Saturday, December 15, 2012

Coping with Newtown and a modest proposal

It's now 3:14 am and I can't sleep, obsessing about Newtown. As a parent, the horror of what happened gives me pangs of irrational fears about my kids. As a regular guy, I am immensely sad for all those involved. As a libertarian at heart, I struggle to come up with a balance on the nature of the 2nd Amendment and the need to protect society from violent acts.

As more details emerge from Newtown, there's several aspects that make this a more complicated case than just 'people shouldn't be able to buy assault weapons' or 'we should have psych evaluations prior to selling guns' or even 'let's ban all guns':
  • The more powerful Bushmaster .223 rifle was found in the car - apparently not used. This means it may not have played a part in this tragedy and legislation to ban it would have been of no consequence in Newtown.
  • The school HAD a recent security system installed. Why did it fail to stop him? Was it malfunction, operator error (since it was new) or did the killer just slip in before the system activated at 09:30am or otherwise bypass it?
  • The two guns used - 9mm Glock and 9mm SigSauer - were legally purchased by his mother and, barring any additional information, were kept in accordance with state requirements for safe storage of firearms.
  • The gun laws in Connecticut are already considered some of the most stringent laws in the country. Needless to say, the suspect violated state carry laws.
Banning all guns is not practical, period. There are over 300 million firearms in the US and the right to have a firearm is an integral part of American society for over 400 years. To me, it would be easier to convince people to switch to a monarchy before taking away the right to own firearms.

All this is not to say that Newtown will be just another statistic: the indiscriminate killing of children in what society considers one of the safest environments possible - an elementary school in a peaceful suburban town - is so against everything Americans (and others, of course) hold dear that there has to be a policy response of some kind. This was not university students (adults), temple worshipers (adults), shoppers (adults), movie goers (mostly adults) or even high-school students (older kids). Please excuse me not mentioning the adults that died, but these were 5-10 year-old kids, for goodness sake!

I don't know what the policy outcomes will be. Outright gun bans, banning assault rifles, adding security guards to schools (think TSA-style guards at every school), etc... are, in my opinion, doomed from the start. 

I want to offer one suggestion, though, that I think can help: Just like 9/11 resulted in mandatory reinforced cockpit doors on airplanes, Newtown should result in state laws with requirements for MANDATORY biometric+PIN locks for gun storage safes for ALL firearms, at all times, with stiff penalties for violation. It matches the spirit of the 2nd amendment (people are allowed to bear arms) but also restricts access to firearms with a stronger '2-factor authentication'. It would have likely prevented this tragedy.

We all love our kids and want what's best for them. In this case, I think it means facing the reality that gun culture is here to stay, but that Newtown was not just another incident and that adjustments need to be made.

OK, signing off, with a very heavy heart thinking about what happened, hoping I won't have too many nightmares.