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Legislating with Our Head and Our Hearts

After the shooting in Newtown, CT, I noticed on Facebook many people asking that the country have a “conversation” about guns. Now typically, that’s a request for some sort of dialog. However, a few of those asking for that proceeded to immediately disparage anyone who would disagree in the slightest with more restrictive gun laws. That, folks, is a monologue, not a dialog.

To have a dialog, we need to consider all possible options. And to do that, we need to find out what works. Not just in theory; we need to know what has worked well over a long period of time. And for that, I’d like to look at the history of school shooting deaths in Israel.

“Israel?”, you might say. “What can a nation with a population of 8 million tell the US, a nation of 300 million, about gun laws?” What indeed. Let’s look at their history of school shooting deaths. Israel, you will remember, is a nation under siege from all of its neighbors. The entire country is essentially a war zone, which you’d know if you ever tried to fly there. You think we have onerous airport security here? But Israel is fighting for its life, so it has to take many more extraordinary precautions.

In 1974, there was a terrorist attack at an elementary school in Ma’alot. Palestinian terrorists took 115 hostages, of which 25 died. Now, British colonial laws were in effect at the time that were designed to keep Jews from owning guns. After Ma’alot, anyone from the Israeli Defense Force (current or former) was allowed to carry a gun anywhere. This included teachers. Field trips always were with armed guard.

So, just the opposite of what’s being called for here happened there. Instead of gun-free zones, guns were around children all the time, especially when they were out and about. The reason was to prevent terrorist attacks, but presumably if it’s expected that this law was to prevent those, then they’d work against any random shooter. And understand that this law didn’t stop Arab hatred. It didn’t cure mental illness of any kind, and certainly not the kind that the Newtown shooter had. It didn’t eliminate evil.

It’s just that now, guns were in school, held by people who had been trained in their use. And for over 30 years, there was not a single death in a school shooting in Israel. All this in spite of the fact that some teachers carried guns. Or, you might say, because of the fact that some teachers carried guns.

But you write that sentence the way you want. Regardless, draw your own conclusions as to whether it was effective.

Because that’s really what we should be considering when it comes to protecting our children; what is effective. Seeing what happened in Newtown, CT made us feel powerless, and we feel like we must do something to try to prevent this from happening again. But let’s do something effective. Let’s pass laws, not just with our hearts, but with our heads as well.

A city in the metro Atlanta area, Kennesaw, GA, passed a law in 1982 that all heads of households were to own a firearm, except those with mental or physical disabilities. The law is never really enforced, but the fact that it is on the books is enough. The year after the law was passed, Kennesaw’s burglary rate dropped more than 50%. The following year, it dropped another 50%. Oh, and where guns are banned, like Chicago, IL, they had more deaths in 2008 than we had soldiers killed in Iraq that year. Just this past New Years Day, 15 people were shot, and 3 were killed, in a single incident on the west side of Chicago. Again, draw your own conclusion as to which is more effective.

If gun-free zones make people safer, should we make the White House a gun-free zone? Should VP Joe Biden, who is tasked with working out new gun laws in the wake of Newtown, should he lead by example and disarm his Secret Service detail? No, we protect those who are important to us. We should do no less for our kids. President Obama sends his girls to a school that has an armed security detail, so clearly, he has his own opinion on gun-free schools.

Doug Payton blogs at Considerettes and podcasts at “Consider This”.

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