Friday, December 21, 2012

The National Rifle Association: Part of the Problem

According the Toronto's Globe & Mail [NRA's call for armed guards in U.S. schools a warning for politicians].
The NRA is offering to help with the effort to put guns in schools. Mr. LaPierre named former Arkansas Republican congressman Asa Hutchinson to lead a National School Shield Program to help design security plans for every school in the country.

Because, as Mr. LaPierre put it: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

If there is a one statement that sums up the political divide in America, that may be it.

Here's the video of the NRA press conference.


And here's part of the transcript ...
With all the foreign aid, with all the money in the federal budget, we can’t afford to put a police officer in every school? Even if they did that, politicians have no business — and no authority — denying us the right, the ability, or the moral imperative to protect ourselves and our loved ones from harm.

Now, the National Rifle Association knows that there are millions of qualified active and retired police; active, reserve and retired military; security professionals; certified firefighters and rescue personnel; and an extraordinary corps of patriotic, trained qualified citizens to join with local school officials and police in devising a protection plan for every school. We can deploy them to protect our kids now. We can immediately make America's schools safer — relying on the brave men and women of America’s police force.

The budget of our local police departments are strained and resources are limited, but their dedication and courage are second to none and they can be deployed right now.

I call on Congress today to act immediately, to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school — and to do it now, to make sure that blanket of safety is in place when our children return to school in January.
There are about 130,000 schools in America. Let's say we find 130,000 people who are willing and able to use a gun to kill anyone who tries to get into the school. Imagine that many of them are "patriots" who belong to the National Rifle Association. They'll probably be working for close to minimum wage. A bored, underpaid, cowboy with a loaded gun in every school.

What could possibly go wrong?


46 comments:

  1. So everyone is responsible for gun massacres except those who sell, promote and defend guns?

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    1. Are you saying every gun-owner is a potential Adam Lanza?

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    2. Adam Lanza did not own the guns he used. His mother (and his first victim) did. Insufficiently protected guns in private hands mean that practically everybody has easy access to them. Which of course is fine from the point of view of the Second Amendment, but disastrous otherwise. And there are also other irresponsible uses of a gun apart from mass shootings. Do you remember the case of the Japanese exchange student in Baton Rouge who was shot "by mistake", partly because "Freeze!" sounded like "Please" to his Oriental ear?
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoshihiro_Hattori

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    3. I agree entirely that secondary access to guns is a very serious issue. Private ownership of firearms must entail a must stricter approach to secure storage and handling.

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    4. Which of course is fine from the point of view of the Second Amendment, but disastrous otherwise.

      Even perhaps the most jealously protected of the rights in the Bill of Rights, that of free speech, is subject to limits. As the famous phrase from a Supreme Court opinion has it, it doesn't give one the right to "shout 'Fire!' in a crowded theater." Similarly, the existence of the Second Amendment means government regulation must pass a relatively higher bar, but not that it is banned entirely. So yes, gun safety regulation is constitutionally permissible.

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  2. Larry, I understand you would rather face a deranged gunslinger mass murderer than a sane gun carrying person!

    Grand bien vous fasse.

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    1. Why should a sane person want to carry a gun in or near a school?

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    2. To prevent a madman with a gun from getting in to the school?

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    3. Make guns easily available to potential madmen and you'll need an army of "sane people with guns" (who might not always turn out to be completely sane themselves, by the way) to ward them off. The more guns around, the more safety. Very logical.

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    4. Larry, I understand you would rather face a deranged gunslinger mass murderer than a sane gun carrying person!

      That's the choice, is it? The idea of making it more difficult for the nutjob to obtain the guns in the first place too much outside the box to contemplate? We gotta arm the citizenry, 'cos there are all these guns about!

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    5. Following John Stuart Mill, my position is that, in a free society, people should be able to do whatever they like up to the point at which it becomes a threat to others.

      In the specific case of guns, this means that if people want to collect them and/or shoot them for sport or recreation then they should be allowed to do so, provided it can be done without undue risk to others. I would even allow concealed carry for self-defense, provided the applicant demonstrated a responsible attitude towards gun ownership and underwent extensive training.

