My fellow Americans,
First, let me take this time to express profound sorrow and empathy for the families of the children, teachers, and school staff who were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. It is an absolute catastrophe that any child–let alone twenty–would be forced to leave this world through such a violent, cowardly, unconscionable act.
In the midst of this tragic event, let us also take some time to recognize those involved who represent the best of America. Several teachers and staff–who literally threw themselves into the line of fire–performed acts of extraordinary bravery and heroism. In the military, they award the Medal of Honor for such acts of valor. We must recognize such actions, which are above and beyond the call of duty.
It is from this standpoint that I raise a most important issue: I would rather be here celebrating lives saved, rather than mourning lives lost. And I would venture to say that most Americans feel the same way.
While the teachers and administrators were heroic in every sense of the word, I would rather be here to recognize them–living and unharmed–for having stopped the Sandy Hook shooter before he had a chance to enter the school.
Sadly, that was not possible in this case, because Sandy Hook Elementary School–like so many schools throughout America–is a so-called “gun-free zone”. As a result, no one at the school was equipped to protect others from a determined, active shooter.
It is my hope that, as a country, we would rethink this issue, as–irrespective of your views regarding gun control–not even the most Draconian legislation that is being bandied about would have stopped this shooter. He had no criminal record, not even a misdemeanor; he had not been adjudicated as mentally defective. While much has been said of his use of a semiautomatic rifle, the fact is that he could have done the same damage–with fewer pulls of the trigger–with a standard pump-action shotgun that is used by hunters and target shooters all over the country.
Yes, we must do a better job equipping ourselves to deal with such shooters.
At the same time, it is also imperative that we embrace the very principles that make the United States a unique country. Not the least of these principles is the fact that we are founded on personal responsibility.
While we at the NRA oppose governmental gun control, we also take personal responsibility very seriously.
If you own firearms of any type, safety is your responsibility.
Sadly, the Sandy Hook shooting was a tragic failure of personal responsbility. While I do not wish to pile onto the mother of the shooter–after all, she is among the dead–the fact is that she did not lock her weapons even though she knew she had an adult in her home who had social and mental issues.
If you choose to own firearms, you owe it to yourself and your community to take care of them responsibly. That means keeping them locked if you have children in the home. That also means either locking them away–or not having them at all–if you have mentally-defective or irresponsible people living in your home.
As we uncover the details that led to the shooting, there will undoubtedly be liability issues. Some of those may be ultimately decided by judges and juries.
Still, it should not have come to this. As a country, we must take such tragedies as this and apply the hard lessons here. Safety is your personal responsibility.
While policy wonks and representatives from various organizations will take this opportunity to call for more laws, I would encourage Americans to look at this soberly and consider: is more government the answer here?
Toward that end, I would answer with an emphatic no.
Cutting through the raw emotions and the hysteria created by 24-hour news outlets, it is established fact that, in spite of expanded gun rights in almost every state in the union, gun-related homicides are down–over 30%–over the last 32 years.
This is in spite of a diverse country, with more firearms per capita than most countries in the free world.
It would do us well to provide a more sober examination of the firearm-related homicides, and I would call on Congress to have full public hearings on this issue, and allow for the truth to be told.
I also call on states and local governments to revisit this “gun-free zone” paradigm, and consider ways–that require no federal intervention–to provide more robust security for schools, theaters, malls, and other public venues.
It has been proven that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a firearm is a good guy who has a firearm. Our Second Amendment was written in order to ensure that good guys could arm themselves.
Had the staff at Sandy Hook Elementary had such options, we would be here celebrating their heroism, not mourning their loss.
It is my hope that such heroes–who live among us–would have the ability to save even more lives.
As Americans, we owe them that.