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Pro vs. con: The gun ban debate

Guest Viewpoint

— The NRA has recently been promoting the use of semi-automatic weapons among children (N.Y. Times: Sunday, Jan. 27) as a move to stem the decline in gun use nationwide. Now add to this the NRA's suggestion, in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, that teachers should be armed (and trained in the use of firearms). Allow me to propose the next logical step: let all children, who have received appropriate training, bear firearms in school. Any would-be assailant would be met by a hail of bullets, and immediately rendered harmless, quite possibly dead.

Yes, it would be effective. But now let us consider a small sample of the underlying problems associated with this strategy. Whilst, I assume, a mercifully small percentage of school children are convicted felons, the other major criterion for exclusion from legal gun ownership, mental instability, is less easily defined. Would the child with ADHD, for instance, be barred from packing a weapon? Would it be ok if this child's behaviour was controlled pharmaceutically? Whose responsibility is it to decide who is mentally fit and who is not?

To my knowledge, this suggestion of arming our kids has not seriously been proposed. But the idea of guns in the classroom has been. Has it escaped the notice of proponents of this course of action that children are insatiably curious? Not only that, they are resourceful. It is only a matter of time before a child gains access to the teacher's gun, points it in the fashion which is second nature to anyone who has watched prime-time TV, and pretends to gun down those around him or her, or maybe makes the pretence a little too realistic by actually squeezing the trigger.

Is the solution to the ongoing series of mass murders by firearms really to introduce more firearms, and to introduce them to those with the most pliable brains? I do not promote a total ban of firearms. After all, there are numerous legitimate reasons to bear arms, hunting, self-defence and target-shooting among them. No politician in this country will opt for the stance of a complete ban; it would be political suicide and totally unrealistic. But does any of these legitimate activities, as protected by the 2nd Amendment, require automatic or semi-automatic action, along with clips containing dozens of rounds? These are the weapons which can transform dozens of thriving lives into so much dead meat and misery within a few seconds. Banning such weapons and ammunition clips will, of course, not totally eliminate them from society - there will always be a black-market - but anything which reduces the abundance of such weaponry will necessarily reduce the incidence of such tragedy.

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