After a tragedy like the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn., the injection of anything short of seriousness into the subsequent public discourse about guns is touchy. But the National Rifle Association blasted numerous rounds into that particular barrier with NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre's mouth.
The organization's hysteric solution to gun violence in America is to put designated sitting ducks — er, "armed police officers" — in every American school. Apparently the secret is now out that such places are "gun-free," and Mr. LaPierre says that "(gun-free school zones) tell every insane killer in America that schools are the safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk."
Why don't school shootings happen every day, then? Probably because "insane killers" aren't bestowed with the logical thought processes attributed to them by the NRA chief. That's why they are, by definition, insane.
Similarly, why does every scenario proposed by the NRA always amount to something straight out of a Sylvester Stallone movie? Here are a few examples:
•A burglar enters your home with a gun. Most likely he just wants to steal your stuff and take off. The fact that he's already desperate enough to have committed a burglary means that he's hard up for cash or goods at best, unstable at worst. So, best to get your gun, point it at the intruder and pull the trigger, right? NO!
While that might sound easy, he still has the advantage — unless you're a legitimate psychopath yourself. Brigadier Gen. S.L.A. Marshall pegged the firing rate among World War II combat soldiers at only 15 percent to 20 percent of maximum rate, even when the enemy was exposed — meaning that soldiers found killing to be prohibitively counterintuitive and wouldn't kill the enemy despite having a clear shot. So if you think that you'd just blow the guy away like in the movies, you're either lacking in self-awareness, or you're precisely the kind of person who should not be unilaterally meting out justice as you see fit.
•Someone runs up to you in a parking lot, holds up a gun and tells you to give him your money. The NRA would have you pull out your own gun and shoot him. Problem solved, right? NO!
The perpetrator has two significant advantages over the average person with a gun: He's first, and he's crazy. And if he sees the slightest hint that you're packing a gun, you're as good as dead. In reality, if he's close enough to want to take something from you, then he's close enough for you to use an alternative to a firearm. You'd be better off with one of these new high-tech 10 percent pepper gel devices made in Switzerland. I carry one myself and have never felt that a gun would make me any safer. At a deployment speed of 110 miles per hour (using airbag technology), and with an effective distance of 13 feet and a radius of about 2 feet, the gel can disable the perpetrator without killing him — all before he figures out what that gizmo is in your hand. Besides, you're psychologically more likely to use it without hesitating, knowing that it won't kill the guy.
•A gunman walks into a shopping center and opens fire with an assault weapon. In NRA-land, everyone would have a gun and just take the guy out. So if there were 100 people with guns present — the NRA's dream — every single bullet would slice through the bad guy and everyone would just continue on with their business. More realistically, everyone would be firing bullets into each other, into storefronts, into the guy dressed up in an animal costume handing out promotional flyers.
Indeed, there are people who have the skills, training, expertise, physical and mental rigor, discipline and psychological training to perform the sort of heroism that the NRA likes to attribute to anyone capable of holding a firearm. Those people are called snipers, and even among military members, they are uniquely qualified for their roles. Their specific psychological training to overcome the natural human aversion to killing at close range is what gave the British the advantage against the Argentineans in the Falklands War. People who believe themselves to be similarly capable probably also think that they can beat Michael Phelps in the pool.
We need sensible, effective, intelligent solutions, not gratuitously self-serving agenda-pushing. Because the more out of hand things get, the greater the risk of reaching the point of total crackdown on freedom.
Rachel Marsden is a columnist, political strategist and former Fox News host based in Paris. She appears frequently on TV and in publications in the U.S. and abroad. Her website is http://www.rachelmarsden.com.