Shootings offer points to consider

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I read with great interest articles in The News-Democrat by Phyllis McLaughlin and Jarrett Boyd regarding the recent shootings at Sandy Hook School and the additional need for strengthened gun laws. I respectfully would like to add into this discussion my two cents. First off please allow me to state my background. I am a little over three-quarters of a century old. My father was a law enforcement officer in Missouri for over 37 years, and he started me shooting when I was three years old.  I spent three years in the regular Marine Corps plus eight years in the Marine Corps Reserve, some of which was as a firearms instructor teaching Marine Recruits to shoot.  Since 2002 I have been a Kentucky Certified Firearms Instructor Trainer, as well as being trained to teach the 4-H Shooting Sports.  If I was a betting man, I would make a small wager that some of the individuals reading this, and/or their children, have been in firearms training classes that I have taught.

The Sandy Hook Shooting is a tragedy of the worst kind, one resulting from a shooter with a deranged mind. A commonality of mass murders is that the shooter targets victims in gun free zones, mostly schools, churches, theaters, etc. and when confronted by authorities, or opposition to their vendetta, stop their rampage and commit suicide rather than face the world in light of what they have done.  They go into their rampages with the expectation of killing themselves.  

The president has set up a commission to study the situation to see what can be done to stop these mass murders. I am concerned that this will be nothing more than an excuse for the politicians to once again jump on the “assault weapon” bandwagon and try to ban certain firearms. The previous Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 outlawed various guns and basically did nothing to stop gun violence. All it did was to give some people a warm, fuzzy feeling that Washington was doing something. But the root cause of this type violence was not addressed.  I believe that Mrs. McLaughlin has pegged the problem completely. All of these mass killers have mental problems and if we are to stop this kind of violence, it will be necessary to address the mental illness situation. I don’t have much hope that Washington is going to tackle that problem.  It will be much easier for them to blame the assault weapons with large capacity magazines.  

Most states have rules limiting the number of rounds that hunters can carry in their hunting rifles to no more than 10 rounds.  Is it necessary to carry more than 10 rounds in a rifle? Is it necessary to have a vehicle that will go 70, 80, 90 or even 100 miles an hour? Unless it’s an emergency vehicle it’s really not necessary.  It has been proven that traveling 50-55 miles an hour is much safer and saves money due to getting better gas mileage. However, how many of us would buy a vehicle that wouldn’t go over 55 miles an hour? Seems to me that we had tried nationwide 55 mile per hour speed limits some years back and that did not work out. To some, a rifle that holds 20-30 rounds in the magazine is more advantageous than one that only holds 10 rounds.

What is an assault weapon?  According to Wikipedia, the internet encyclopedia, “Assault weapon is a term which has been given many different meanings. A common usage is a mistaken one, as a synonym for assault rifle (a firearm with full-auto capability), but unlike that term, ‘assault weapon’ has no consistent or specific definition and so is subject to varying definitions for varying purposes, including definitions that include common non-military-style firearms.” Many people equate “assault weapon” with a machine gun, which it is not. Machine guns or fully-automatic firearms have been tightly regulated by the federal government since 1934. So called, assault weapons are frequently used for hunting as well as competitive target shooting.

Some schools have hired uniformed police officers to guard the school; others have given trained teachers the right to carry concealed firearms in the school.  These teachers are specially trained in marksmanship and required to use special ammunition. A case in point is a school in Harrold, Texas that is located 30 some miles from the nearest law enforcement station. These teachers, who volunteer, must be approved by the school board and their names are not made known.  

Teachers in the school are the first responders, as they are on site.  While Carrollton has both a great police department and the county a great sheriff’s department they cannot be everywhere at all times. A uniformed police officer in the school would be the first target of a mass shooter, while an unknown armed teacher would have a distinct advantage.  At Sandy Hook the school did everything right, the doors were locked but the shooter broke in.  The unarmed school principal was the first responder along with another teacher and both were killed. Would it have been better if one or both had been armed and had a chance of stopping the intruder  I rather doubt that the results could have been worse.

As my father used to tell me, the police do a great job of catching the bad guys, but usually after the crime has been committed.

Our country has a major problem with our mentally ill and we should do something about that problem. In the meantime gun-free zones, such as schools, serve as magnets to some of the ill people. In order to keep firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill, we first must be able to define what is mentally ill and then identify who is mentally ill. Until that happens, maybe we should consider allowing some specially-trained teachers to carry firearms at school. Teachers are allowed to qualify for concealed carry licenses in Kentucky, just not carry in the school. Why not give them a little additional training with firearms and use this additional asset for the safety of our children. They don’t have to know everything that police officers must learn, only how to shoot accurately. Check out Harrold, Texas on the internet for some insight. We train airline pilots to protect passengers, why not train teachers to protect their students?

Tom Dapron