In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., many people are voicing their opinions on what we need to do to prevent such disasters in the future.
I last wrote a letter that dealt with this issue in October 2002, in the wake of the D.C. sniper tragedy.
It is sad how little has changed in the last 10 years.
On [Dec. 14], one expert told us "better security at the school would have stopped the shooter." By all accounts, Sandy Hook Elementary had some of the best access control procedures already in place.
Others argued, "the school should have had a metal detector." The shooter walked up to the front door carrying an assault rifle. I doubt that a metal detector would have done anything.
The people in the front office knew this young man posed a threat and what was about to happen. Even if we made our schools a fortress, our children would still be vulnerable as they entered or left the school to go home. All the shooter would have needed to do was to wait outside for his targets.
Another commentator told us "if one of the adults in the school was armed, they could have stopped the shooter."
The truth is that there was at least one gun owner among the victims. She bought her guns for protection. She was the first one killed. With her own gun. The same gun that was later used at the school to shoot many of the victims. Her ownership of a gun did not save anybody.
We are being told, "we need stricter gun control laws." Connecticut has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country, but they did nothing to prevent this incident.
All of the guns used were legally purchased and possessed.
"So we need stricter gun laws." How about a complete ban on the private ownership of guns?
One hundred and sixty-seven million Americans live in households that together have a total of more than 300 million guns. I would like to think that most of the gun owners would comply with the law and turn in their now-banned weapons, but my guess is that at least 100 million guns would go underground and still pose a threat.
A complete prohibition on guns would be no more effective than the prohibition on alcohol was in the 1920s or the prohibition on marijuana is today.
Guns are small and easy to transport. As long as there are people who want them, they will be smuggled into our country or manufactured here. Prohibition is never the answer.
"Ban assault weapons."
"Ban large capacity clips."
We enacted a ban 20 years ago, and it had little or no effect.
Ten years into that ban, the D.C. sniper used a Bushmaster assault rifle like the one used in Connecticut.
"Ban Hand Guns." That did not work in D.C.
"Background checks at gun shows." The owners of the guns used in all of the most recent shootings passed a background checks.
"We need a waiting period." Connecticut has a 14-day waiting period.
None of the proposals that have been made thus far would have done anything to prevent this tragedy. We should be willing to look at new laws, but only if they will actually do something to make society safer.
Some will tell us "the Constitution guarantees our right to 'bear and keep arms.'" We have already made 27 changes to our Constitution. We can make a 28th if that is what is needed.
Some will tell us "it is our culture of violence. We need to change our attitude toward guns."
They will point to violence on TV, movies and in video games. I enjoy watching the AMC TV show "Hell on Wheels" whose lead character is avenging the deaths of his wife and child by hunting down and killing those he believes are responsible.
I also enjoy the show "Dexter," the story of a serial killer who kills other murderers. Millions of people watch these shows and more than 99.9999 percent of them do not end up killing someone.
Violence in entertainment may desensitize some people, but it is not the primary cause of the problem.
"This is a mental health problem." We do need to be able to find those who are at risk of this behavior and treat them before the pick up a gun. But do we know how to do that?
What if they do not want treatment? Do we want to lock up people because there is a chance they may do something in the future? We will need to weigh the civil rights of individuals and the safety of the public. I am troubled by the idea of preventive detention.
It is time to have a national conversation about gun violence. I do not have the answer. Technology and laws will not prevent incidents such as this from occurring in the future.
As long as young men believe that picking up a gun is a solution to their problems, then we will remain at risk.