President Obama has pledged to do something about the mass murders that have plagued the United States in recent years. The slaying of students at an elementary school in Connecticut is just the latest horror, but perhaps the most difficult to take, given the age of the victims.
The Connecticut tragedy follows a recent mall shooting in Oregon, the summer bloodbath at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., the Tucson killings and wounding of Congresswoman Gabbie Giffords, and a string of other school or college campus shootings dating back to Columbine (Colo.) and beyond ... Way beyond. We note that Charles Whitman killed 13 people and wounded 32 others at the University of Texas on Aug. 1, 1966.
The president, and Americans in general, are tired of feeling helpless and hopeless in the face of these tragedies, brought about by off-kilter individuals wielding firearms that can be fired rapidly and reloaded with clips holding dozens of rounds of ammunition.
There will be a push for new gun control laws. More Americans may now embrace that position. Some of these may make sense. But we do hope amid the frustration and sorrow many people feel, they will not forget that what matters is effective action, not just any action. Connecticut has strict gun-control laws. Guns are generally banned on school campuses. These laws just don't matter to someone intent on killing others.
If it is guns themselves that lawmakers will target, people should remember: A gun is a relatively simple technology. They are easy to make. Banning them - or some models or large clips - will foster a black market, run by ruthless gangs. (There is already a black market for guns: criminals are not allowed to own them but are able to acquire them.) Trying to take guns, or certain guns, away from citizens will result in potentially thousands of deaths. Citizens themselves, police officers and federal agents will be casualties.
What can be done? As things stand now, federal law prohibits most adults, including school staff, from carrying firearms in school zones. This law must be revisited to create more flexibility in school security decisions. Some schools may decide to hire security guards. Some could designate and arm a security leader, such as a principal. At the very least schools could talk about their options, with input from their communities. Under current law, citizens feel helpless because their schools are defenseless.