What we agree upon

By Baker City Herald Editorial Board December 26, 2012 08:27 am

We weren’t naive enough to believe, much less to hope, that the first public statement from the National Rifle Association following the Newtown massacre would elevate the national debate about fatal mass shootings at schools.

Still and all, we are disappointed that this crucial discussion seems to be focusing on issues that not only are inherently polarizing, but that have little chance of making a meaningful difference in preventing future tragedies.

Surely no rational person expected that Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice president, would stand at a lectern and announce that the organization was in favor of reinstituting the federal gun control laws that were in effect from 1994 until 2004.

Nonetheless, gun control advocates have not only decried LaPierre’s proposal to put armed guards in schools, but they’ve raised the volume on the debate to a shrill screaming match that gives us a collective headache.

Meanwhile, topics about which there is little argument seem to be getting short shrift.

One example is the effort to prevent people with mental health problems — pretty much a universal issue in mass shootings — from getting access to a gun. 

The NRA doesn’t advocate that mentally ill people ought to have unfettered access to any gun, whether a semi-automatic rifle or a single-shot .22.

Nor does the organization oppose the widespread use of locked gun safes — gun safety, in fact, is a point of emphasis with the NRA.

Yet rather than concentrate on these areas of agreement — things that might help us to avoid future Newtowns — the publicity after LaPierre’s statement has much to do with criticizing his organization as tone-deaf on the issue of gun violence.

Yes, LaPierre’s suggestion to assign police to patrol public schools presents major, and possibly insurmountable, challenges, chief among financial ones.

Yet that’s no reason to dismiss the notion outright.

Almost all of us would agree, in a situation such as Sandy Hook Elementary, that having a trained officer with a gun present, were it to have any effect, would likely reduce the death toll rather than add to it.

That said, we would prefer that in future appearances LaPierre talk about ways to keep deranged people from getting guns, in addition to his polished speech about what to do with those people when they show up at school.