April 18, 2007

Columbine and VTech: How Many is Enough?

Remember the outcry after Columbine? Clinton attempted to get tougher gun control legislation through Congress but was blocked by a Republican congress. Republicans preferred to blame Marilyn Manson. Here we are in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech massacre, and I expect less outrage than that which followed Columbine. On the front of gun control, I expect that little will change. I can't help wondering how many dead will be required to prompt meaningful change.

Like most rational persons, I recognize that there is no single cause for events such as Columbine and Virgina Tech. The available data indicate that multiple factors are involved, only one of which is access to weapons. Access to weapons is, however, an important variable in assessing the degree of lethality. A gun is not going to make an otherwise stable person go on a killing spree. However, the availability of a gun is going to make an unstable person more lethal should other factors prompt a spree.

The gun lobby has an answer for us. They say that the problem is that there are not enough guns. If every one of those students and Virginia had been armed, not as many people would have been killed, right?

We can concoct scenarios where not wearing a seat belt reduced injury, and we can similarly imagine scenarios where everyone having a gun would limit a particular tragedy. The question is what happens the rest of the time. I don't know about you, but when I was in high school and for at least my first year or two of college, I'm not sure I was mature enough to have been able to handle a gun. In fact, I can almost guarantee you that if I had been armed throughout this time that something bad would have happened. Under the influence of too much alcohol, I did many stupid things. I hate to think of what would have happened if guns had been involved.

How many more of these tragedies in our nation's schools will be necessary to bring about defensible gun control? At the same time my heart goes out to the victims of Virginia Tech, I can't help feeling that we have failed them. At what point will we be willing to tell our politicians to stand up to the gun lobby?

H/T to Blue Gal.

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