This is probably as good a time as any to link to my colleague Jeff Goldberg's piece which argues for more gun safety measures along with a larger portion of the citizenry bearing firearms. You can read Jeff's update to his article here. Among his points:
People should have the ability to defend themselves. Mass shootings take many lives in part because no one is firing back at the shooters. The shooters in recent massacres have had many minutes to complete their evil work, while their victims cower under desks or in closets. One response to the tragic reality that we are a gun-saturated country is to understand that law-abiding, well-trained, non-criminal, wholly sane citizens who are screened by the government have a role to play in their own self-defense, and in the defense of others (read The Atlantic article to see how one armed school administrator stopped a mass shooting in Pearl Mississippi). I don't know anything more than anyone else about the shooting in Connecticut at the moment, but it seems fairly obvious that there was no one at or near the school who could have tried to fight back.
As I've said before I really don't have anything against self-defense. (My Pops is veteran of both the Vietnam War and the Black Panther party.) But I'm not sure that, in America, people lack the capacity to defend themselves. As Jeff's own reporting shows, the country is awash in guns. What the country is not awash in is people who have the desire to carry guns on their person. With that in mind, it's worth gaming this out and not simply asking whether we should encourage more people to carry guns, but what such a world would look like.
It is human to wish that Dawn Hochsprung, the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary, who died heroically yesterday, enjoyed some weaponry beyond her body. But are we then asking for a world in which the educators of small children are strapped? Do we want our hospital workers, our librarians, our baby-sitters, and little league coaches all armed? What is the message that such a society sends to itself and its children? What does it say about its government's ability to perform the most essential of services--protection? And is it enough to simply be wholly sane? What do we say to the ghost of Jordan Davis, shot down
over an argument of loud music, by a man who was quite sane? And where does it end? If more mass killers don body-armor, should we then start fitting ourselves in kevlar too?
This is not my area of expertise, so I am open to your thoughts. But I would hope to not live in a country where it is easier for a kid to access a gun, than it is for an adult to access the vote.
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is a national correspondent for The Atlantic
, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of The Beautiful Struggle
, Between the World and Me,
and We Were Eight Years in Power