Archive for Thursday, March 29, 2018

Opinion: Gun rights and common sense

March 29, 2018


So there you are, cowering under your desk.

From the hallway, you hear the pop! pop! pop! of gunfire, along with the shrieks of the terrified and moans of the dying. The good guy with a gun? Maybe he’s crouched outside the building. Maybe he’s dead in the break room. Whichever, he’s not there. And now, horribly, the doorknob to your classroom begins to turn.

What do you do?

You throw rocks. At least, that’s what you do if you’re a student of the rural Blue Mountain School District in Schuylkill County, Pa. It came out last week that Superintendent David Helsel has ordered that each classroom be equipped with a bucket of river stones. “They’re the right size for hands,” Helsel explained to WNEP, a local TV news station. “You can throw them very hard, and they will create or cause pain, which can distract.”

And who knows? Maybe it would actually work. Maybe the kids would get lucky and drive the attacker back. Or maybe a room full of second-graders lob rocks that loop high and clatter harmlessly to the floor and the man in the doorway laughs and kills them all.

One outcome seems about as likely as the other. But to argue the probable effectiveness of Helsel’s rocks is to miss a larger point. Namely, that the very idea is a surrender, a retreat from what ought to be an uncontroversial principle, i.e., that there shouldn’t be a shooter in the hall in the first place.

In that, Helsel’s bucket of rocks is like the proposal to arm teachers and former Sen. Rick Santorum’s dumb suggestion that the best way to respond to mass shootings is to teach kids CPR. None of these strategies, please note, seeks to prevent massacres. Rather, each implicitly asks us to accept that they are inevitable and unstoppable, like natural disasters.

After all, you wouldn’t pass a law against tornadoes or earthquakes, and some gun rights advocates would have us believe it makes just as little sense to try to keep mass shootings from occurring. They ask us to accept the unacceptable as a given.

The problem is, a mass shooting is not a natural disaster but a human one. Thus, it can be legislated against. Nor is the fact that a law will not be 100 percent effective a sensible reason not to pass it. No law is 100 percent effective. Shall we repeal prohibitions against murder or child molestation because those crimes still occur?

That said, the right has no monopoly on unworkable ideas. Tuesday, the New York Times published an op-ed from former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens arguing that the solution to gun violence lies in repeal of the Second Amendment. This, he says, “would be simple.”

It wouldn’t. In the first place, there’s no reason to believe proponents could muster the necessary support from 38 states. In the second place, the attempt would instantly validate every paranoiac fantasy the NRA has inculcated in its followers, making violent civil unrest inevitable. In the third place, there is no need.

As Canada proves daily, it’s entirely possible to balance gun rights with common-sense restrictions that save lives. Comprehensive background checks and a ban on private ownership of high-capacity magazines and semiautomatic weapons would be good places to start. What we lack is not a way to stop tragedies but a will.

Reinhold Niebuhr famously prayed for “serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.” But so long as America lacks the second and third, we can never have the first.

At least we’ve got plenty of rocks.

— Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald.


Beverly Stauffer 1 month, 4 weeks ago

Sorry to say, this idea is not new. When my daughter, who is now in her late 20s, was in elementary school, they had safety drills. (This was after Columbine.) They asked students to come up with ideas to defend themselves against attackers. Of course this included running if they could, or hiding if they couldn't run, but my favorite was the one the kids came up with themselves: "Throw our math books at him!" I think this was more about the size and heft of the math book than their feelings about math, but who knows? I remember feeling incredibly sad when she came home and told me about this lesson. What a shame that 6th graders were being asked to think about such things. Now we're asking even younger students (like my second grader this year) to think about them. We shouldn't have to.

Bob Smith 1 month, 4 weeks ago

Criminals and leftists (but I repeat myself) prefer unarmed victims.

Jim Slade 1 month, 4 weeks ago

So conversely, conservatives prefer dead school children.

Bob Smith 1 month, 4 weeks ago

Then why do you have plans to disarm us?

