If only...

By Daniel Dunkle | Jan 18, 2013

At some point in the coming days or weeks or months, Rockland city leaders, police and school officials are expected to meet to talk about ways to make sure our schools are safe.

The decision to have this discussion came in the aftermath of the horrific school shootings in Connecticut in which 6 and 7-year-old children and their teachers were gunned down by a madman.

It is my hope as the parent of children in public schools (one just about the same age as the kids in Newtown) that this will be a substantive discussion and that ones like it are taking place everywhere across this nation.

I didn't have any children when the tragedy at Columbine was perpetrated in 1999. Since then, we have seen this pattern of bloodshed over and over again. In all reality, we as a society have done very little to prevent further violence.

The second part of my hope is that we will never forget what happened in Newtown, Conn., that we will remember those tender young children and the hope and love they represented in their community, and that this memory will spur us to action.

But what action?

What's being done in Rockland, Maine and many communities like it is not good enough. Right now, mostly what we're doing is hoping that it doesn't happen here; hoping Rockland doesn't cease to have meaning as a name and become a synonym for gun violence as Newtown, Aurora, Virginia Tech and Columbine did before.

The schools right now have lock-down procedures. What a bad joke. A few locked doors and no security whatsoever versus an armed, insane gunman?

Let's look at some of the proposed solutions:

Gun control, bans, background checks, etc. — Part of the long-term solution would be to place more regulations on weapons that are really designed for warfare. This could include making a person undergo more of a background check and register their weapons.

It would be harder to carry out a massacre not having guns that can fire 30 times without being reloaded.

We need to be careful about just limiting “assault” weapons. The real problem is not the word assigned to the weapon, but what that weapon can do. Any gun that can fire repeatedly with a large clip is part of the problem.

Beyond that, I don't see a widespread gun ban taking place anytime soon in this country, and I'm not sure I would ever support that. Here in Maine we have a proud tradition of responsible gun ownership and hunting.

It's important to remember that we could outlaw all guns tomorrow and still not be safe. There are already so many firearms in the country that the threat would remain.

As for the Second Amendment and its larger meaning, people will argue about that at great length without convincing each other. We could argue about what the founders intended, whether we give a rat's posterior what those long dead wanted and whether they had a right to make rules not knowing there would be AK-47s in a few hundred years.

It's a worthy discussion, but as a father, I want my kids to be safe tomorrow, not years from now.

So gun control alone isn't good enough.

Identify mass murderers before they strike, reach out to those at risk — There's no way to do that. There's no way to know who is going to flip out. There's no way to reason with these people. People who would shoot 6-year-olds don't reason well. Even if you could, you could never be sure no one was slipping through your net. This isn't the movie “Minority Report” where you can arrest people for crimes they will commit in the future.

Armed security in schools — This is the only solution being suggested that could actually make a difference right now, today and tomorrow, in our schools. From the moment a rampage starts to the moment it is stopped, almost always by force or threat of force, every second that passes is one in which lives are being lost. Right now schools cannot defend themselves.

This is not a political thing for me. I'm not interested in putting forward any agenda other than the safety of children.

I have been surprised in the aftermath of this tragedy to find many people I've talked to are very much opposed to this.

This would make our schools a police state, they say. I think a school resource officer can be a positive role model in the schools.

Some have told me it wouldn't make any difference. I think that's defeatist. We have to at least try to protect our schools. We could have trained police officers, who know how to handle their weapons, on the alert in schools.

When banks were robbed over and over, they beefed up their security. My most precious treasures aren't stored in a bank vault. They sit in classrooms every day.

Some argue more guns are not the answer. If that's all there is to it, why do we even have armed police officers patrolling our streets?

Surveillance cameras and panic buttons to alert authorities immediately would also be helpful, I believe.

I understand a lot of people disagree with me and recognize there might be something I've missed in my thoughts on it. For me, it's not political or ideological. If we're talking about what I believe in, I detest all real-world violence and the heartache it causes, just like you.

Send me an email. Write a comment. But don't forget about it. Don't let this blow over.

In communities where gun violence has taken place, people say, “If only we had done this...” “If only we had done that...”

I don't want our community to ever have to say, “If only...”

Daniel Dunkle is news editor for Courier Publications. He lives in Rockland with his wife and two children. Email him at ddunkle@courierpublicationsllc.com or follow him on twitter at @DanDunkle.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.