The murder of 20 children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary has spawned an array of commentary from calls for new gun controls to greater funding for mental illness in the United States. However, Fox commentator and former GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said that the shooting was not surprising after the removal of prayer from public schools. Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Republican from Texas, did one better, he wished God ensured that Principal says Dawn Hochsprung had an M-4 assault rifle at the school before she was killed.
Gohmert told Fox News “I wish to God she had an M-4 in her office locked up so when she heard gunfire she pulls it out and she didn’t have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands but she takes him out, takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids.” Wouldn’t it be a bit more direct to pray that God had stopped Lanza from going to the school or that he was institutionalized before his mass murder?
If school teachers are now to be armed, wouldn’t the teachers have to carry around their assault rifles at all time since they would not know when an attack would occur? Indeed, given the low likelihood of such an attack, should they also be equipped with ebola-medical kits, rabies treatment packs, floatation devices, and other equipment for more likely threats. The average soldier, after all, carries as much as 135 pounds depending on their unit. Should our teachers carry less to protect our children?
As for prayer, is that what caused Lanza (with a history of mental illness) to kill? Lack of school prayer. His first murder was at home. After shooting his mother in the face, would Lanza have hesitated at the schoolhouse gate because he recalled morning prayers in civics class? By the way, those terrorists we read about daily do a lot of praying. It does not seem to have the same impact on them.
Putting aside the desire to try a tragedy to a favorite cause, there is often a search for meaning in tragedies. The most frightening thought is that such a terrible loss would not have meaning. It was an unspeakable crime committed by an unstable person. We are all emotionally shredded by this tragedy. However, we know that this is likely to happen again. Even with gun controls, people will still have guns, which are constitutionally protected. Some will have multiple guns. We do not have to shrug and do nothing. There is a need to better deal with mental illness in this country. It was not that long ago that another unstable young man committed a massacre at Virginia Tech. However, as with gun controls, it is not clear that much would have changed in this case. Lanza’s mother decided to keep him at home and tried to deal with his instability on her own. If a parent keeps a child at home and addresses such problems privately, it is doubtful that new programs would have had any impact.
Nevertheless, I would prefer to discuss expanded mental health programs over assault weapons in schools as a starting point of any reforms.