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My response to the NRA: don't you have any other ideas?

Posted by Dr. Claire McCarthy  December 23, 2012 11:21 AM

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Ever since I read the transcript of the NRA's press conference last Friday, their first public response to the Newtown school shootings, I have been getting more and more upset. 

Honestly? Our response to the deaths of those first-graders should be to put armed guards in every school? All they could come up with was: "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun"?

There are so many problems with this idea.

It could be really frightening for children, obviously. And there's the very real possibility of terrible accidents or mistakes or the guns of the armed guards being stolen or misused by others. 

But there's also the simple fact that kids go to other places besides schools. Like movie theaters and malls, for example, where we've had other mass shootings. Or playing fields. Or museums, day care centers or swimming pools. Is the idea to have armed guards at all these places too?

I read a really powerful blog by a Newtown mother whose daughter was born the same day as one of the children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. In it, she talks about a visit to Israel, and how there were armed guards everywhere--including accompanying children on field trips. It seems to me that if we follow the NRA's suggestion, that's where we are headed. And that is not how I want us to live. 

I did not grow up with guns. I do not hunt. I am afraid of guns, and will likely never own one. I admit that my bias is against guns--but I do understand that others feel differently and passionately about them. I respect that difference--it's the right to have differing viewpoints that our country is built upon. I think that's what the second amendment was trying to do: protect people against tyranny.

But I start to lose respect when the laws favor gun owners over victims. And it made me lose respect when I found out that pro-gun lobbying has prevented the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institutes for Health and other Health and Human Services agencies from using any injury prevention money to advocate or promote gun control, as Drs. Kellermann and Rivara wrote about in their recent JAMA article. This has effectively stopped any government research about what kind of gun control might work--research that could have prevented the Sandy Hook shooting.

So, NRA, can you try again? It's just not as simple as arming the good guys. We can't get the good guys everywhere--and even good guys screw up, and sometimes the bad guys will shoot before the good guys can (which is what I think might have happened at Sandy Hook if an armed guard had been there). You are smart people, and I know you are as devastated by the deaths of those innocent children as anyone else. Can you please offer an idea that doesn't involve more guns? Can you work with us to understand the complicated problem of violence and find strategies and solutions that will really keep our children--and all of us--safe?


This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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About MD Mama

Claire McCarthy, M.D., is a pediatrician and Medical Communications Editor at Boston Children's Hospital . An assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a senior editor for Harvard More »

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