The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Mankato Free Press Editor's Blog

December 26, 2012

School shootings and what to do about gun violence

By now we've all head two weeks to consider the horrific events in Newtown, Conn., where for the first time, it seems, even kids age six and seven years old were brutally gunned down before the very eyes of their teachers, their community and the nation.

Newtown news was front and center in The Free Press for several days as we tried to come to grips with this unspeakable tragedy.

We shook our heads over and over. How could this happen. How are these folks going to get through this. If you figured out the numbers, Newtown had to have several funerals a day for children under 8 years of age for a week. Police and emergency responders have been traumatized.

In the end, there can be no logical explanation. Solutions range from restricting guns, to making mental health services more available to putting armed guards in every school in the country.

I've heard from gun owners that at a minimum most would like to see the government make sure those who sell guns at gun shows conduct and be required to conduct background checks on those who they sell to. Right now, that's a loophole in the law.

Others have suggested also requiring more guns to be registered and that gun owners be required to notify the government when they sell or lose a gun or have one stolen. That should be a minimum requirement.

Still others are recommending we go back to banning assault rifles. We had banned them for about 10 or 15 years, but that ban expired in 2004.

My current thinking says we try and do all of the above, or some form of all of the above. While there is most resistance to banning assault rifles, it just seems to make some logical sense to me that if we restrict the supply, we limit the quantity of potential incidents like that at Newtown.

The guns were legal for the shooter and his mother. If they were banned, who knows, mom maybe doesn't buy an assault rifle, but maybe a shotgun.

Maybe the kid still takes the shotgun or a pistol and does damage, but maybe not 26 victims shot multiple times. I know that's a small consolation and really shouldn't be considered a victory, but it seems like that's the place we have landed on this one.

Requiring gun sellers at private shows to adhere to the same laws at larger scale gun sellers and stores is a no brainer if you ask me.

Mental health is not that much tougher to tackle if we're willing to spend the money and get even the basic coverages out of the Washington bureaucracy where they appeared to be stuck in red tape for some reason or another.

Armed guards at schools. In some districts, it's already happening. That doesn't seem like a reasonable solution in most cases. Some have suggested a system we use for terrorism, the random air marshalls on airplanes rotating duty so no terrorists ever really knows if there's an air marshall on board or not.

I guess that could work at schools, but many people are not convinced more guns in schools means more safety. It doesn't really logically ad up for me, but the debate may well play out on a school by school, district by district basis.

As one letter writer said, it's something we can implement immediately.

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