The world looks at the recent mass murders of 17 American students and school staff in Broward Country Florida this past week -and they can not understand how these events continue to occur. They did not understand the 2015 attack at the Bataclan nightclub in Paris which continued without mercy for over an hour leaving 130 dead victims. The Columbine High School attacks as far back as 1999 which killed 12 students and injured 21 more, shocked the world and brought promises of change by government officials. Sixteen years later the world was shocked by the assassination 12 innocent moviegoers with a total of 71 victims shot while attending the opening of the film “Batman” in Aurora Colorado.. In those years in-between other such atrocities and terrorist acts occurred leaving authorities and elected officials stymied. US school mass violence reached Universities as well, exemplified by the 2017 mass murders at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg Virginia . American society has had 19 years to learn from the Columbine atrocity. Yet, nothing has changed. One can go online and read for hours about such horrific events. Whatever policies were subsequently altered to prevent reoccurrences of such events, have not stopped the violence.
Some of those who have the hardest time understanding these events are citizens from England and Canada who see the mayhem and cannot begin to fathom how such a situation could come to pass. Everyone is heartbroken when young lives taken for no reason. Every parent is terrified that it could be their child who does not come home from school. In Israel in time of war, every citizen lives with the stress that their family member might not return from their assigned military service. Parents in America now experience that fear when they send their children to school. The reactions are not dissimilar. It is inexcusable however, that going to school should entail the same risks as military service to protect your nation against sworn enemies.
Everyone in the U.S. is looking for a quick fix. Of course they want it to end. We all do. I never considered owning a gun until I felt my life was at risk during the recent series of stabbings perpetrated by Arab youth against innocent Israelis- encouraged online by Hamas, Hezbollah and other anti-Israel agents. I discovered that in Israel some civillians can receive permission to carry concealed weapons, but it is a difficult process and not everyone is allowed to do so.
Many responsible parents who fear for the lives of their loved ones have their guns hidden, and hopefully under lock and key in case of an emergency. This does not stop perpetrators in public places but certainly creates a sense of security for many who want to be able to protect their immediate family and home in case of intrusion. We all know the risks of having a gun in one’s home.
News reports tell us that the USA has more than 310 million guns in the hands of a population of 327 million people. Not everyone in America has a gun. Many people collect multiples and hence the statistics are enormous. The number of guns in the possession of criminals, purchased on the underground black market, is an additional statistic unknown to government authorities. The two categories together clearly result in a total number of privately owned guns which is larger than the U.S. population. This is unheard of anywhere else in the world. Half of the guns in private ownership in the entire world, are owned in the USA.
One instinctively looks for someone to hold accountable. I am quite happy to blame the gun lobby, but it does not change the facts on the ground. Yes, their power opened the front and back doors to gun ownership. Like Pandora’s box, it is now a condition which cannot be reversed. It is terrible to admit that a freedom loving nation and its governments have made such gross errors in judgement time and time again. “The right to bare arms” provided in the constitution should never have had unrestricted application. Assault weapons should never have been allowed in private hands. Multiple gun ownership should have been forbidden. Now the situation is quite clear: An attempt to remove 300 million guns from legal gun owners would result in a civil war of the population against the police and national guard. The federal authorities would lose the battle and the United States would be reduced to anarchy and rubble. I witnessed the” Rodney King” Riots in Los Angeles in 1991 and saw first-hand just how inept the police are in a time of crisis. There are simply not enough police to stop crimes. During those riots, all police were assigned to protect the firefighters who were putting out intentionally set fires – which cleverly redirected their efforts. They were in fact, told to “stand down” and let the mobs do their worst. By the time the National Guard was recruited, it was far too late. Chaos had ensued. Normally peace loving Los Angelenos were on their rooftops with guns pointed in case the mayhem should come to their own front door.
Multitudes on television have expressed their anger toward the current U.S.President who is certainly not the man who brought on this crisis. One needs to have someone in authority to blame and from whom to demand an instant resolution. This problem took hundreds of years to evolve. The last President swore to stop the sale of assault weapons. Good idea. Good law. It simply was not passed. If the “right to bare arms” is a Federal concept, the control of such arms needs to be Federally mandated. Leaving it to the States has proven woefully inadequate.
The first step to solving a problem, is admitting that there is no magic cure. The second step is being honest about the facts on the ground. For those who live on American border towns with drug and gun trafficking endangering their families, an intellectual argument about disarming falls on deaf ears. Some States have actually removed the requirement for gun registration altogether. The gun control situation is now out of control. Facing this fact is essential.