Greg Cooper 1 month, 4 weeks ago

You're, at best, exaggerating, and, at worst, lying. Try a common sense approach, study the issue gun violence, and find a sensible way to address what can be addressed.

Daniel Kennamore 1 month, 4 weeks ago

Spot on, Mr. Pitts, per usual.

The guns nuts expect us to just roll over and accept gun violence as a way of life even though the rest of the civilized world laughs at us for allowing it.

The ways to stop it are right in front of our face. What will it take for the gun nuts to see it? Or do we just give up on them entirely and move on with creating laws without their input at all?

When a toddler is throwing a hissy-fit you don't indulge them as it only makes it worse. We need to stop indulging the gun nuts. The tide has turned on gun control and it's time they start acting like adults less they get relegated to the kiddy table when the real discussions of these coming laws take place.

Marc Wilborn 1 month, 4 weeks ago

"When a toddler is throwing a hissy-fit ....."


Brock Masters 1 month, 4 weeks ago

Pitts wrote: “The problem is, a mass shooting is not a natural disaster but a human one. Thus, it can be legislated against.”

Mass murder has been legislated against as well as all murders and assaults with or without a fire arm.

Just because someone says something is common sense doesn’t make it so. For example, many would disagree with those who state that it is common sense to prohibit abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected.

And, keep in mind what may be “common sense” in Canada or Australia may be unconstitutional here in the US. Like it or not, the Constitution trumps common sense. Those that want to ban guns may not like it here, but if common sense and not the Constitution dictated our laws many controversial issues would be very different. Sometimes the Constitution works for you and sometimes it works against you, but it works. Don’t like it amend or repeal it.

Daniel Kennamore 1 month, 4 weeks ago

Whataboutism, then an appeal to tradition.

Just needed to add some gunsplaining and you'd have hit your usual trifecta!

Brock Masters 1 month, 4 weeks ago

Bob, pity him. All he has is snarky and talking points that he doesn’t understand. Nothing he wrote actually applies to my post, but when you’re uninformed and a follower that is the best you can do.

Plus what more can we expect from someone who is disrespectful to their own father? Can we expect better when they can their parent a gun nut? I think not.

The guy is obsessed with me in a creepy boil my rabbit kinda way.

Best to ignore him like I do except on occasion when he throws me a big ol softball :)

Daniel Kennamore 1 month, 4 weeks ago

Brocky, you're confused...again.

I respond to you in such a mocking manner because you seem to struggle to make a point without using a logical fallacy as it's basis.

Learn how to make a coherent and valid point before you complain about how 'mean' I am to you all the time.

Seriously, said it before and I'll say it again...never met someone who whines as much as you.

Steve Hicks 1 month, 4 weeks ago

But Pitts is right, Brock, that mass-murders are a human problem.

Canadians are humans, so it seems worth considering their approach to the problem.

Unless you're implying America's mass-murder problem means we're a different kind of (either sub- or super-) humans than Canadians (for one example) ?

Or that, because it makes any human solution illegal in the U.S., the Constitution serves an inhumane purpose ?

Have you considered the possibility that it's the N.R.A.'s self-serving and false non-judicial interpretation of the Constitution's 2nd Amendment that is inhumane, and prevents the problem from being solved, as other humans have ?

Brock Masters 1 month, 4 weeks ago

I didn’t say mass murders aren’t a human problem, in fact I agree humans are the problem which is why focusing on firearms won’t solve the problem.

Canadians are not a different kind of humans, but their culture and country’s Constitution are different than ours. They can regulate/ban guns differently than we can because we have the 2nd amendment and they don’t.

How is the NRA’s interpretation of the 2nd amendment different than the SCOTUS interpretation? Really, tell me.

And who cares what the NRA’s interpretation is? They don’t make law.

Tell me what solution they have blocked, especially since they can’t block anything, that would solve our violence problem.

I do agree if we focus on the human aspect, why do humans kill, as opposed to the tool, we will have bette success at solving the problem.

