In the Aftermath
Big Bill Bennett, looking like Newt Gingrich’s older, meaner brother, had a solution for avoiding the heartbreak of Sandy Hook: “Someone in that school should have had a gun,” he said on Sunday’s Meet the Press. Without guns, the principal and school psychologist merely “lunged” at the gunman, he said.
Probably thanking God that Bill Bennett was no longer Secretary of Education, Randi Weingarten, on the same panel, had the self-discipline not to roll her eyes. She had already praised the teachers and staff of the school for their heroic actions to protect their students. Sitting a couple of talking heads away from Bennett, she looked straight ahead and spoke somberly and thoughtfully. “Bringing guns into schools isn’t the answer,” she said firmly. Instead, she addressed the importance of easy access to mental health professionals. Loss of state and federal aid to schools, she pointed out, has resulted in fewer mental health workers – social workers, counselors, and psychologists.
David Brooks concurred. “No child is born violent,” he said. But, he added, we have developed a culture of violence, where violent acts are the norm.
Prior to the panel, David Gregory had interviewed New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an advocate of gun control. The Mayor attributes the steady decrease in violent crime in the city to stricter gun laws and scoffed at the notion that the Founding Fathers somehow would have intended the Second Amendment to include assault rifles. Bloomberg also believes that the NRA is less powerful than it used to be and is no longer a lobby to be feared. If the tragedy at Sandy Hook doesn’t provoke action, he said, nothing will.
Bennett fatuously volunteered himself to serve on any national committee the President might convene to begin a “national conversation” about gun legislation, but “after the tears dry.” His comment echoed the thoughts of other conservatives in the last few days. “This isn’t the time to discuss gun laws,” they say.
But for many the tears for the children and adults at Sandy Hook will never dry. The families and the community and the school will try, as the stricken teachers said afterwards on the lawn of their school, to find a way to move forward. And they will in some fashion after some time. But we will not get over what happened there, just as we haven’t gotten over Columbine more than a decade ago.
Bloomberg admits that gun control will not ensure that these kinds of dreadful killings will never happen again and he’s right. As a school person I know you can neither predict nor control what might happen – but you can take all reasonable and necessary precautions. The staff at Sandy Hook had practiced the drills – what to do if there’s a bomb threat, what to do if there’s a fire, what to do if there’s a shooter. School doors were locked and visitors had to present on camera and be buzzed in. Despite their best plans, however, no one could have predicted that the gunman would shoot out the glass in the doors to gain entrance. No one could have predicted any of the terrible events that followed.
Diane Feinstein (D-CA), another member of the Meet the Press panel, said that she would introduce a bill to ban assault weapons the first day Congress reconvenes in January. Feinstein introduced the 1994 legislation banning the weapons; the bill expired in 2004. The senator feels confident that the bill would have the support of both houses. “You know,” says the Senator, “all of the things that society regulates … but we can’t touch guns? That’s wrong.”
Gun legislation isn’t the final answer. But, dear Lord, it is a start.