      The problem as always is to balance the rights of the individual with the interests of society. The danger is that the outrage following a tragedy like Newtown will swamp any consideration of the gun-owners rights and they will be swept away by the "tyranny of the majority" as happened in the UK following the Dunblane shooting.

      Over on John Pieret's blog Thoughts in a Haystack I posted short list of measures that I think would improve the current situation and which I think any responsible gun-owner should have no difficulty supporting:

      I would suggest that ownership and use of a firearm would require a license, just as for driving a car.

      In order to obtain a license, an applicant would have to undergo a rigorous training course and pass an examination.

      Purchase of a firearm would require a valid current license and be subject to a thorough background check. Part of the background check would be to confirm that the applicant had a secure container in which to store guns and ammunition.

      A history of mental illness or substance abuse or a criminal record would disqualify anyone from obtaining a license and owning a firearm.

      Semi-automatic rifles, pistols and shotguns would be permitted but conversion of a gun from semi- to full automatic mode would be an offense for which the penalty would be a permanent revocation of the license and the confiscation of all arms and ammunition.

      The magazines of semi-automatic firearms would be limited to a maximum capacity of ten rounds and only two magazines would be allowed per gun.

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    6. Over on John Pieret's blog Thoughts in a Haystack I posted short list of measures that I think would improve the current situation and which I think any responsible gun-owner should have no difficulty supporting:...

      Well, that's more or less what we have in Poland. Our law is pretty restrictive in this respect, but you can get a licence and buy yourself a firearm if you pass all the tests and background checks. But we are not a gun-addicted nation. There are about 300 thousand licence-holders in a population of ca. 38.5 million, which means that less than 1% own a gun. Frankly, I like it this way and I wouldn't vote in favour of relaxing the regulations. Shooting is fun as a sport (I did my army service and learnt to shoot -- it was still under the ancient regime, so my basic weapon was a good old AK-47, which I liked a lot), but I'd be scared of a situation in which a "gun enthusiast" like Mrs. Lanza is allowed to keep a dozen firearms at home -- handguns, rifles and shotguns, with rounds galore -- and doesn't even lock them up properly. It's no longer a hobby but a goddamn threat to the public (including the owner).

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    7. Piotr Gasiorowski Sunday, December 23, 2012 1:03:00 PM

      [...]

      Shooting is fun as a sport (I did my army service and learnt to shoot -- it was still under the ancient regime, so my basic weapon was a good old AK-47, which I liked a lot),...


      I have never fired an AK47, M16, M4, Steyr AUG, SA80, M1 Garand, M1 Carbine, etc but I would like to be able to one day.

      ...but I'd be scared of a situation in which a "gun enthusiast" like Mrs. Lanza is allowed to keep a dozen firearms at home -- handguns, rifles and shotguns, with rounds galore -- and doesn't even lock them up properly. It's no longer a hobby but a goddamn threat to the public (including the owner).

      I agree entirely about the serious risks involved in the private ownership of such weapons where storage and management is not - or cannot - be strictly controlled.

      One solution, which would be acceptable to me, would be shooting ranges where such weapons could be hired on an hourly basis for people like me who would like to try their hand at shooting them, the guns and ammunition being kept secured on site.

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  3. LM writes;
    "A bored, underpaid, cowboy with a loaded gun in every school.

    What could possibly go wrong?"

    That is so spot on. Kids in schools are often noisy, unruly, disrespectful. Teachers and principals 'freak out' all the time in that environment. Put a gun into a stressful mix like that and bad things happen.

    Not to mention the possibility of a deranged kid who hates his classmates distracting a guard and grabbing his weapon.

    Pure lunacy.

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  4. Here in Washington state, a few years back, a guy walked into a coffee shop and killed 4 people. All 4 were armed, highly trained, on-duty police officers. Four such people could not react fast enough to stop this. One rent-a-cop in a school will?

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  5. A bored, underpaid, cowboy with a loaded gun in every school.

    Look at how well the TSA handles security at airports, and just imagine those minimum wage brown shirts carrying firearms.

    But the point is not what could go wrong, the point is why should society become (more of) a police state as a knee jerk response to an event that is so improbable that you would have a better chance of a rectal examination by aliens.

    This is exactly how the US responded to 9/11, so far in excess of $60 billion has been spent to "protect" us from terrorists.

