I wish I would have highlighted other issues -- the mental health piece, in particular. The assault weapons ban and other half-measures won't change reality, but if our legislators could figure out a way to keep guns -- any guns -- out of the hands of the dangerously mentally ill (a subcategory of the mentally ill, of course), then we're getting somewhere. Also, I would talk up gun buybacks, though this, as well, is a half-measure. The mental health piece, though -- that's the vector for these mass killings: Easy access to guns by people who, though they might not have been adjudicated mentally ill, need to be kept from guns all the same. (This is a very difficult thing to do, because it requires the help of the mental health community, and it's not too interested in reporting patients to the FBI.) And I wish I had written more about the relative merits of closing the gun-show loophole versus the proposed assault weapons ban. (I think the latter is mostly symbolic; the former represents a potentially important advance in gun control.)
I come to this subject, ultimately, as the father of three school-age children. All I'm doing is looking for policies that work. If you could show me a plan that would radically reduce the number of guns in America, I'd be happy to endorse. If you tell me that the best way to protect children is to post police officers in every school, then let's do that. The cost shouldn't matter -- we're talking about our children. (I tend to think that, because these shootings are so rare, this is not the best use of money, but that's another conversation.) I also have another view that, at least in our Northeastern liberal circles, is heterodoxical: I think most Americans can be trusted with guns. The proof is that tens of millions of Americans who do own guns go through life without ever hurting anyone. Not infrequently, these law-abiding Americans use their guns to stop crimes.
This is the untold story. I'll send you links if you want, but guns are frequently used to de-escalate situations. And so I'm not frightened by vetted, screened, and trained civilian gun owners. I'm more afraid of a dangerously mentally ill person with a penknife than I am of a sane and law-abiding citizen with an arsenal of assault rifles in his garage. And so I do believe that there are moments when a civilian, so long as he is screened and trained appropriately, can stop a crime with a gun. Do I want guns in my children's schools? No, it's a repulsive idea. Do I want the principals of my kids' schools to carry weapons, or have them accessible in their offices? No, that's a terrible indictment of our society, among other things.
But: I want my children to be safe, and we know that the gun lobby has failed to protect our children; the gun-control lobby has failed to protect our children (and yes, they have failed -- they have been, so far, a singularly ineffective lobby); our legislators and leaders have failed; the police, of course, regularly fail to stop gun violence (they're good at investigating it afterward). So I think that civilians who are capable of defending themselves, and others, should consider doing so, until we come up with a better plan. In The Nation, Bryce Covert writes that, "Individually, in the face of unpredictable violence it can make sense to want to arm oneself to respond to what may come. But that means a lack of trust in our common goal of safety for all." She then goes on to write: "Agreeing to ignore the instinct to pick up more guns means trusting that the police will show up to answer your call." This kind of thinking flummoxes me (and surprises me -- who knew The Nation trusted the police so much?). Lovely thoughts, but what reality-based person trusts that the "police will show up to answer your call"? It is true that the police eventually show up at scenes of massacres: At Virginia Tech, it took the police only 10 minutes to arrive. In those 10 minutes, though, 35 people were murdered. And the police showed up at Sandy Hook Elementary shortly after 26 people were murdered.