I HESITATE to offer thoughts about the school shooting in Connecticut that has seen 20 children and seven adults murdered and the gunman also dead. Your correspondent has been in the rural Midwest researching a column and heard the news on the car radio. Along with a sense of gloom, I found I mostly wanted to see my own, elementary-school-age children back home in Washington, DC, and had little desire to listen to pundits of any stripe: hence my reluctance to weigh in now.
To be fair, on NPR, the liberal columnist E.J. Dionne had sensible things to say about President Barack Obama’s statement on the killings, and how it was probably significant when the president seemed to suggest that he was minded to take action on gun control, and never mind the politics. On the same show the moderate conservative columnist, David Brooks, expressed sensible caution about assuming that stricter gun controls could have stopped this particular shooting.
Switching to red-blooded conservative talk radio, I found two hosts offering a “move along, nothing to see here” defence of the status quo. One suggested that listeners should not torment themselves trying to understand “craziness”, though it would, the pair agreed, be understandable if some parents were tempted to remove their children from public education and homeschool them.
To that debate, all I can offer is the perspective of someone who has lived and worked in different corners of the world, with different gun laws.
Here is my small thought. It is quite possible, perhaps probable, that stricter gun laws of the sort that Mr Obama may or may not be planning, would not have stopped the horrible killings of this morning. But that is a separate question from whether it is a good idea to allow private individuals to own guns. And that, really, is what I think I understand by gun control. Once you have guns in circulation, in significant numbers, I suspect that specific controls on things like automatic weapons or large magazines can have only marginal effects. Once lots of other people have guns, it becomes rational for you to want your own too.