Greg Cooper 1 month, 4 weeks ago

"Canadians are not a different kind of humans, but their culture and country’s Constitution are different than ours. They can regulate/ban guns differently than we can because we have the 2nd amendment and they don’t."

One might just argue, Brock, that the Canadian model warrants more study. If, indeed, you draw the conclusion (which you just did) that the Canadians have addressed the problem of gun violence better than we have, and then point out that Canada has no 2nd amendment, wouldn't pure logic led to the conclusion that, just maybe, they're on to something?

Point being that, in your mind, the 2nd is the issue here. Knowing that the 2nd will never be eliminated, would it be so difficult for "your side" to take a look at studies that might indicate common sense restrictions or regulations on the 2nd that have all to do with lowering the incidence of gun violence while leaving the individual's right to owning guns?

The only argument that never gets "won" is the argument that doesn't get studied, by either side. In law, it is rarely "all or nothing". In life, though, that's all there is. Which do we want to choose?

Brock Masters 1 month, 4 weeks ago

Greg Canada is very different than many parts of the US. We have large urban areas where many of the people are subhuman. They are prone to violence and live in squalor that is a product of their disregard for creating a safe and healthy environment for their families. I remember poor areas where I lived and saw the pride the people took in being good decent responsible citizens who cared for their families and neighborhoods.

There are places in the US where the neighborhoods look like 3rd world countries and these are the areas that make the US a violent nation. Canada doesn’t have this problem yet. When it does and it will, it’s violence will increase.

It is disappointing that you state my side won’t look at studies because every time I’ve posted solutions I included studying the issue.

There are common sense solutions that will reduce violence and not infringe on my rights.

Here is my list. Now tell me what your solution is.

Enhance the background check database by adequately funding it and the FBI to manage it. Prosecute people who lie on their gun purchase affidavit. Require health care professionals to report patients suffering from certain mental illnesses or using certain drugs for treatment to the background check database. We have to be careful here because we want to keep guns out of the hands of people who have mental illnesses and are more likely to commit a violent act or commit suicide, but we don’t want to deter people from seeking help. Provide funding for more mental health access that is affordable. Enact a law that would allow people to report a person who they believe will harm others or themselves and be able, after due process, to remove their guns. Due process is essential, but it can happen quickly. Also, make it a criminal act to falsely accuse someone. Fund voluntary gun safety training and PSAs to promote the safe handling, storage and use of firearms. We use taxpayer dollars to fund all kinds of safety programs so why not this. I am sure there are people who would like training but can’t afford it. Increase the penalties from the paltry 3 years many states have for felons illegally possessing guns to 25 years. Make sentences mandatory no parole for anyone convicted of a felony while using or in possession of a firearm. And such sentences shall be at least 25 years. Strengthen laws and increase penalties for stealing or possessing a stolen gun to at least 25 years with no possibility of parole. Stop imprisoning drug users, provide them treatment and thus make room for these deadly criminals. Allow the CDC to study gun violence and offer recommendations for curbing it. Ban bump stocks - no purpose other than to circumvent the law regarding full auto. All are doable, none infringe upon my rights and all will help reduce crime.

Greg Cooper 1 month, 3 weeks ago

For the most part, your suggestions are "common sense" and fairly workable. At least they are things that address the root problems of poverty and education and mental health. All of those things HAVE to be addressed before any legitimate change can take place.

And I've never accused you, in particular, of not studying the issues. It's refreshing to talk with someone who actually answers questions and posts legitimate concerns and solutions. BUT...I think you are losing sight of one of the things that will actually help, and that is making each and every person in the country feel a part of that country. Canada is successful in that to a great extent. Why? The question is hard to answer, but I'd suggest a couple of things: one, that the government exhibits a great propensity to help those in need of medical and financial aid to get them, and the government is not part of the problem but part of the solution.

