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Following the horrific mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the nationwide soul-searching and debate about gun control continues to widen.
Last Friday, Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, further fanned the flames of outrage when he declared that the only way to keep our children safe is to have a “good guy” with a gun posted in each school to match the firepower of the bad guys with guns.
His remarks followed those of former U.S. Education Secretary Bill Bennett, who also said schools should hire armed guards. Some Republican officials have said even teachers could be armed.
The N.R.A. has helpfully offered to train these gun-toting guards on how to wield their weapons around young children.
Some cities and townships, in fact, already do have armed guards and police in their schools. The most crime-plagued New York City schools do as well, but most city residents would say that we do not need any more.
Sending another chill rippling through the country, on Monday, an Upstate man in his 60s with a Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle — the same weapon used by the disturbed Newtown shooter — ambushed first responders whom he lured with a fire, killing two of them and injuring two others.
Meanwhile, as the N.R.A. was lashing back against the growing calls for gun control, on Saturday, the suburban Journal News published a map with names and addresses of all licensed handgun owners in Westchester and Rockland Counties. Many readers objected, saying this was a violation of privacy — plus, some said homeowners without guns would now be targeted by criminals. The controversy, however, points to how gun control is so intensely in the forefront of our consciousness now.
More locally, state Senator Dan Squadron, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh and other state politicians are ratcheting up their advocacy for gun control, from microstamping bullets to a stiffer ban on assault weapons, including the model used in the Newtown and Webster, N.Y., shootings.
Word is that Governor Cuomo is set to outline a tough new gun control policy at his State of the State Address on Jan. 9. According to reports, he’ll call for a ban on magazine clips of more than seven bullets for handguns, among other things, which is a good start. Let’s face it, most Americans who die from gun violence are killed, not by assault rifles, but handguns. It’s the rifles and machines guns, however, that are often behind the worst incidents — the mass shootings. But handgun violence is the number one problem, and we are eagerly looking forward to what Cuomo will have to say on this subject — and looking for him to lead on this issue, just as Mayor Bloomberg has.
New York already has some of the nation’s toughest gun control laws, but we must continue to raise the bar, because there is so far to go, as seen in LaPierre’s entrenched position.
Shino Tanikawa, the head of the Community Education Council for School District 2, for one, said local parents definitely are not comfortable with the N.R.A. honcho’s idea. She’s a native of Japan, which has very strict gun control and extremely low crime.
“I’m not religious and am not driven by any religious doctrine, but ‘An eye for an eye makes you blind’ comes to mind,” Tanikawa told us. “Fighting guns with more guns? Teachers having guns in the classroom? Will it be locked up, in which case it would be useless against a gunman barging in? Or will the teacher wear a holster, while teaching our children not to hit back when a kid hits another kid?
“I feel my kids are safe in their schools,” Tanikawa said. “I think we have to remember to be vigilant, though. After a tragedy like this we are all very diligent about security but after a while we tend to get lax. Having drills on a regular basis, as P.S. 3 does, is also a good idea.”
This is a historic moment for this country in terms of its relationship with guns. As seen in LaPierre’s agitated speech, the N.R.A. is on the ropes. The momentum for gun control is building. The time to act — to create a safer, more sane nation — is now.