It took all of two days following the shootings in Connecticut Friday to fill up my "Over-Reaction Bingo" card. It's a sheet that lists the all of the statements, demands and explanations that come up every time something like this happens.
My first square marked off was "BAN ALL GUNS!!!". There are a reported 310-million firearms in the United States--nearly one for every man woman and child--making the task of confiscating and destroying each of them nearly impossible. Add to that the fact that the legal owner of every one of those guns has a pretty good basis for a civil lawsuit, and the process becomes even more impossible. Even a semi-automatic weapons ban will be very difficult to enforce, as there are millions of those in private hands--who will not be willing to part with them easily.
Next up was the "WE NEED MORE GUNS FOR PROTECTION!!" box. This is the common over-reaction to the first over-reaction. The belief being that armed teachers and administrators would be able to stop assailants dead in their tracks by engaging in a firefight either in the classroom or out in the hallway. As police officers trained in tactical situations will tell you, unless you are packing the same firepower as your opponent, your odds of winning aren't good. In the case of the Connecticut shooting, the school staff would have needed semi-automatic weapons and body armor--just like the shooter.
Another winning square was "WE NEED TO IMPROVE SCHOOL SECURITY!!" Ideas tossed around this weekend included armed guards at all entrances, metal detectors, locked buildings and security fencing and gates. At a time of tight school budgets, how much money do you want to divert from actual classroom instruction to man entrances and security stations? And is turning a school into an impenetrable fortress really creating a positive learning environment?
And then we had the "WE NEED TO TEACH KIDS TO TREAT EVERYONE WITH RESPECT!!" This one was marked off after it was learned that the Connecticut shooter was described as a "loner" with "few friends in high school". Schools have been trying to teach "inclusiveness" for years now--and yet "nerds", "outcasts" and "social awkwardness" persists? What's next--requiring kids to have a certain number of friends? Mandatory dating?
We scored our "Bingo!!" with "WE NEED TO IMPROVE ACCESS TO MENTAL HEALTH TREATMENT!!" This one followed stories from friends of the shooter's mother that she had feared for her son's mental state. For centuries, we dealt with such "dangerous people" by committing them against their will in "Insane Asylums". That went out of style in the 60's and 70's, however, as behavior modification drugs became available and the consensus was that people with such conditions were better left in society under treatment. Now, an involuntary committal is a difficult legal process--unless of course, said "disturbed person" has committed a serious crime. And while doctors can prescribe medications, they can't be there 24/7 to make sure the patient is taking them.
If we want to play a "blackout game"--you can mark off "BAN ALL VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES AND MOVIES!!" and "BRING BACK PRAYER IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS AND GOVERNMENT!!" on your card as well. Let's hope we can go awhile before we have to play again.