An American Editor

January 2, 2013

On Guns: A Modest Proposal

Americans can be pretty indifferent, perhaps even callous, when tragedy strikes a small group or fewer of adults. Although we were moved by Columbine and Aurora, our concern lasted at most a few weeks and nothing was done to change America. But, perhaps, Newtown, will be different because the massacre of the very young truly does tug at the heart of most Americans, the National Rifle Association (NRA) being a notable exception.

It is the massacre at Newtown that really started me thinking. I admit I have always been opposed to guns. I think Americans are too quick to embrace the OK Corral mentality and too slow to embrace peaceful resolution of disputes. But I recognize, also, that gun ownership in America is a right, so confiscation of guns and their banning simply will never work here. The question becomes, what can and should we do? What small step can we take that can appeal to all sides of the debate?

I struggled to find the answers until I realized that I was looking for a short-term solution rather than a long-term solution. As soon as I shifted thinking gears, I began to realize the answer really lies in changing how we Americans deal with each other and the need to culturally become a society on a single level.

I consider it unnatural for a parent to outlive their child. I realize that it happens and will always happen from causes over which none of us will ever have control. But some causes we can control, guns being one of them. With that in mind, and looking for a long-term solution that will ultimately level “the playing field” for American society, I have come to my modest proposal.

The NRA’s solution to put a gunman in every school as a deterrent, simply won’t work for many reasons. First, is the question of cost. Not only the cost of salaries and benefits, but of insurance. Americans are already grumbling about their taxes, how many will voluntarily pay even more in taxes to fund this idea? And who knows — today’s sane gunman can become tomorrow’s crazed killer. Perhaps more importantly, one or two armed guards have already proven ineffective, witness Columbine.

So the NRA’s idea is no idea at all — what else would you expect from an organization that would prefer to cuddle with a gun than with another person! But equally untenable is the antigun lobby’s vision of a gun-free America. Until people like Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court justice, begin to think and accept that America has changed since 1783, America can never be gun-free.

Yet I want my children to be safe in school. What to do?

My modest and humble proposal is this: Before any child can be registered to attend school for the first time, require that child to learn to use a gun and earn a license to carry a gun. That’s right — arm every 5-year-old and keep them armed as they progress through school. Of course we would need exceptions for pacifists, mentally and physically disabled, and perhaps a few others, but we should view this just as we view vaccinations.

The first few years would remain uncertain, but by the time every kindergartener through sixth grader were attending school carrying a gun, American society would change. Sure we might have an angry first grader or two start shooting but we could control the damage because every other first grader could fire back. We all know that bullies succeed only when the bullied are afraid of them.

I think arming the students would also help improve our education process. Teachers would become more aware of the needs of their students, perhaps there would be fewer slouchers among them who are only trying to bide their time to collect their pension.

This could also be a way to discover the students who will become mentally unstable. When we find them preferring their pistols to their teddy bears we can focus a sharper eye on them. When we see that they prefer to play cowboys and indians with live ammunition rather than with water balloons or cap pistols, we will know that we need to reassess having giving them a license and consider starting therapy. Arming children would be our early warning system for mental deviation.

Because this would create a whole new future market for gunmakers, we could keep costs of the program low by requiring gunmakers to provide every student with their very first pistol and 250 rounds of ammunition. It would be like what was originally done with razor blades by King Gillette — give away the razor because users would then have to buy the razor blades.

This proposal would be good for everyone. The NRA would fulfill its dream of having a gun in everyone’s hand. Liberals would instill confidence in their children, eliminate bullying, cut down on rape and sexual molestation of their children (if I were a predator, I’d think twice before trying to molest a pistol packer — wouldn’t you?). Conservatives would no longer feel obligated to sit through boring church sermons because preachers would be afraid of triggering a negative response in a parishoner.

Arming incoming students will change the social dynamic in America. We may continue to be divided by money classes but otherwise we would all be part of the same social class. We could reduce unemployment because we would now have a need for many more firing ranges and instructors. Unemployed veterans could more easily find work. There simply is no end to the positive that could and would come from arming kindergarteners. (I dare that abusive father or mother to be abusive to a pistol-packing kindergartener!)

And think what this could do for the safety of our country. Within a decade, we would be nearly invasionproof and if we had to raise an army of millions, we could do so more effectively and quickly because we could avoid having to waste time trying to teach new soldiers how to shoot and kill — they’d already know from the good education they got in schools, which would assure us parents that our children at least learned something while in school.

The only negative is bars and liquor. But by starting early, maybe we could do away with drunk guntoters. If not, well, it would be no different from drunk driving — just ask the NRA.

On the other hand, perhaps it would be better to ban all guns and require peace and love courses.

(In case someone misses it, the above is intended to be in the vein of Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” and not taken as the author’s view of what really should be.)



  1. Wonderful………. Love it!!!! Though I admit that when I first read paragraph 8 I thought you had lost your mind…. it took a couple of seconds before the laughing started. Best thing I have read on this terrible predicament you guys have landed yourselves in.


    Comment by Tony Cole — January 2, 2013 @ 4:36 am | Reply

  2. I, too, had a delayed reaction, until I caught on to the tongue-in-cheek factor, at which point I started to laugh.

    Not what I want to comment on, though. My attention was caught by this line, which, to me, characterizes what so much of the issue is about:

    “So The NRA’s idea is no idea at all — what else would you expect from an organization that would prefer to cuddle with a gun than with another person!”

    What a sweeping, unfair, insulting statement! It’s a polarizing generality typical of today’s discourse on any important issue.

