One week after the horror at Sandy Hook Elementary School, ideas for preventing more massacres are coming from all corners.
U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer wants federal funds to be available to deploy National Guard troops at schools. Frightened parents are making a run on armored backpacks for their kids.
But if we want to keep our children safe from gun violence, we must look far beyond schools. Kids are killed by guns every day on city street corners, in suburban homes and elsewhere across America.
The numbers are shocking. Each year, close to 3,000 children and youths 19 and younger are shot to death, nearly 2,000 the victims of homicide. Shootings were the leading cause of death for black teenagers in 2008 and 2009. Of all the children killed by guns in 23 industrialized countries, nearly nine in 10 lived in the United States. As the Children's Defense Fund points out, nearly twice as many preschoolers were killed by guns in 2008 and 2009 as law enforcement officers.
With so many young lives cut short, what is the solution offered by the most powerful gun rights lobby? That's right more guns in schools.
The National Rifle Association called Friday for stationing an armed officer in every school in America. "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," declared longtime top lobbyist Wayne LaPierre.
Besides how we would pay for such a plan, the very thought of shootouts in school hallways should scare parents. There's also the flaw that an on-duty sheriff's deputy didn't stop the massacre of 12 students at Columbine High School in 1999, and a fully equipped police department didn't prevent the killing of 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007.
After building up expectations with a pledge to make a meaningful contribution to the post-Sandy Hook debate, NRA leaders chose to hunker down with their same old positions and to blame media violence.
Surely, some among the NRA's 4.3 million members realize how out of step their organization's leaders are, and how far they have strayed from the principles of responsible gun ownership and firearm education and safety. It's time for the rank and file to speak out.
It would be far more productive if the NRA would acknowledge that the Second Amendment doesn't mean that Americans can obtain any weapon they want, that there can be some stronger laws without infringing on gun rights.
It would be much more helpful if the NRA and its allies in Congress would honestly engage with the task force being led by Vice President Joe Biden to submit proposals to Congress next month on ways to prevent mass shootings.
While lawmakers must look broadly for solutions, such as improving mental health services, it's dishonest to talk about reducing gun violence without addressing the availability of weapons themselves.
There are many sensible measures worth consideration. We can renew the ban on military-style assault weapons that expired in 2004, and further restrict large ammunition clips. We can strengthen background checks by filling in database gaps that allow thousands to illegally buy guns. We can close loopholes that let purchasers at gun shows skirt existing regulations. In drafting these proposals, it's essential not to create exceptions that gut their effectiveness, as happened with the assault weapons ban.
To instead follow the NRA's approach would mean posting armed guards everywhere children spend their time movie theaters, like the one in Aurora, Colo., where 12 people were gunned down in July; malls, like the one outside Portland, Ore., where two shoppers were killed earlier this month; and houses of worship, like the Sikh temple outside Milwaukee, where six people were shot to death in August.
Turning America into an armed camp is not the answer to gun violence.