What I’ve Learned

Esquire found me.  I received a free subscription about ten years ago.  The magazine just showed up in my mailbox.  And when my trial subscription ended, I quickly sent a check.  Fashion, art, and politics are all covered as well, if not better, by Esquire than by any other publication.  It was the writing that got my attention and earned my money.  And it was Esquire’s interest in bringing different voices to every discussion that made it unique. 

Wayne LaPierre, Executive of Vice-President of the National Rifle Association (NRA), delivered his promised useful contribution to the national debate during Friday’s press conference.  The Newtown shootings were not due to the easy access to semiautomatic weapons or high capacity ammunition magazines.  No.  No.  No.  The cause of this disaster was the combination of violent video games, violent movies, and a mental health system that fails to monitor (and if possible control) the mentally ill.  But guns?  We need more. 

The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. 

Wayne LaPierre wants us to install an armed guard in every school in the country.  That’s it.  Problem solved.  Others have floated the idea of arming the teachers.  The same people who spent the last election cycle lambasting our public school teachers now want to arm them! 

Would it be a bad idea to have armed guards at our schools?  Probably not.  Many of our middle schools and high schools have armed security.  But as Columbine and Virginia Tech showed, armed security is not a deterrent.   

Some people feel safer with a gun.  I feel safest when there are no guns nearby.  These are feelings.  You don’t legislate based simply on feelings. 

The January 2013 issue of Esquire arrived a few days ago.  An ongoing series called What I’ve Learned includes an October 5, 2012 interview by Cal Fussman of Lieutenant Brian Murphy.  Police officer Murphy was the first responder to the August 5, 2012 shooting at a Sikh temple.  Six people were killed.  Could have been seven.  Officer Murphy was shot fifteen times. 

The interview was not available online.  Allow me to summarize.  Murphy served five years in the Marine Corps.  He was a veteran police officer about to earn his Master’s Degree.  In other words, he was a trained, intelligent, experienced former marine / current cop who had had the best possible training.  He was not a rent-a-cop with a cap gun. 

And what happened? 

“We have AR-15’s in the squad car.  But there was a mal-function with the switch that releases the AR-15.  That’s Murphy’s Law.  If I’d had that semiautomatic rifle…”

“There’s a ballistic shield in the back of the car.  I should’ve grabbed the shield.  But I wasn’t thinking that way.” 

“I turned to where I thought he was gonna come from, went to attack him, but he flanked me.  I shouldn’t have let that happen.  I kick myself in the ass for letting that happen.” 

I read the October 5th interview twice.  This brave, experienced police lieutenant was out-gunned, out-flanked, and in the end, toyed with by a lone gunman.  Why did Wade Michael Page attack the Sikh temple?  We’ll never really know.  The second police officer to arrive on the scene shot and wounded Page.  The gunman then proceeded to shoot himself in the head. 

So what have I learned?  I learned that one guard, or one retired policeman, or one honorably discharged serviceman, will not guarantee a school’s safety. 

I learned that we may need guards, but that we also need to think about limiting access.  The guy who attached a crowded theater had a drum of ammo.  Does the Second Amendment guarantee that every American can amass an arsenal? 

We need to redraw the lines on the access to lethal weaponry. 

And I learned one more thing.  Pardeep Kalenka, the son of murdered Sikh temple president Satwant Singh Kalenka, taught Americathat “There’s no sanctuary in a temple on Sunday morning.  There’s no sanctuary at a Wendy’s you eat at with your family, at a grocery store, schools.  There’s just no sanctuary.” 

I hope we’re better than this.