But Ms. O’Brien was the very picture of professionalism when compared to her CNN colleague Piers Morgan, who embarrassed himself and his network while in his characteristic high dudgeon during a “conversation” with Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America. Like John Lott, Mr. Pratt is well versed in the research involving gun crime in America, and he attempted to present this information to someone he must have assumed would be willing to hear it. Mr. Morgan was deaf to it all, resorting to language that revealed him to be not only supercilious but boorish as well. “You’re an unbelievably stupid man, aren’t you?” he asked Mr. Pratt. Some who view the exchange might come to a different opinion as to which of the men is stupid.
All the heated rhetoric that has followed the horrors of Sandy Hook obscures the legitimate questions we so yearn to have answered: could the gunman have been stopped, and can future madmen be prevented from carrying out similar crimes? Is there a law that might have been passed, are there steps that might have been taken, could anything have been done to protect those precious children and those who cared for them?
I suspect that those who seek a legislative solution to crimes such as this one are on a fool’s errand. It would be difficult to tabulate the number of laws the gunman broke in the course of his murderous spree that morning; to think the enactment of one or a dozen more would deter such a man is to engage in childish fantasy. And talk of banning “assault weapons” is equally naive, not least for the fact that the very term has no real definition other than to describe rifles that some people find scary-looking.
I am neither a member of the National Rifle Association nor an avid shooter. But I have carried a gun as a tool of my trade for more than 30 years, and have come to appreciate the advantages of being armed in those moments when a deadly threat presents itself. That said, I am not among those who would place a weapon in the hand of every teacher. For one thing, not every teacher is qualified to handle one. There is no shame in this. Using a firearm for self-defense requires a certain mindset and level of proficiency that few teachers — indeed few people in most professions — possess. (Though I suspect the number of teachers hoping to achieve that mindset and level of proficiency has just increased.)
But the mere possibility that one or two staff members at a school might be armed may offer just enough deterrence to inspire second thoughts in any but the most determined assailants. And if such a determined assailant proceeds with an attack, is it beyond the pale to hope for intervention by an armed teacher? Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-TX) appeared on Fox News Sunday on December 16, and he was widely derided (here, for example) for expressing the wish that the principal at Sandy Hook, who died in the attack, had “an M-4 [rifle] locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out and she didn’t have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands and takes him out and takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids.”
For those who find that absurd, a question: is that scenario not preferable to what actually occurred?