    Your chances of being killed by a terrorist is one in 20 million.

    This compares to the annual risk of dying in a car accident of 1 in 19,000; drowning in a bathtub at 1 in 800,000; dying in a building fire at 1 in 99,000; or being struck by lightning at 1 in 5,500,000.

    And this pales in comparison to your lifetime chance of dying from cancer, 1 in 4 for males and 1 in 5 for females.

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  6. I'm not an American and don't live there either and I can't even imagine what the sane people who don't want to pack a pistol 24/7 are thinking about this situation.

    The idea of so many guns and deaths from those guns every year is so foreign to me as to be from another planet The fear alone would cripple any hope I had of a normal life.

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  7. I'm reading and hearing a lot of pious rhetoric about what should be done, including vague talk about bans on assault rifles, but very little in the way of concrete recommendations that might actually stop the next Adam Lanza from shooting up a school or movie theater or mall.

    While I don't go along with much of what the NRA is saying, LaPierre was almost certainly right on at least one issue. Somewhere out there are other marginalized, disaffected, embittered, vengeful young men. Most of them won't do much of anything about it, but a few might. And we have no way of identifying most of them, let alone predicting which one is most liable to act out.

    That is what they call a clear and present danger. It exists here and now, so what are you going to do about it? Assault weapon bans a year or so down the road don't cut it. One of these unhinged characters might already have his AR-15 and be stockpiling ammunition while he plans his suicide attack on a carefully-chosen 'soft' target like a school or mall.

    And make no mistake, we are going to find that Adam Lanza had planned his attack carefully. He shot his mother in her sleep and took the guns and ammunition he needed for the massacre, leaving behind the less useful rifles. He drove past several other schools to get to Sandy Hook which suggests this was pre-selected not a target of opportunity. He probably knew about the school's new security measure of locking its doors after 9:30. He waited until all his 'targets' were shut inside, in effect turning the security measures against the school by making sure everyone was confined in the building and wouldn't be able to scatter and run. He then shot his way in through the front door. I'm guessing the doors were not strengthened or fitted with bullet-proof glass. Probably the only thing he misjudged was the police response time. Judging by the amount of ammunition he was carrying, he expected to have more time to kill a lot more people.

    Maybe hiring ex-cops or soldiers might be enough to deter a would-be shooter and make him look for an easier target. Or maybe the shooter will just plan to neutralize the threat by taking out the security guard in a surprise attack and then be free to do whatever he wants.

    So come on all you hard-headed, rational,scientific types, instead of just criticizing, how would you have stopped Adam Lanza? What would you do to protect 'soft' targets like schools against the next monster?

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    1. California says it's not a good idea. And at a price tag of a billion dollars for just that one state.
      http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/NRA-idea-for-schools-called-costly-risky-4139994.php

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    2. So come on all you hard-headed, rational,scientific types, instead of just criticizing, how would you have stopped Adam Lanza?

      Such questions should have been asked before the US became a country in which 34% of adults own a gun and the NRA is a sacred cow no politician wants to offend. Adam Lanza used his mom's arsenal. The fact that she was probably sane did not prevent her guns from being used by a psychopath.

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    3. Ian H Spedding,

      You seem to be arguing against locking the stable door because some horses may have already bolted.

      I don't see how an arms race is going to help. The idea that the increased risk to the shooter will be a deterrent does not wash. Criminals in the US know that there is a very good chance their mark will have a personal weapon. Does this stop them? Not apparently. And the 'Lanza factor' is that someone who tools up to take some kind of revenge on society is not expecting to walk away. Armed security is one more factor in the planning. "Oh no, I might get shot before I can get a round off" is merely a risk factor to the success of the individual's warped 'mission', not their personal safety.

      But say they do go and look for an easier target. 20-odd other people die instead. Not much of a result.

      I don't know what the hell his mom was doing with such an arsenal. That appears to be the root problem. Every individual may consider themselves the most responsible gun-owner in the world. But as a society, it seems the US shouldn't be trusting itself with the responsibility to keep them in the 'right hands', or to ensure that the right hands don't find themselves attached to a disordered brain. So find another hobby.

