After Newtown: More guns are not the answer

A week after 20 children and 6 teachers were massacred by a gun-toting 20-year old in Sandy Hook Elementary School,  Newtown, Connecticut, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has finally said a few words.

Breaking a week-long silence the NRA held a press conference to share their opinion on what America’s next move should be.

No surprise that while many are clamouring for tighter gun control, the NRA are clamouring for increased gun usage.  Rather than wanting to reduce the amount of guns children are subjected to seeing, they want more.  They want every school to have armed guards.

The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. – Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President of the NRA

Actual words there from the NRA in their press conference.  To stop a bad guy coming into a school with a gun there will already be a guy there with a gun – the supposed good guy.  So, currently, each day the average child does not see a man with a gun but the NRA want to change that and ensure that in going to school every day, each American child will almost 100% see a man (or woman I would guess) with a gun.

This is far from reassuring.  In fact, it’s down right worrying.  That means that in every school in America, every day there is a chance that the good guy, for whatever reason, has the potential to become the bad guy and there’s no one there to stop him, he’s already been given clearance to be in the school.

You also have to wonder what sort of weapon the NRA want the good guy to be carrying.  A pistol? Or a rifle? A pistol carrying guard would still have next to no chance against the kind of weaponry that Adam Lanza was carrying.  Yes, he might be wearing a bullet proof vest but that won’t save him.  Therefore you’d have to assume that the guard would have to carry a rifle.  That’s what the NRA want in American schools, that’s what they want children to see every day, a tooled up guard.  Maybe more than one guard too as their actual wording says “armed security”.

The United Kingdom is no stranger to mass killings involving guns, Hungerford in August 1987 where Michael Ryan randomly shot and killed 16 people, wounded 15 others and killed himself.  He reportedly used three guns in that shooting, a Beretta and two semi-automatic rifles.

The most recent occurred in June 2010 when Derrick Bird also randomly shot and killed 12 people and injured a further 11 in Cumbria.  He then shot and killed himself.

However, the mass killing in which the UK, particularly Scotland, can most relate to the Newtown massacre with happened on March 13th 1996 at Dunblane Primary School.

At approximately 0930 hours Thomas Hamilton entered the school armed with four handguns.  He shot and killed sixteen children and one teacher before turning one of the gun on himself and ending his own life.  The children, like Newtown, were all 5 or 6 years of age.

As a nation, we were stunned.  We grieved together, and I do mean together, on the following Sunday, at 0930 there was two minutes silence.  I was on a bus, the driver pulled over, cut his engine and we, together (I was the only passenger) cried our eyes out for the loss of these young lives and the tragedy that had happened in the small, idyllic town of Dunblane.

We, as a nation, also said that this should never happen again.  Gun control on handguns was tightened and security in schools was tightened.  That didn’t mean we tooled up guards to patrol the grounds carrying the very weapons that had been used to fatally shoot 17 people in Dunblane, it meant that you couldn’t just walk into schools any longer.   Here, that has been enough.

The horribly sad fact is that with Adam Lanza, with Michael Ryan, Derrick Bird and Thomas Hamilton there were, in hindsight, indicators that at the very least, they should have been monitored more closely, perhaps required more medical help or more investigation.

Press speculation into Michael Ryan’s life indicated that he may have had an obsession with firearms and survival guides.  Broadmoor doctors speculated afterwards that he may have suffered from acute schizophrenia.  There was also talk that his relationship with his mother wasn’t normal.  He was described by the press as a “mummy’s boy”.  He was 27.

Derrick Bird was said to have grudges against local people, Sellafield nuclear plant because of an accusation of theft while he worked there and was said to have been dumped via text by a Thai lover he met while on holiday in Thailand.  He apparently had sent her money.  He was also being pursued by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.

Thomas Hamilton was already known to police in Dunblane.  Complaints had been made against him involving his behaviour towards young boys while running youth clubs and as a Scout leader.  He also ran a shop and blamed local rumours for the failure of his shop and failure of setting up further youth clubs.  It would emerge after the massacre in Dunblane that he was a man who had a grudge against the local community.

There were lots of indicators that Thomas Hamilton wasn’t happy with the community.  Nothing that would indicate that he would, on the morning of March 13th 1996, open his gun cabinet and proceed to take the lives of 16 children and their teacher though.

The same can be said of Adam Lanza.   Former classmates described him as being quiet and withdrawn.  Does that indicate he would become a murderer? He allegedly was interested in the occult and supposedly worshipped the devil.  Again, should be take from that he would kill 20 children, 6 teachers and his own mother? He suffered Aspergers and, according the Evening Standard, he brooded after his mother left him alone for a few days.  It may also be the case that Lanza discussed his intent online but that is mere speculation at this time.

In all of these cases it’s easy to say afterwards that it could have been prevented if this or that had been done but with the best will in the world it would have been very hard to predict that any of the four above would have committed the massacres that they did.

That’s what makes the NRA’s idea of arming all schools even more ludicrous.  Have armed guards in the schools and people who snap will commit their massacre some other way, blow up a school bus, attack a school outing.  It’s very hard to protect everyone all of the time and introducing more guns is not the way to protect any one at any time.

Also, where does it end? Will America end up a country with armed guards at every corner? In every mall, every main street, every school, church, cinema, dentist, doctors office, hospital? Or should America disregard the NRA and introduce legislation to tighten gun control?

While the NRA were dismissing tighter gun controls news came in of another shooting in Pennsylvania where four people were shot dead by a gunman who also injured three state troopers.  The gunman was killed after a shoot out.

The shooting in Pennsylvania is not the only one since the Newtown massacre either, Slate ran an article earlier today that showed their research, combined with that of anonymous Twitter user @GunDeaths highlighted there had been at least 97 deaths caused by people using guns in America since Newtown.

It might be worth noting that the four murderers I have used above may or may not have benefited from some interventions, as I said before, it’s easy to say in hindsight but people noticed the differences in their behaviour compared to others in society.  Or how they behaved before they committed their atrocities and this also needs addressed.

The only way to reduce gun crime is to reduce the amount of guns, not increase them as the NRA would have you believe.

More guns and the potential for more violence is not the answer.