Education, at a reasonable or no cost; infrastructure changes that make it possible for all to live in relative comfort; mental health care that is proactive rather than reactive; health care that is available to all. Those things will make a huge difference in how people react to society. Those things are also, by the way, things that somehow become fighting points among the various factions in our political system.

Most of all, I think we have to, somehow, enact term limits on our federal servants. Never will we be able to remove all vestiges of dollars voting, but we can make it much harder for a few well-financed lingerers to guide law-making that has little to do with the citizens and much to do with greed.

Oh, yeah, and as to "your side", you need not think I lump you in with everyone who is rabidly espousing the near-religious importance of the damned Second Amendment. I put you on "their side" because you support the amendment but with thought and without knee-jerk reactionism. Not all laws are good for all people, but no law that ignores a majority is good, and I think you believe that.

Brock Masters 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Greg, this is the reason I post here. I don’t think my posts will change anyone’s mind, but instead I learn from others in not only what they offer, but in the challenges they make of my positions.

Your point about making everyone feel a part of the country resonated with me. It is one that is easily dismissed, but I think it is valid.

I agree with your suggestions on how to do it and here is my view on them. We do all these things for foreign countries so why not our own? Let’s invest in America. Let’s be proactive and help Americans stay out of prison. Let’s get them the access they need to mental health care.

Let’s get the schools back on track in terms of educating and not social engineering while providing the resources they need. Resource aren’t just books but providing meals for the children. They can’t learn if they are hungry.

Should taxpayers do this? No, it is the responsibility of the parents, but it isn’t getting done. So we can point fingers and say pull yourself by your own bootstrap or we can intervene and break the cycle of poverty and in doing so reduce violence.

It is an investment that will pay dividends for all.

Think about this...look at all the billions we spent fighting in Iraq and rebuilding their schools and infrastructure so why not here?

So we need to recognize that no matter how great America is there are those that have limited opportunity to achieve the dream because of to whom and where they were born. So yes let’s rebuild that sense of national pride by making America great for all Americans and instead of saying it is achievable for all without help from the rest of us.

But what do I know? I’m just a gun nut manipulated by the NRA LOL

Steve Hicks 1 month, 4 weeks ago

"How is the NRA’s interpretation of the 2nd amendment different than the SCOTUS interpretation? Really, tell me."

Intent, and standing. I'm sure you can perceive the difference between a professionally-qualified group whose purpose is furthering the well-being of our citizens, and which is accountable to our citizens; and a lobbying group whose only purpose is furthering its own power, at whatever cost to citizens.

I doubt it's significant if the N.R.A.'s "constitutional" interpretations occasionally agree with those of SCOTUS. They come from opposite intents...and levels of professional expertise. A cheap broken watch gives the right time on 2 of the day's 1440 minutes.

"And who cares what the NRA’s interpretation is? They don’t make law."

Of course they've famous for manipulating politicians and voters, to get laws that serve their purpose. But you're right that they have no official standing to make law.

The same could be said of their standing to interpret law. But that doesn't seem to deter the willingly-misled from believing, and parroting, N.R.A. interpretations. We have the mass-shootings to prove it.

Brock Masters 1 month, 4 weeks ago

Steve, it was a simple question and you deflected.

SCOTUS interpretation is the 2nd amendment protects the right of the individual to bear arms. This is exactly what the NRA’s interpretation is. Point to something factual that says the interpretations are different.

The NRA is only powerful because it has such a large membership who vote. It wouldn’t have its membership if they didn’t represent our views.

Steve Hicks 1 month, 4 weeks ago

It wouldn't have its membership if it hadn't manipulated people to believe its views. It's more a case of members accepting the organiztion's views, than the organization expressing members' views.

You might gain some perspective on what the N.R.A. currently is, by reading some N.R.A. history. The organization formerly had beneficial intent and purpose, until recent decades.

Its current political power (and membership) followed from a deliberate pivot to hard "gun-rights" advocacy when the organization was taken over by a rebel a way to gain political power (and membership).

Brock Masters 1 month, 3 weeks ago

So you are unable or unwilling to state the interpretation of the 2nd amendment by the SCOTUS and the NRA and how they differ.