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    4. The "deranged lone shooter" type, in this case will, indeed be hard to stop without insane breaches into one's privacy. A motivated, intellegent person will find a way, unfortunately. But having high-round assault rifles around makes it a lot easier. How may mass school killing used something other than a handgun or rifle?

      This incident is attracting a lot of attention, and in a way, hiding the larger problem. One estimate found here, 138 people have been shot dead since the Newtown shooting. 9 of them were "teens or children". 3 were younger than the children killed in Newtown.

      While stopping a Newton shooter may be very difficult, what about the next 138? It is reasonable to ask if the prevalence of high-powered weapons is a major risk factor in this. Also note, on the same day an "lone psycho" style attack happened in China. He did not have access to a rifle. 21 injuries. No dead.

      I agree that those saying "guns are not the problem" should be the ones that need to defend their position.

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    5. The Other Jim,

      That is an extraordinary graphic and statistic. Here in the UK, every single gun death makes the news - because they are so unusual. 8, last year. And yet car deaths are too frequent to be worth mentioning. We accept that, without being fully arare that that is the contract, as the price for being able to own cars. I guess the NRA wants the US to accept a certain level of death as a reasonable price for relatively unrestricted gun ownership.

      Despite very strict control, we have our rampaging madmen too - one drove round the country lanes near us with a legally held shotgun and rifle, calling people over to ask for help and then blasting them. He killed 12, wounded another 20. The police were in pursuit, but unarmed, which may seem like madness - it hampered their ability to deal with that particular situation effectively. But the bigger picture is far more important. On an annual graph, our madmen (3 major ones in the past 25 years) make huge, standout spikes. On the US stats, they are hard to distinguish from statistical noise (unless, in this instance, one adjusts for age).

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    6. Allan Miller Saturday, December 22, 2012 6:14:00 AM

      I don't see how an arms race is going to help. The idea that the increased risk to the shooter will be a deterrent does not wash.


      On the contrary, it does wash in the case of these mass shooters as they almost invariably choose 'soft' targets where they are most unlikely to meet any resistance.

      Criminals in the US know that there is a very good chance their mark will have a personal weapon. Does this stop them? Not apparently.

      With career criminals, as against the mass shooters, research shows that the probability of getting caught is the greatest deterrent.

      And the 'Lanza factor' is that someone who tools up to take some kind of revenge on society is not expecting to walk away.

      That's right. But if someone is approaching a school bent on committing mass murder and then suicide, what else can you do but shoot them first, if the means are available?

      But say they do go and look for an easier target. 20-odd other people die instead. Not much of a result.

      Agreed, which is why there should be security plans for vulnerable targets. Gun-free zones are a good idea but they have to be more than pious hopes, they have to be enforced. To enter one you should have to pass through a security checkpoint that would ensure no one enters with a gun. Otherwise, as I said, it's just wishfull thinking.

      I don't know what the hell his mom was doing with such an arsenal.

      She had an interest in firearms just like some people have an interest in fast cars which they collect and drive. Nobody minds about that yet privately-owned cars kill and injure far more people every year in the UK than privately-owned firearms did in twenty. And they aren't designed to kill.

      So find another hobby.

      So read On Liberty by John Stuart Mill.

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    7. Allan Miller Sunday, December 23, 2012 9:30:00 AM

      [...]

      Despite very strict control, we have our rampaging madmen too - one drove round the country lanes near us with a legally held shotgun and rifle, calling people over to ask for help and then blasting them. He killed 12, wounded another 20. The police were in pursuit, but unarmed, which may seem like madness - it hampered their ability to deal with that particular situation effectively. But the bigger picture is far more important. On an annual graph, our madmen (3 major ones in the past 25 years) make huge, standout spikes.


      The interesting thing about the British situation is that the mass shootings that triggered the most draconian legislation happened when there were fairly strong controls already in place.

      If the argument is that current legislation has suppressed firearms crime, then the corollary is that, if we look back in time to where controls were much more lax or virtually non-existent, we should see many more shootings. Except we don't. Once again, the two worst shootings took place after legal controls were in place.

