by Ray Lenarcic

This one hit pretty close to home. My son-in-law’s mother’s good friend’s son was one of the teachers killed at Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, Florida. Scott Biegel. The next time you hear the word hero, keep his name in mind. After shepherding several students from the hall into his classroom, he was gunned down, his fallen body blocking entry into his room. And when I viewed the list of names and ages of the students who died, I shuddered at the thought that any one could have been my grandchildren attending New Hartford Central and Avon Central in Connecticut.

That thought resulted in another-how safe are they? Probably not as much as they should be. Let’s face it-there will be more shootings. No matter what additional precautions may follow, there simply are too many schools, too many lethal weapons, too many kids or adults with unattended mental problems to stop them. I thought about Benton Hall Academy in my hometown (Little Falls); secure entries, an armed security guard, teachers trained to know what to do when what if-and yet anyone could enter Eastern Park, walk onto the bandstand and open up on second graders enjoying recess on a playground a few yards away. While these tragedies can’t be totally prevented, their likelihood and the fatalities can be reduced. What follows are suggestions as to how that might happen.

  1. Ban AR-15s (along with other comparable assault rifles) and bump stocks. Most Americans, including police associations and a majority of NRA members, would support this move. These patriots are too knowledgeable to be hoodwinked by certain fear-mongering leaders of the NRA who perpetuate the false narrative that banning one gun is the first step in banning them all. Frank Hall, the high school coach at Lakeside (Ohio) High who single-handedly faced down a 17-year-old kid who already had shot to death three fellow students thus preventing far more bloodshed, said it best. “An AR-15 isn’t the cause. But it’s the means. Let’s take away the means and then work on the cause.” (Sports Illustrated-2/18)
  2. Implement universally with modifications if necessary Canada’s gun laws-especially those relating to licensing and regulation. While space prevents a more thorough identification of these laws, I think you’ll find the following examples instructive. Anyone wishing to possess or acquire a firearm must have a valid possession-acquisition license (PAL) distributed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The process involves three steps. First, one has to successfully complete the Canadian Firearms Safety Course for a non-restricted license. There are three classifications of firearms: prohibited (eg. AK-47), restricted (eg. Handguns) and non-restricted (eg. Rifle and shotguns meeting certain specifications). Next, one applies for the license (Form CAFC 921). Finally, the applicant is subjected to a security screening consisting of background checks and reference interviews. A mandatory 28-day waiting period is imposed on first-time applicants (final approval time may be longer). Licenses are valid for 5 years and must be renewed prior to expiry. Domestic abusers need not apply! Also interesting was Canada’s Criminal Code which limits maximum magazine capacity to 5 rounds for rifles shooting centre-fire ammo in a semi-automatic fashion or 10 rounds for handgun magazines.
  3. Renowned sociologist and iconic New York State Senator who resided for a time in Oneonta, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, he of “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts,” believed that guns don’t kill people, bullets do. In the wake of Congress passing the bill banning so-called cop-killer bullets, Moynihan tried to go a step further by pushing bullet-control laws. While unsuccessful, he did get some provisions inserted into other crime bills. Let’s resurrect the “big leprechaun’s” idea and make the cost of certain bullets (eg. .223) so cost prohibitive that the only thing assault rifles could fire would be blanks. Side notes: Guns, like nuclear waste, remain potent while bullets expire after a single use and can only be stored for a few years. (NY Daily News) The Second Amendment says nothing about ammunition!
  4. Mr. Trump, echoing screeching voices of NRA spokespersons, advocates arming some teachers as a remedy for ending school shootings. One of the countless voices raised in opposition to this specious recommendation is that of Brandon Friedman, an Army infantry officer in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Teaching someone to handle guns is a very different skill from teaching them to fight. People who haven’t fought (or at least been trained to fight) often seem to miss this completely.” Perhaps having Uncle Sam invest in training and paying the salaries for additional armed security guards at all schools and placing signs outside announcing such would serve as an effective deterrent. As a result, teachers would be freed to do what they do best-teach.
  5. Everyone seems to agree that mental health is a key component regarding the prevention of all mass shootings and that society, in general, has a long way to go insofar as the identification (i.e. correct diagnoses) and treatment of our mentally ill is concerned. Trump has echoed the need to “do things” in this area. However, his words ring hollow considering he signed a bill making it easier for the aforementioned to purchase firearms. He has also introduced a budget that would slash $425 million from school safety and mental health programs. I’ve read about numerous recommendations for addressing this issue and I’m sure more are in the offing. But I have yet to note anything addressing the ongoing problem of bullying in our schools. If you examine the school killings since Columbine, most of the perpetrators had been bullied. Despite all of the noise, rhetoric, and programs claiming to be successfully dealing with this blight, it continues to make the lives of too many of our children a living hell. Witness a group of white supremacist wannabes who made life miserable for a Jewish boy at an area school. The ringleader was the son of an administrator there. His punishment-one day of after-school detention. Anti-bully programs are successful if victims are able to report incidents without fear of retaliation, school officials are able to implement effective methods for dealing with the bullies and their parents are counseled to get help for rather than defend their children. ( Parents-take some time to check out where your child’s school stands regarding the above.)

Personally, I hope that this latest tragedy is a clarion call for our politicians to cut the B-S, cut their NRA umbilical cords and cut out compromising their consciences for political gain. Personally, I’m encouraged by the promises of Stoneman Douglas’ students to honor those who died by holding the same politicians’ feet to the fire until changes, not merely token ones, are made. And personally, speaking of rights, it seems to me that the right of 18-year-old Meadow Pollack to walk down the hall in her school without ending up with nine bullet holes in her body should take precedence over the right to possess the weapon that killed her. If you agree, call your Congressional representative (315-732-0713) and let her know.