When the Bataclan night club massacre occurred in Paris, I wrote in an article (Times of Israel Blog entitled “Paris Learn From Israel”- 12/1/2015) stating that facing the realities of today’s world of terrorism and damaged individuals must now demand that those holding public events be required by law to provide undercover armed security guards for every event. If one wants host a large entertainment venue, it comes with a responsibility to provide safety for those who attend. Having an armed guard in the front of a cinema, an arena, or a school is quite worthless. A person with a machine gun will happily kill the one guard and then enter the site. I suggested then, and repeat once again, that only multiple undercover agents can protect a large group- be they event-participants, mass gatherings, or student populations. Even this proposal is strictly damage limitation. The criminal will likely succeed to some extent – regardless of efforts taken to the contrary.
If you have ever entered a Federal building (in almost any nation), you have been subject to body scans, pat downs, electronic monitoring and more. Are the lives of those who work in these buildings more valuable than those of your loved ones?
President Trump’s speech to CPAC on Friday 1/23/2018, followed a similar path. He suggested that teachers qualified in handling guns be encouraged to wear concealed weapons in order to protect their students in a time of crisis. He suggested it might be as much as 20% of the staff in any particular school. In a perfect world this would not be necessary. We live in a totally imperfect world. He is being misquoted on most media as suggesting that all teachers should carry guns. He never suggested it be required of those untrained, or unwilling to do so.
As an Israeli citizen, even during difficult times of intense terrorism, I live with the comforting knowledge that a substantial percentage of Israel’s population are trained in handling guns. They have proven time and time again, that they are prepared to use them to protect their neighbors in time of crisis. Being allowed to carry a gun in Israel is a complicated procedure requiring training, testing and vetting. Many people are denied the right to do so.
Essentially this is what President Trump is suggesting for the American Schools. In the most recent high school shooting, the armed guard was afraid to enter the school in spite of the sound of bullets and the screams of students. Even under ideal conditions, one visible armed guard will never stop a demented mass murderer with an assault rifle.
Of course, citizens from nations where gun ownership is limited are shocked and bewildered. These incidents will happen less frequently in their countries, but no one is totally immune from terrorism, demented people and individuals full of rage- lashing out at what they see as an unfair establishment, society or educational institution. For non-Americans, having had laws for hundreds of years which limited the number of guns held in the public sector – they will indeed provide a significant benefit in their future. It will not however stop a determined terrorist.
It is painful to face the truth. Not everything can be resolved by passing a law. That has been done, with little impact. Background checks should be required and be more thorough- Assault weapons should be banned. Registration is necessary. None of these requirements however, will stop someone who already has access to one of the 310 million guns already in the public domain.
Increased punishments are not a solution. What punishment would be appropriate for a mass murderer of seventeen innocent students? Punishments are not relevant because the perpetrator doesn’t expect to survive the assault. The USA has more people in prison per capita than any nation in the world. Punishments are necessary for society but resolve little.
A flurry of articles referring to Australia’s success with gun control laws over a period of years reflected a reduction in gun inflicted suicides, but have little in common with America’s situation. The population of Australia is 24.13 million… 13 percent of that of the United States. It is far easier to control a dispersed population of that smaller size. It is reported that the 24.13- million citizens sold back and destroyed an estimated 650,000 arms… which mathematically converts to one firearm per 37 people. US statistics mathematically equal one firearm per person. It is easy to look for examples of success, but they must actually have a similar set of conditions to be meaningful.
A nation united does not need to fear law-abiding citizens owning guns. It does need to fear gun owners who allow others access to their weapons. It needs to fear its criminal element, and those who do not report suspicious activity. It needs to fear those who are not empowered to investigate and resolve potential reported problems by the concerned public.
Law enforcement agencies world-wide have been responsible for ignoring reports of dangerous individuals (often including terrorists) who later perpetrate mass slaughter. An act of congress might offer a reorganization of a reporting system for the public safety and provide follow-through with “teeth” upon discovering potential dangerous gun activity. This would be an improvement the status quo.
At the end of the day, citizens need to protect one another. Permission for qualified , vetted, individuals to carry concealed weapons is not a threat to the general population. It is time to move forward with the understanding that the government will not, and cannot protect its people. The prevailing illusion to the contrary has brought America to this very sad series of heartbreaking events.