I am writing this letter in response to Elizabeth Rawlings’ Jan. 2 letter to the editor titled “Put armed officers in schools.” As a parent of three children enrolled in Steamboat’s public schools, I find Ms. Rawlings’ letter appalling. Fortunately, she encourages open debate on the topic. I agree. We should have an open discussion before intentionally bringing guns into our school hallways.
Rawlings is, no doubt, aware of National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre’s assertion Dec. 21 that all schools in the United States immediately should have armed officers. That is the only way, LaPierre said, to prevent another massacre like that at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which left 20 children and six adults dead. At the same time, LaPierre blamed gun violence on video games.
Ms. Rawlings may not recognize that the NRA is out of the mainstream, but the majority of Americans do. A recent Gallup poll, conducted Dec. 19 to 22, found that 58 percent of Americans would like to see stricter gun laws. Most Americans realize that one of the answers to increasing gun violence in America is to restrict access unfettered to assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Such restrictions in no way would prevent law-abiding citizens from exercising their constitutional right to bear arms, defend themselves or engage in lawful gun-related activities such as hunting, which is an important part of the economy and culture of Routt County.
The basic problem with the NRA’s view is the idea that even more guns are the solution to America’s gun violence problem. The facts — and common sense — actually point in the opposite direction. According to the Small Arms Survey, the estimated total number of guns held by U.S. civilians is 270 million, or 88.9 firearms per 100 people. The U.S., with 4.5 percent of the world population, accounts for about 40 percent of the planet’s civilian firearms. The U.S. death rate by firearms — which includes homicides, suicide and accidents — is 10.2 per 100,000 people, according to the Coalition for Gun Control. Compare that to Canada, just north of the border, which has stricter gun control laws and a death-by-firearms rate of 2.5 per 100,000 people.
Ms. Rawlings compares herself to an angry mother bear protecting her young. Perhaps she is more like an animal who, gripped with fear, unintentionally puts her young closer to harm’s way. Instead of giving into fear, let’s rise above our animal instincts and work together to make society a safer place for our children. Yes, gun control is a part of the solution. The answer is surely not to head in the opposite direction and turn our schools into armed camps.