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News Opinion Readers Respond

Is gun violence now the 'new normal'?

Regarding recent statements by Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association about school security, I would ask whether the school he attended as a boy was made safe by armed guards or teachers ("Push under way to arm teachers after Newtown," Dec. 23).

I doubt it, and it strikes me as incredible anyone would suggest this as a reasonable solution to the problem of violence in our society, whether committed by criminals or by the mentally ill.

Is this the image of American elementary school children that Mr. LaPierre and other gun rights advocates envision? Does this idea promote the humanity and dignity of each person in our society? And isn't that idea, the dignity and humanity of every person, at the very heart of what the American republic is about?

In the argument over Second Amendment rights, the Founding Fathers are often invoked. Does Mr. LaPierre think the Founding Fathers would have approved stationing armed guards in schools?

Notwithstanding that some police officers now appear in the halls of our middle and senior high schools, would the nation's founders have viewed this as inevitable and therefore acceptable?

In the nineteenth century there were movements to improve care for prison inmates and the insane, and to support public education, women's rights and the abolition of slavery — all in the name of making America a better society.

In the twentieth century reformers supported creating workers' unions to promote their welfare, abolishing child labor, establishing standards for food and medicines and creating public parks in our cities — all in the name of a more peaceable and humane America.

But now it seems there are people who would accept a society where violence is part of the new normal. I agree with Mr. LaPierre that the violence depicted in our popular culture — in movies, on television, in music, and on the Internet — is part of the problem.

Yet is it not also possible that a too great fascination with firearms — and an unreasonable insistence on the protection of individual rights in regard to them — also contributes to the climate of violence that pervades society today?

Alan Gephardt

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