Tell me what the NRA promotes that isn’t true.

There are groups and individuals that want to repeal the 2nd A and to ban all guns and this is reason enough for me to support the NRA

Steve Hicks 1 month, 4 weeks ago

"Canada is very different than many parts of the US. We have large urban areas where many of the people are subhuman. They are prone to violence and live in squalor that is a product of their disregard for creating a safe and healthy environment for their families...

There are places in the US where the neighborhoods look like 3rd world countries and these are the areas that make the US a violent nation..."

Wow. Just wow.

But I thought you agreed mass-shootings are a human problem. Now you're saying the sub-humans are to blame for violence ?

Brock Masters 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Yes Steve, a minority of the population are responsible for the majority of the violence in the country. And yes, I classify people as subhuman when they murder men, women and children without remorse. I classify them as subhuman when they destroy and trash their own neighborhoods. Yes, I classify them as subhuman when businesses can only operate in their neighborhoods from behind bulletproof glass. Yes, you are subhuman if your actions necessitate the police accompanying fire fighters into your neighborhood to put out fires.

I think Nikolas Cruz, Dylan Roof, KKK members and others like them are subhuman. I think people who post wiping their butts with the American flag are subhuman.

Steve Hicks 1 month, 3 weeks ago

I presume you don't consider yourself part of any of those "subhuman" groups.

And you are, in relation to them...?

A rather telling self-image, isn't it ?

Steve Hicks 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Obviously, Brock, any SCOTUS decisions that affirm the "militia" qualification of the 2nd Amendment are contrary to the N.R.A.'s interpretation of the amendment.

Among those SCOTUS decisions are U.S. v. Miller, and Lewis v. U.S. They can be easily found online.

Ken Lassman 1 month, 4 weeks ago

Pitts overstates the bucket of rocks lameness. Sure, second graders won't be able to defend themselves, but from about the 5th grade on up, that gunman, faced with a room full of students with river rocks in their hands, will be the wounded or dead one. No school district will ever make this the primary defense, with many levels of security leading up to that point needing to be in place, but as a last ditch defense, I like the bucket of river rocks in the classroom better than a teacher who doesn't have military training with a gun.

Sam Crow 1 month, 4 weeks ago

How many SROs have military training ?

Ken Lassman 1 month, 3 weeks ago

According to the national organization, all School Resource Officers are trained law enforcement officers armed with guns and have training to attack and neutralize an active shooter. I was talking about armed teachers, who without a military training background, should probably not be armed. All adults in Israel go through years of military training and as such, know their way around a gun and can and do have guns, so the teachers with guns situation is different in Israel.

Brock Masters 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Ken, so it isn’t military training that is needed, but appropriate training.

With that said, I still oppose teachers being armed to protect the students regardless of the training or whether they are ex-military.

Teachers should teach and we should invest in professional security to protect them.

Ken Lassman 1 month, 3 weeks ago

I'm fine with that, Brock, although as I said about Israel and the necessity of living in a militarized state, that kind of readiness isn't impossible.

SRO training is ongoing in order to maintain a level of competence and readiness that would be essential in an active shooter scenario. Good teachers need to be putting their time and energy into teaching and there are very few teachers who have enough of both of these to be able to do both the level of teaching required in today's schools and the level of competence that would need to be presence to neutralize an active shooter, although if they are out there, I suspect it is because they have military experience. If they want to provide this level of security, then maybe they should switch professions.

Bob Smith 1 month, 3 weeks ago

So the fiction that the leftists don't want to disarm us dies in broad daylight.

Gary Stussie 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Let's do like London ... even the police don't carry guns. Oops!

London murder rate beats New York for month as stabbings surge!

Bob Smith 1 month, 3 weeks ago

"...So there you are, cowering under your desk..." Actually, the Broward cowards were cowering outside the building.

Bob Smith 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Interesting lack of static from the starboard side of the aisle today.

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