Taking aim at gun control
Tragedy in yet another small town in America is now forever etched in our memory banks. Like many of you, I watched much of the seemingly nonstop TV coverage of the events and investigation after a young man on Friday killed his mother with her own rifle and then drove to an elementary school, where he used her guns to slaughter 20 children and six staff members before taking his own life when police closed in.
Then I thought: What would Uncle Bob do? Bob was the oldest of five brothers raised on the Peck family farm just outside the Dane County village of Marshall. My dad was the youngest.
Dad has little use for guns. I talked to him by phone last night. Bob died years ago, but I asked Dad what Bob might think or suggest if he were alive today.
“I don’t know,” Dad said.
“I think I do,” I told Dad.
I wrote about Uncle Bob in a previous blog. He was an early advocate of gun rights. He once served as Marshall’s marshal, the village’s lone law enforcer.
I have two feature stories about Uncle Bob. The Star Countryman of Sun Prairie pictured Bob, with both hands on his pistol, pointing toward readers, in 1987.
A large quote in the story reads: “I wrote once to the head of the CrimeStoppers thing in Madison, and I said to the gentleman, ‘He who leaves home with malice of forethought should understand that his civil rights went down the drain with his last bowel movement.’”
In 1986, Rob Zaleski of The Capital Times wrote a column headlined, “Like Dirty Harry, Peck’s not kidding.”
Zaleski “made his day” when he asked Bob what would happen if someone were stupid enough to try breaking into Bob’s Sun Prairie home. Bob explained that his male poodle slept near the door.
“The moment he starts raising the roof, I’d be standing back there, in the hallway. And before any intruder got his foot inside that door … I’d blow his … head off.”
Bob grew up during the Great Depression. He admitted he was a radical and a fan of Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood. He rejected the notion, however, that he had no regard for human life.
“I’ve got a lot of regard for human life—the victim’s,” he told Zaleski. “Because if I was to walk into an alley and happened to see a man with his hands on a lady’s throat … that man would be in very grave danger of not waking up tomorrow morning.”
I think Bob would agree with Bill Bennett, former U.S. education secretary, who suggested over the weekend that it might be time to arm school personnel.
“I’m not so sure I wouldn’t want one person in a school armed, ready for this kind of thing,” said Bennett, who served under former President Reagan. “The principal lunged at this guy. The school psychologist lunged at the guy. It has to be someone who’s trained, responsible. But, my God, if you can prevent this kind of thing, I think you ought to.”
More trigger locks and inpenatrable gun cases under lock and key might stop the next would-be killer. But would more control of assault weapons stop the carnage? With so many such weapons in circulation these days, isn’t that sort of like shutting the barn door after the cows have escaped?
Obviously, locking doors and providing video surveillance before you let anyone into a school won’t stop an armed killer. The guy in Newtown reportedly shot his way through a window. What, should we put enough bars on all school windows and doors that no gunman can crawl in? Of course not.
Sure, it’s unimaginable that a killer starts shooting his way into a school. Many who have survived these rampages, from those in schools to theaters to temples, agree that the whole scene is surreal and that you can’t believe it’s happening until it’s too late.
Yet just maybe, my Uncle Bob would reason, these mass murderers, armed to the teeth, would think twice before cowardly entering a school building where they think they can gun down as many innocents as time will allow if they thought there was a chance someone inside might quickly turn a gun on them.