How many clay pigeons have to die before we restore basic human decency to the gun violence debate? The question is no more absurd than the photograph of President Obama skeet shooting. The president's authority to protect the citizens of this nation from wanton violence does not reside in his ability to handle a gun. Skeet shooting past the graveyards of gun victims diminishes tragedy for the sake of political theater.
Since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December, just a little over a month ago, more than 1,500 people have died from gun violence in the United States. And we're giving Wayne LaPierre and the NRA even more attention and platforms from which to spew absurd nonsense about rights? How about the rights of the people who are now dead because this nation indulges the corruption of gun money in its legislatures? President Obama should stop playing to the sideshows and stick to his goal of reducing gun violence through sensible regulation.
As a college president, I am forced to rethink campus security every time there is a shooting at a school anywhere in the nation. Every single incident requires us to review our security procedures, consider adding more officers, increase training and protective measures on campus.
And yet, I am painfully aware of the fact that in this violent, gun-saturated culture, there is no 100 percent guarantee that the violence won't wash over even the best efforts to protect my campus. And, horrible thought, should the evil of a shooting ever occur on my campus, nobody will blame the NRA. Nope, they'll blame me, they'll sue Trinity, they'll second-guess our security measures until the end of time.
And, by the way, dare we mention cost? The gun lobby with its endless resources acts like the cost of more security is a mere trifle. At Trinity, where we spend about $1.5 million annually on security for a relatively small school (that's five times the size of my library budget, by the way), security costs each student roughly $600, a figure that increases each time we have to add officers and new security measures. Congress is jumping up and down about college costs --- the growth in the cost of campus security is another one of the drivers of tuition price increases.
Rather than dealing honestly and effectively with the plain fact that our nation is now armed-to-the-teeth -- recent estimates indicate we have more than 300 million guns in this country, enough to arm every person with a few rounds to spare --- we are allowing the righteous anger and urgency of Sandy Hook to dissipate in shadow-boxing the same old tired self-serving defenses of the gun lobby. Who elected Wayne LaPierre? Why do we let this man and his organization continue to insult our intelligence and assault our right to live without fear of being shot to death on any random day?
We now are seeing the even sorrier spectacle of the NRA seizing upon one of the most vulnerable populations in our society -- people who are mentally ill -- to paint them as the real culprits fomenting the awful violence we cannot seem to escape everywhere we turn. Let's lock up all the people who suffer mental or emotional illness! And let's be sure we have enough guns around to shoot them if they begin to seem agitated. "Good guys with guns" can shoot sick people with guns, right?
The NRA's twisted logic ignores the plain fact that many perfectly sane and rational people commit murder with guns that are readily available. The courts and prisons are full of people who committed premeditated murders with guns. The facts about homicide belie the idea that the only killers are those who act out impulsive deranged fantasies. The human mind has the capacity to make a perfectly sane choice to commit an act of utter evil. The ready availability of guns makes it so much easier to commit the act without a second or third thought.
Yes, it's quite true, guns are not the only problem. But guns in America are the most visible and pervasive symbol of this nation's love affair with violence and death. President Obama's proposals to control the ready availability of guns, like those proposed by Senator Diane Feinstein and others, are legitimate and necessary efforts of our elected leaders to address the culture of violence.
In the 1960s, our nation woke up to the fact that smoking causes lung cancer. The ensuing decades saw a remarkable decline in lung cancer deaths as a result of a purposeful campaign to limit the ready availability of cigarettes, to inform the public of the dangers of smoking, and to control the places where smoking could occur. Nobody took away the smokers' cigarettes. But by controlling advertising, sales to minors, indoor smoking and the potential for exposure to second hand smoke, the government did save millions of lives. Moreover, kicking and screaming, the tobacco companies actually conceded the truth and joined the public education effort -- usually with a court order -- and today those companies are still in business.
It's high time to deal with guns at least as effectively as we dealt with cigarettes. Taking away guns from legitimate owners is not realistic, but reducing gun violence through serious, effective regulation is an urgent imperative.