      What happened in the UK was that the waves of outrage following the Hungerford and Dunblane shootings led to ordinary gun-owners being demonized and vilified by journalists, lawyers, politicians and the police as if they were all potential Thomas Hamiltons. They were deprived of any right to shoot for sport or recreation by what Mill warned about - "the tyranny of the majority".

      It's salutary to note that the right to own arms had been recognized in British common law hundreds of years before but it was not a statutory protected right enshrined in a written constitution as in the United States. Since, under Britain's so-called unwritten constitution, Parliament reigns supreme and is able to make or unmake laws at will, rights could be granted or withdrawn according to the shifting winds of political expediency. Where US citizens enjoy the benefits of a written constitution, which incorporates a list of protected rights, Her Majesty's subjects have been deprived of anything equivalent, by politicians of all stripes, to this day. The nearest (reluctant) approach has been the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into British law.

      The lesson is that, as a basic principle, it is vital for the health of a free society that individual rights and liberties be guarded jealously because there are many interests who would snatch them away if they could and, once gone, it becomes immensely difficult to win them back.

      You may not like guns or the people who use them but that is not the point. In a free society, they should be able to shoot for sport or recreation provided they can do so without undue risk to others. It's the same principle as with free speech. I despise the Westboro Baptist Church and everything they believe and stand for but, much as there are times when I'd like to ban them, I have to respect their right to express their beliefs.

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    8. So come on all you hard-headed, rational,scientific types, instead of just criticizing, how would you have stopped Adam Lanza?

      Why, by eliminating soft targets through arming everyone involved, including teachers. If teachers like Mrs. Lanza had guns, this would never have... - oh, wait.

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    9. Me: So find another hobby.

      Ian H Spedding: So read On Liberty by John Stuart Mill.


      Well, OK ... but I presume you wouldn't subscribe to the view that there should be no lines drawn whatsoever to circumscribe the liberty of the individual? Say, to restrict my opium-poppy growing hobby (which is also rather profitable), my cocaine import-export business, my driving at 200 mph when I feel like it, the tiger in my yard ...?

      Do you think the US gun laws are exactly where they need to be - if someone gave you the controls, would you turn the knob up, down or leave it where it is? Don't you think it would have any impact on those 11,000 gun deaths a year?

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    10. The interesting thing about the British situation is that the mass shootings that triggered the most draconian legislation happened when there were fairly strong controls already in place.

      Yes, but I don’t think an incident every 8 years, with very different contributory factors, is a sample size from which you can draw any strong conclusions, nor does the absence of the historical trend you expect mean anything. Yes, the odd nutter will get round any restrictions. That hardly argues for not bothering with the restrictions. Nonetheless, it may indeed that the legislation introduced after Hungerford and Dunblane was a knee-jerk waste of time. We will never know. But what’s the downside? Non-nutcase gun owners feeling the disapproving gaze of society?

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    11. Ian, nearly all of these tragedies end up with the madman dying, and they calculate that event into their plans. They don't want to continue living after their spree; it is their 'final statement'. Hence, having an armed gunman would not act as a deterrent, as they don't fear death to begin with. Furthermore, since they plan their attacks very carefully, they would simply plan to take out the armed guard first. The element of surprise is always going to be with the psycho, so there is every chance that the psycho will succeed in killing or otherwise incapacitating the guard, and then go on with his killing spree. They will spend hours figuring out where the guard is at all times during the day, how to get to him, when he takes his breaks, even the shortest ones, etc.

      This is NOT a solution, not at all.

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    12. Now, this is hilarious.

      http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2012/12/24/piers-morgan-gun-control-views-lead-to-petition-for-deportation/

      The first article in the Bill of Rights - even before the bit about weapons - is about freedom of speech. But apparently if it's a goddamned Limey daring to question the strict 'not-an-inch' interpretation of the Constitutional right to arms (personal nuclear warheads, anyone?), then screw his liberty. Or let him practice it elsewhere.

      I can think of many reasons why a nation might want to deport Piers Morgan ;0), but this?

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    13. Allan Miller Sunday, December 23, 2012 4:51:00 PM

      [...]

      Do you think the US gun laws are exactly where they need to be - if someone gave you the controls, would you turn the knob up, down or leave it where it is? Don't you think it would have any impact on those 11,000 gun deaths a year?


