Now it has happened in our greater community: a tragic shooting on a school campus. On Oct. 21, Jose Reyes, a 12-year old student at Sparks Middle School, shot and killed a teacher and wounded two seventh-grade students before killing himself. The gun reportedly was a 9mm semi-automatic pistol Reyes brought from home.
Sensible, effective gun-safety laws can prevent this type of needless tragedy, and the Second Amendment clearly permits them.
No 3- or 4-year-old child should be able to take a loaded gun from an unlocked drawer and accidentally kill himself, a sibling or a playmate. No troubled teenager should be able to get a parent’s gun and use it wrongfully. Although no details have been released in the Reyes shooting, that apparently is what happened. Jose was able to obtain a deadly weapon at home, take it to school and use it to kill and maim.
This circumstance could have been prevented so easily it is hard to understand why it was not: That gun simply should have been locked up, separately from secured ammunition. Young Jose should not have had access to it. Nor should the mentally ill 20-year-old who last December took an assault weapon and other guns from home to kill 20 grade school students and six teachers in Newtown, Conn.
Let no one say that laws cannot prevent, or at least minimize, this type of incident. Locking up guns is a simple, routine act, not approaching the task of preventing criminals and gangs from using guns to commit crimes. Laws that strictly sanction the safe storage of weapons will be effective; just the reality of going to jail for five or 10 years will stop the practice of leaving guns accessible to those who should not have access to them.
And calls for arming school administrators and teachers should be answered with a resounding “NO.” Do we want our children to grow up in an environment that teaches by example the National Rifle Association mantra of “the only way to stop a bad guy with gun is a good guy with a gun?” Schoolchildren should see teachers carrying books, not guns.
To those Second Amendment extremists who say there can be no restriction on gun ownership, accept the fact that Supreme Court decisions hold to the contrary. The latest such decision was District of Columbia vs. Heller in 2008. Written by Justice Antonin Scalia, the leading conservative jurist and legal scholar, the majority opinion stated that ”Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.” Among the limitations cited were forbidding felons and the mentally ill from possessing firearms, prohibiting “dangerous and unusual weapons” and allowing laws imposing conditions on the commercial sale of arms.
The simplistic rhetoric that “criminals will always get guns” has no relevance to the issue of gun safety, most particularly when children and mentally disturbed individuals are involved.
Bo Statham is a retired lawyer, congressional aide and businessman. He lives in Gardnerville and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.