One Year After: What Have We Learned?

Dec 13, 2013
Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. In the year that has passed, we've seen some change, good and bad. We've also seen the direct, and unintended consequences of one deranged teenager's actions. Some say the actions since Newtown prove that race is still an issue in America, that nothing would have happened if the Newtown children had been in an inner city school. To me, that comment proves race is an issue. The race card is too-quickly played to condemn any position or deny any fact that doesn't follow a prescribed thought model. For some states, 2013 brought the passage of onerous new gun restrictions from limits on magazine capacities to outright bans on certain types of guns. In those instances, a political opportunity was seized by opportunistic politicians and others wishing to cram yet another bit of their will down the collective throats of average citizens. In Colorado, that cram-down, and some open bragging about ignoring the will of constituents brought unintended consequences. A pair of anti-gun Colorado senators were fired, turned out of office in the states first-ever recall election. A third resigned her seat rather than risk her party's losing the majority in the state legislator. In other states, gun and accessory manufacturers packed up their businesses and took their companies -and their jobs- to more friendly states. In 2013, states openly competed for the businesses long quartered in anti-gun states. Not all of them will move, but two major companies quietly located their expansion business elsewhere. While the national media clucked, caterwauled and moaned that something must be done "to protect the children" -in their case meaning creation of more gun-free zones- they immediately went to war against a proposed NRA solution to violence. The NRA's Wayne LaPierre defiantly telling an already angry media "the only answer to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun" kicked over a hornet's nest. It nearly killed what was the first proposed solution offering a real course of action. Fortunately, "nearly" is the key word. Instead of dismissing a proposal the media and the administration deemed "ridiculous", average America- those of us many legislators apparently feel too-dull to make intelligent decisions- started looking at facts about mass shootings. At that point, common sense prevailed. Despite any assertions to the contrary, it is now apparent to most Americans that "gun free zones" really are dangerous places. Getting beyond the emotional response it is ridiculous to believe anything other than an equally decisive response will stop a mass shooter. And that triggered a response to the onslaught of proposed regulations those in favor of disarming average Americans certainly didn't anticipate: Americans have responded over the past 12 months by buying shelves bare of guns, ammunition and "high-capacity" magazines and signing up in record numbers for concealed carry and firearms training classes. A third of those signing up are women no longer buying the suggestion that screaming or wetting themselves -or both- is going to stop an attacker. Instead they're taking measures to level the playing field by equipping themselves to defend their families. And across the country school boards have quietly gone about the business of arranging for enhanced security to protect the children under their care. Parents are the first line of defense in the home, and both teachers and administrators have realized they have to be suitably equipped. In Ohio twenty school districts have authorized the carrying of firearms in schools. Those districts are urban, rural and suburban and the schools are public, private and parochial. Many of the schools already have School Resource Officers (SROs) -either uniformed on-duty or plain-clothes off-duty police officers. Others would like to have them, but don't have the finances. "While 20 districts may not seem like an overwhelming number," said Jim Irvine, Chairman of Buckeye Firearms Foundation, "this is not an exhaustive list. We know of districts that authorized people to carry many months ago, but didn't participate in our survey. So that's not counted in the 20 districts. "Additionally more respondents answered that they expect to be authorized to carry firearms in the next year than answered they were already authorized. Our conversations with districts indicate that many have shifted their thinking from 'Should we authorize carry?' to 'How should we authorize carry?' 53% of respondents indicated they would like to have permission to carry a gun, but have not discussed it with their school board." When asked who should be permitted to carry guns in schools, only 1% answered that "only law enforcement" should have access to guns. 20% indicated that anyone with a concealed handgun license should be permitted to carry in schools. That has been the law in Utah for about 10 years." The past 12 months have certainly changed me. Traveling across the country this summer in a personal effort to motivate average people, I spoke with thousands of parents, teachers and students. They were concerned about a variety of things, but universally feared being left defenseless by laws that criminalized them for simply owning firearms. I told them the only thing that would stop an anti-gun zealot from pushing through bad legislation was a pro-gun representative armed with facts. Looking back at this awful anniversary, it's important to remember that average people have always accomplished extraordinary thing. They've done it this year. Rather than simply sit and watch their rights being taken while their will was ignored by politicians trying to use a horrific act as a springboard, they took back the voice of the people, firing elected officials who felt "we, the people" weren't capable of making intelligent decisions. The creeping encroachment on our individual rights hasn't stopped over the past year, and it won't stop over the next 12 months. But the past 12 months have taught me that each one of us really can make a difference if we start with three simple actions: Stand Up instead of watching from the sidelines and get involved, Show Up at meetings where life-impacting decisions are made and have a presence Speak Up..... tell elected officials at every level that you're watching them, expect them to do the job you elected them to do, and how well they follow your instructions will determine whether or not they get to keep the offices "we, the people" loaned them. The alternative is simple: if we don't advance, we will ALL lose. ---Jim Shepherd