After the massacre at Sandy Hook, Wayne LaPierre issued a public statement calling for armed guards in every school. The way he put it was, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” This shameless and cynical attempt to build support for the gun industry by making people believe that the way to end gun violence was to give people the legal right to commit gun violence became the war-cry for the gun lobby, despite the fact that there has never been credible proof that armed citizens make America a safer place to live, to work, or to go to school.
Now I want to make one thing very clear before Ted Nugent and all the other super-patriots begin jumping up and down and calling Mike the Gun Guy an “enemy” of the beloved 2nd Amendment or worse. There’s no credible proof that carrying guns around makes America a safer place, there’s also no credible proof that it does not. In fact, there’s no credible proof of any connection between the behavior of law-abiding citizens who carry guns and the behavior of people who use guns either to shoot themselves or shoot anyone else. Sorry, but coincidence isn’t causality and the fact that the violent crime rate is half as high as it was twenty years ago while the number of states that grant CCW permits has doubled isn’t, in and of itself, a proof of anything at all.
As Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “We are all entitled to our own opinions, but we aren’t entitled to our own facts.” I can’t think of another debate about public policy in which the two sides are so polarized in terms of opinions, but where there’s so little agreement about the facts. At least when Republicans say we can solve the deficit by lowering taxes and Democrats argue for raising revenues, both sides agree that a deficit actually exists. Red and Blue also disagree vehemently about immigration, but at least admit that something needs to be done. In the case of guns, however, one side, the NRA side, doesn’t even believe that gun violence is a problem and, in fact, the NRA and its allies never use the term “gun violence” at all.
Which is why I find what happened in Marysville High School both a terrible and yet at the same time a remarkable event. It was terrible, of course, because three young people lost their lives, others were badly wounded, scores more were traumatized beyond repair. Even though it was more than fifty years ago, I remember my high school cafeteria as a place to relax, fool around and just have some innocent fun. There isn’t a single kid in the Marysville lunchroom last week who will be able to sit there happily and playfully again.
On the other hand, the incident in Marysville was also remarkable for how it came to an end. Apparently, a first-year teacher, Megan Silberberger, heard the shots, ran into the cafeteria, walked right up to Jaylen Fryberg and grabbed his arm as he was attempting to reload the gun. It’s not clear at what point Fryberg shot himself with the gun, but what is clear is that an unarmed teacher, without any concern for her own safety, may have ended this episode before the carnage became much worse.
I suspect plans are being discussed to bring Ms. Silberberger to DC for visits at the White House and Capitol Hill. But after I finish this commentary I’m going to write a letter to Wayne LaPierre and suggest that the NRA invite this courageous young woman to stop by their headquarters as well. The truth is that buying and sticking a gun in your pocket may keep gun sales on the rise, but you don’t need a gun to try and prevent harm. All you need is what the current gun debate seems to be lacking, which is some common sense.