      I think people should be allowed to own and shoot some weapons for sport and recreation but US gun laws should be tightened considerably and so should enforcement. I've listed a few ideas in another post.

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    14. Allan Miller Monday, December 24, 2012 3:18:00 PM

      Now, this is hilarious.

      http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2012/12/24/piers-morgan-gun-control-views-lead-to-petition-for-deportation/

      The first article in the Bill of Rights - even before the bit about weapons - is about freedom of speech. But apparently if it's a goddamned Limey daring to question the strict 'not-an-inch' interpretation of the Constitutional right to arms (personal nuclear warheads, anyone?), then screw his liberty. Or let him practice it elsewhere.


      Clearly some Americans need to brush up on their Constitutional rights and take that comment attributed to Voltaire to heart.

      I can think of many reasons why a nation might want to deport Piers Morgan ;0), but this?

      Being a former editor of the News of the World would seem to be a much better reason to me.

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    15. I think people should be allowed to own and shoot some weapons for sport and recreation but US gun laws should be tightened considerably and so should enforcement. I've listed a few ideas in another post.

      Ian: fair enough - I hadn't read that. The rules in the UK, while much stricter than the US, still allow a considerable number of weapons in private hands - a similar situation to Piotr's in Poland. Indeed, there is a gun safe yards from where I type, at my brother-in-law's where I'm spending Christmas. So maybe, if not on the same page, we are at least on the same chapter.

      It is the refusal to contemplate any tightening at all that surprises most about the US.

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  8. Some calculation:

    130,000 guards, making $40,000 a year would cost over $5 billion. I think that's comparable to our military aid to Israel. That must be what LaPierre was talking about when he mentioned all the money spend on "foreign aid".

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    1. Which is one good reason why each school should tailor its security plans to its own unique circumstances. Where a school can rely on a police response time of just a couple of minutes then locked doors and a panic button linked to the police control room should be sufficient. Where it takes first responders thirty minutes to get there, the school would want to consider on-site armed security.

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    2. Ian, you obviously don't realize how many bullets can be fired in "just a couple of minutes", and cops never show up for anything except their coffee and donut breaks in "just a couple of minutes".

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  9. "With all the foreign aid, with all the money in the federal budget, we can’t afford ..."

    You know, simply taxing churches the same way as all other charities are taxed, could go a long way to finding the funds the NRA is looking for.

    In fact, since churches per se provide no charitable services, taxing them the same way as all other businesses are taxed could go even further to finding any funds the NRA thinks are necessary.

    Given the NRA's lobbying strength, it should be a piece of cake.

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    1. What would be fair is if they would tax guns / gun owners to pay for the extra security.

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    2. @anon101

      I suspect that there is a lot of overlap.

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  10. Lawrence O'Donnel excoriates Wayne LaPierrre


    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/22/lawrence-odonnell-nra-lapierre_n_2349965.html

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  11. Because, as Mr. LaPierre put it: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

    I have been on a shooting range only once or twice, but I know that on well-regulated ranges there are rules that are strictly obeyed. When someone is required to be on the range, that is in the vicinity of the targets, people near the firing line are required to be separated from the guns on the firing line by a specified distance. As a gun-owner, LaPierre should know this.

    I would rephrase LaPierre's statement thusly: The only thing that saves people from being shot, possibly killed, either accidentally or purposely is separating the guns from the guys, be they good guys or bad guys.

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  12. OT but today is the birthday of the greatest scientist who ever lived, Issac Newton.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=danYFxGnFxQ

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  13. The irony is, that if a democratic president suggested placing armed guards in every school conservatives would be hollowing with outrage with references to "loss of freedom" and "fascism" and "big government" and "jack-booted thugs" among various other familiar buzzwords.

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  15. One of the bigger problems the U.S. has is that the pittance we pay on foreign aid is too small, and needs to be boosted a lot.

    We spend 22 times as much on "security," and clearly that's not working for too many school kids. We don't spend enough on foreign aid.

    Typical of LaPierre to screw up policy in two areas at once. Want to wager he'll propose we steal from foreign aid to pay for the cops in the schools? Or, he could propose that we tax Social Security payments for those who get no other income. "What do homeless and disabled veterans need money for, anyway?" they'll ask.

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