    The NRA has thousands of members. So does AARP, our political parties, unions, and many more organized, politically active organizations. While yes, each has a dominant characteristic and purpose, it’s also true that among the thousands of members there are diverse mentalities and backgrounds. In the case of the NRA, which is presumably composed of gun owners, I would be surprised if some huge number of them were as inhuman as they are often portrayed. I know many gun owners (in fact, I am one) who fiercely love their families and friends and country and do not view guns as something they prefer over people. It’s getting really tiresome to be tarred by the same brush as folks with serious mental/emotional problems who misuse firearms for problem solving.

    I’ve noticed during the current “debate” that many people make a distinction between gun use by private citizens and gun use by the military. In my mind, that is hypocritical tunnel vision. No balanced or rational discussion can occur until the subject is considered as a whole. As I pointed out in a different forum, the fact that we in the U.S. can sit here snarking about it without penalty is a result of our country’s gun use. It’s all part of one big, messy history and reality, and there is no simple, single solution that will avoid tragedy.

    Put another way: A legal system as used in the United States sometimes allows the guilty to go free and the innocent to get punished. Nobody likes this, but it’s a by-product of a system designed to give best chance to most people. Gun ownership is parallel: Allowing a society to own firearms sometimes allows bad things to happen, because it’s impossible to anticipate all the different ways that circumstances and people might combine for a bad end. (What’s more surprising is how few violent events we experience, given the number of legally armed people are running around out there!)

    I’m glad that people are talking about this difficult issue, but I wish that they’d see it from a broader perspective and recognize that it’s part of a web of social phenomena. To demand one set of freedoms and securities while denying others just does not work, because they are intertwined and more similar than they might appear from the outside.


    Comment by Carolyn — January 2, 2013 @ 8:25 am | Reply

    • The NRA as an organization is clearly controlled by Wayne LaPierre who sets and maintains the no-compromise agenda. As an organization, I think the NRA would prefer to cuddle with a gun rather than with another human being. Assuming polls of NRA members and gun owners can be trusted, it is pretty clear that the members and gun owners are not setting the agenda for the NRA. When the polls of NRA members and gun owners conclude that the majority of NRA members and gun owners (some polls say as high as 80% of this population) agree that a ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines is a good idea and that they support background checks at gun shows and microstamping, but the NRA-organization not only opposes such modest changes but affirmatively fights any such changes and threatens politicians who do support such changes, it becomes clear that it is Wayne LaPierre and the NRA-organization that are setting the agenda, not the NRA membership or gun owners. Consequently, I do not think the statement sweeps too broadly or unfairly characterizes either LaPierre or the NRA-organization.


      Comment by americaneditor — January 2, 2013 @ 10:41 am | Reply

      • Rich, you’ve just made my point. By qualifying your statement with details about the different NRA layers, which don’t necessarily share the same agenda, you just showed how overgeneralizing the original remark was.

        My aim in pushing back is to get those details and conflicts onto the table. Per your description, one set of people *controls* the NRA, regardless of what types of people *compose* the NRA. That creates two different situations which have to be taken into account. A good example of the issue’s complexity (and a mirror of the general political climate: one set controls, another set[s] comprises the body being represented.)


        Comment by Carolyn — January 2, 2013 @ 7:50 pm | Reply

  3. Rich, your solution is only slightly whackier than LaPierre’s — and, sadly, his was not a satire! It also says a lot about where we are (mentally, emotionally, morally) in the USA that you had to add the bit about Swift, so people would know not to take this seriously. This shooting has hit a little closer to home for me than the others, because one of my cousins teaches at the Newtown High School. But even without that connection, it sickens me that it is so hard for elected leaders to enact common-sense gun-regulation legislation — laws that the overwhelming majority of the electorate agree are reasonable!

    Thanks for using your blog to discuss this issue.


    Comment by Teresa Barensfeld — January 2, 2013 @ 12:57 pm | Reply

  4. Phew! For a second there, I thought you were serious.


    Comment by Vicki — January 2, 2013 @ 7:35 pm | Reply

  5. I believe very strongly that the more information we have, the better able we’ll be to make informed decisions about gun policy. But for the last ten years, the ATF and CDC have been unable to report data or conduct research into gun crimes because of the Tiahrt Amendment. If you’d like to push for repeal of this amendment, you can create an account at and sign the petition electronically. If you’re in support of this, please share the link with your friends and family. If it reaches 25,000 signatures by February 1, it will be reviewed by the Obama Administration.

    I know 25,000 seems like a lot, but a petition introduced on December 22 to “support and fully endorse the National Rifle Association’s National School Shield program” has more than 29,000 signatures today. Please sign & share this if you’re at all inclined to.

    In peace,
    Meghan Pinson


    Comment by Meghan Pinson — January 3, 2013 @ 1:46 am | Reply

  6. Updated 10:50 a.m. ET: On NBC’s Meet the Press, National Rifle Association chief Wayne LaPierre on Sunday refused to support new gun control legislation and maintained his support for putting armed guards and police in schools in response to the Dec. 14 school shootings in Newtown, Conn.


    Comment by Jordan Acevedo — January 24, 2013 @ 2:42 am | Reply

    • Surely unless those armed guards in the schools are sitting in every classroom, office, corridor and any other spaces used by people, with their guns drawn and ready to fire at once if they see anything untoward (such as a 5 year old kid with a water pistol) they would be no use in the event of an attack. After all, remember how Reagan was shot down by one guy with a pistol, in spite of being surrounded by highly trained and alert guards. You simply can’t protect people from nuts with guns, no matter what you do. So get rid of the guns would seem a good start to me.. Or take up Rich’s remarkable suggestion and arm the kids.


      Comment by Tony Cole — January 24, 2013 @ 5:22 am | Reply

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