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Web letter: Americans not without options when it comes to stopping gun violence

I am a victim of gun violence. Like a U.S. senator remarked, I have been silent too long and done too little. I can be quiet no longer. It is time for me to speak out against guns.

Recently, I watched in disbelief as NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre spewed forth his position on “contributing” to the debate on gun violence. He said that our banks, airports, government buildings, and our leaders are protected by armed guards so why shouldn’t our schools be included. The first thought that I had was that all those armed guards are necessary because too many people have guns.

He went on to say that there are evil, deranged individuals in our society from whom we must protect ourselves by owning guns. My second thought was that those individuals are too easily able to buy guns. We need to pass a test and be licensed to operate a car. Why not a gun?

LaPierre also stated that we need more good guys with guns. He offered no ideas on how to pay for those guards. My thoughts here were that good guys with guns would not be necessary if there weren’t so many bad guys with guns. We need to get rid of the loopholes in background checks at gun shows and the secondary gun markets and internet where most criminals get their weapons.

LaPierre would not understand my worry for family and friends who are bank employees. There are no armed guards at most banks. In fact, the banks will not allow employees to carry weapons. There is an occasional police cruiser drive-by or one that parks for a while to “show” the bad guys that someone is watching.

When I taught school, I worried about the potential for a distraught parent or student who might do something out of anger. But as an educator, I would never dream of having armed teachers in the buildings. I worried that guns would come in –.and they do. The reality is that guns and kids are a prescription for more disaster, not less.

Then I was flashed back in my brain to 25 years ago. My father was a good guy with a gun. He loved to hunt. He had a semiautomatic rifle, among other weapons. He was a life member of the NRA. He was not protected by his gun. In fact, an intruder into their home killed both my parents with my father’s own hunting rifle. Because of the nature of his death, there was no NRA life insurance, either.

The senator who said we have done too little for too long is right. We need to do our research and look at how the U.S. is No. 1 is the world for gun ownership and No. 1 for gun violence. We need to look at the statistics which show most women who are shot, are shot by someone they know. We need to think about the risk of owning a gun which makes us 22 times more likely to be shot by one. Furthermore, home security systems are cheaper than buying guns.

As LaPierre said, there are lots of evil, unstable people out there who will continue to do horrible things without guns. We need better support for mental illness which frequently results in homelessness because there are so few alternatives. Our government needs to look seriously at what is available to help the mentally ill. The cost of care is easier to pay than losing 27 lives.

But also consider this. Would the young man in Newtown have used a bomb to kill his mother? Would he have carried a bomb into the school? How many armed guards would it have taken to keep him out? How many guards would have been killed because they did not have enough armor to protect against the weapons? Would the guards’ weapons have been a match for those of the shooter?

Finally, LaPierre suggested that making our schools armed fortresses would discourage such violence. This too is incorrect thinking. There are citizens who have bazookas and long-range weaponry intended for use by the military. They can aim those weapons at our schools, airports and presidents. Armed security did not save presidents from being assassinated or shot and it won’t save our children either.

Lapierre’s news conference was an NRA commercial to sell more guns. We need parent/teacher organizations to stand up to the NRA rhetoric. Our schools should not be surrounded by armed guards. I feel sick at the very thought of it. I cannot imagine my grandchildren in such an environment. Do we want our schools to look like prisons? Is that what we want to become?

When my daughter went to Nicaragua during her college years, she recounted her fear and concern over seeing military guards on every corner. She commented on her gratitude for living in a country where that was not necessary. Lapierre and the NRA would have us sink to that level in our own nation. He would likely see it as a benefit to the economy and the bank accounts of those who sell guns.

Parents, educators and all citizens need to stop the response of panic and fear and turn to action. We must speak out against violence in movies and computer games. We must demand that military-grade weapons be outlawed. This will also help our police to be better armed than the criminals. We need to support those people who like to hunt, but any deer hunter will tell you that if you miss the first shot, you probably won’t get a second. No need for 30 rounds of ammo. We need to ask why we do not consider allowing a 10-year-old to drive a car, but a child can use a gun on a practice range. We need to boycott stores that sell military-grade weapons.

We are not helpless. We are not at the mercy of the NRA. We are not without options. We can demand changes in laws to be the law-abiding nation we should aspire to be. Strict gun laws work in other countries. If Americans allow themselves to turn our country into an armed militaristic nation, we will no longer be the country that others look to for direction and hope. We will shoot ourselves in the foot (pun intended) Work for change.