Fast Focus: Identify violence

December 30, 2012 

-- TOM SEIM, Richland

Most "suggestions" I have heard about how to stop massacres like the Sandy Hook one involves banning assault weapons. Many of those making these statements are apparently unaware that Connecticut already has a comprehensive assault weapons ban, and this weapon was not an "assault weapon" as defined by Connecticut law, even though the media referred to it as such ad nauseam. The others already know this, but have an entirely different agenda that falls more along the lines of a complete firearms ban. This gets to the core of the problem, which is assault weapon bans are completely ineffectual. This is not conjecture; this is fact.

Here is a bit of reality: There are some 300 million personal firearms in the U.S., about 15 percent of which are semi-automatics (45 million). Any kind of ban, which only restricts a very small proportion of these, will have no measurable effect on gun violence. Now, it may surprise you to learn that the gun homicide rate has fallen in recent years. And not by a small amount; by more than 50 percent since 1980. Was this the result of gun control legislation? Absolutely not. It was the result of determined prosecution of criminals using guns. In other words, get the people committing these crimes off the streets.

Clearly, this will not work for mentally disturbed people like Lanza, who have no prior criminal history. But are there other predictive measures that could identify the Lanzas of the world? Perhaps, but there are approximately 70,000 dangerously mentally disturbed people in this country. Still, individuals like Columbine shooter Eric Harris were identified repeatedly to police as dangerous and nothing was done to stop him. This is correctable.

Other options include making the school more defensible. A simple idea is electronically locking doors to immediately lock down (literally) the school at the first sign of violence. Teachers and administrators need video surveillance of all class rooms and hallways, accessible with smart phones, to determine where problem is and stay away from it. And why can't teachers, with proper training, have nonlethal weapons like Tasers?

Tri-City Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service