Will tighter gun controls really stop another school massacre?

Dec 21, 2012

The rhetoric and the reality: pro-guns NRA said to signing up 8,000 new members a day

THE US National Rifle Association made a defiant response to the Sandy Hook massacre today calling for armed security guards to be placed at the entrance of every school in America, because "the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun". Outlining what the NRA had said would be "meaningful contributions" to national efforts to reduce gun violence in the wake of the massacre, its chief Wayne LaPierre said the gun-rights organisation would draw up a plan to "shield" every school in America.
Some commentators had expected the NRA to soften its line on gun control in the wake of 20-year-old Adam Lanza's killing spree, but LaPierre "made no concession" to his critics, says The Guardian, blaming the media, the gun control lobby and health services for failing to detect mentally ill killers. He argued that if Lanza had encountered a "qualified armed security guard" when he arrived at the elementary school last Friday armed with three weapons, "isn't it at least possible that 26 little kids might have been spared that day". In fact, 20 children died at the school and six adults.

Gun control has become a priority for the White House after last Friday's massacre in which Adam Lanza killed 20 children and six adults at the Newtown, Connecticut elementary school. But few American newspaper commentators believe new gun laws will prevent such horrific incidents taking place in the future.

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama said he would support Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein's bill to curb the sale of automatic and semi-automatic weapons, and to limit the amount of rounds in a gun. But Steve Chapman in the Chicago Tribune points out that even if this bill is passed in Congress – not a certainty - it won’t be nearly enough.

Chapman argues that anyone intent on slaughtering large numbers of victims can legally carry multiple guns all loaded with 10 rounds each. "That's exactly what Lanza did," he says.

Michael Cooper in the New York Times has a similarly pessimistic view. He points out that after a California school shooting in 1989, in which five children were shot dead, action was demanded. But it took five years of legislative wrangling to pass a federal assault weapons ban. The bill then expired in 2004 with barely a protest.

The experience of the early 1990s shows that gun manufacturers have excelled at finding ways around the restrictions, tweaking their guns "just enough to comply with new laws", writes Cooper. Law enforcement officials have already said that they believe the guns used by Adam Lanza in the Newtown shooting were legally acquired and registered.

Robert Shrum at the Daily Beast concludes that any system which allows Americans to carry weapons of any kind will inevitably lead to deaths. He said the rights enshrined in the Second Amendment are superseded by the rights of all people – "to life".

That’s not an argument likely to be endorsed at the NRA’s press conference. Although the organisation has been keeping a low profile since the Sandy Hook shootings, it has been quietly enrolling about 8,000 new members a day, according to Fox News.

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The assault weapons ban was allowed to expire because it made no difference in the number of gun deaths. Inconvenient truth for your story, but a fact nonetheless.