commit mass-murder.
We ban drugs in most of this country, and yet they still get smuggled in. And most of the smugglers also have access to weapons. If weapons were banned, the criminals could probably set up a massive black market for them. Likewise if they are regulated so you can’t buy a 30-round magazine, or a semi-automatic rifle. If the demand exists, the market will meet it, legally or no.
Gun regulations cut down on different sorts of crimes—spur-of-the-moment robberies, crimes of passion, things like that. A guy who thinks “hey, I’ll go rob a bank” and swings by the gun shop to purchase the weapon can be deterred by some simple regulations. But a psychopathic mass-murderer who is bound-and-determined to do it will probably figure out a way to get the weapons illegally.
I also want to point out that in cases like these, it’s no use saying “ban ‘assault weapons’” or something like that—even a hunting shotgun or a so-called “varmint rifle” would have been enough to commit this atrocity. Nor can you say “we will disallow the sale of firearms to mentally-ill individuals”. He didn’t buy the weapons in this case. Background checks are meaningless if applied to the wrong person. If you think preventing easy access to guns is what must be done, it seems to me that there can be no half-measures.
I am not convinced that even a total gun ban would work—so large and so lucrative is the market that if firearms were banned in the U.S.A, the arms dealers of the world would flock here to sell them illicitly. That said, I have no objection to passing such laws anyway—there’s a chance I could be wrong.
But, whether banned or not, I personally think that a good way of preventing this stuff is better security at schools. The government could mandate that all schools have armed policemen on the premises. This would make them much better equipped to respond instantly, and if nothing else buy the teachers time to evacuate the students. Of course, it would be expensive. On the other hand, while watching the television coverage of the Newtown atrocity, I noticed a lot of police on the scene were wearing body armor and helmets, and equipped with what appeared to be variants of the standard U.S. military rifle, the M16. They looked like light infantry. And yet in the end they did not stop the shooter. Maybe it would be better to spend money to place policemen as security guards in the schools than to outfit the police with all that gear when they can’t arrive in time to use it.
I sometimes get the impression security is better at high-schools than at middle and elementary schools, probably because at the former people are more worried about unstable students. But it seems to me only right that elementary schools should have the best security, as it is those students who are least capable of protecting themselves.