Historical wisdom we do well to remember today comes from the philosopher Aristotle in the fourth century BC. His analysis of man as a political animal rests partly on the belief that all government evolved originally from what works best in the family. To work, policies formulated by government must reflect what reality demands, just as a family must to survive. To ignore the hard lessons of the past in favor of an unproven, utopian ideal generally leads to failure.
An unenforced "weapons-free school zone" is just such a notion.
In the aftermath of the Newtown tragedy, there seems to be a rising tide of revolt against this fundamental history lesson. The cry has gone up to surrender more of the rights that generations of Americans have fought and died to preserve. It is as if historical reality will yield if only we can somehow wish hard enough. The fact that demented individuals have always been a part of the human equation, and always will be, is ignored. As is the verifiable fact that weapons restrictions beyond what are currently in effect do not achieve the ends dreamers envision.
It is wrenching to admit that there is no place on this earth that is 100 percent safe, but it is a fact. The ubiquity of true, fully automatic assault weapons like the communist-inspired AK47 helps to assure this. Durable, and cheap, there are more of them worldwide than all others combined. With devastating firepower that would outclass the deadliest domestic sporting semi-automatic (such as Newtown's Bushmaster AR15), they are viewed in this country, with flame throwers and hand grenades, as weapons of war. Possession of one is largely banned. Yet, despite obvious advantages for defensive purposes, I have heard no one advocate for reversal of this ban. To do so, using Sandy Hook as a pretext, would be as offensive to the utopians as further restrictions on our already functionally inferior domestic arms are to realists.
A national dialogue on school safety should have no place for reactionary attacks on organizations like the National Rifle Association. This amounts to stoning the messenger because you cannot bear the message. I and millions of law-abiding NRA members and gun owners define "reasonable" as where we are now with firearms restrictions. To lose sight of this in the current debate, and attack good faith proposals like putting professional security in schools as "barbaric," only serves to alienate many with the greatest stake in the conversation: America's gun owners. Attention should be paid to the "culture" that supplies weapons-savvy young soldiers when war threatens us.
The proliferation of military looking sporting arms can be traced primarily to a demand created by former service members who wanted arms for hunting and personal protection that were similar to those they were trained to use. Manufacturers responded with "lookalikes" superficially similar, but not nearly as lethal. If you truly do not know the difference between a fully automatic AK47 and a semi-auto Bushmaster, you need to educate yourself, or recuse yourself from the debate. If you can find a magazine that holds "hundreds of rounds" as some recent critics have claimed, go ahead and ban it if it makes you feel good. But do not infringe on reality and ban 30-round clips. They are the only thing that could allow a Bushmaster to slow an AK47 down. And if they go, the 10-round clips will be next on the slippery slope. When this fails, a total semi-auto ban will be floated.
Jihadists and fanatics worldwide will cheer as millions of gun owners are denied the utility and security they thought our constitution guaranteed.
Putting law enforcement in schools for deterrence and crisis response is neither unprecedented nor unworkable. It does not produce "more guns." It simply redeploys them from distant lockups to on site professionals. Like school nurses and psychologists, these people would have an immediate positive impact on the well being of our children. Pragmatism would prevail over utopianism.
Timothy Shine is a long time member of the National Rifle Association. He lives with his wife, a grade school teacher, in Wasilla.