Tuesday February 5, 2013

One of the reasons that the Newtown, Connecticut massacre of schoolchildren may be a game-changer, as opposed to more routine American gun massacres that have passed quietly into history, is that its horrific nature has made it impossible for the National Rifle Association to bully and badger Americans into silence and acceptance. With every utterance from the likes of belligerent and clueless NRA honcho Wayne LaPierre, average people became determined to bring about change. People like North Adams School Committee member John Hockridge.

Dismayed by the NRA’s callous statement a week after Newtown that armed security in schools was the "most effective strategy for protecting our children," Mr. Hockridge drafted a position statement urging passage of stricter state and federal gun laws (Eagle, Feb. 3). That statement, which the North Adams School Committee will consider at its next meeting, was also sent to school boards across the state, and became the basis for the Massachusetts Association of School Committees’ position statement urging a ban on the sale and possession of military-style assault weapons and high capacity magazines; the passage of a requirement that all gun buyers pass a criminal background check, and the rejection of the NRA’s stand on armed security in schools.

It has been argued by writers on these pages that because gun owners "want" or "enjoy" their assault weapons they should not be asked to give them up. Presumably, the 20 children butchered in Newtown wanted to live and their parents would have enjoyed watching them grow into adulthood. The American sense of entitlement is part of the problem when it comes to gun control, and it must give way in favor of the greater good of all Americans.

What must also change, and is changing, is timidity and apathy when it comes to addressing gun violence. Mr. Hockridge speculated that state school boards may be uncomfortable about taking a position on gun control, but it is the obligation of the North Adams School Committee, the Great Barrington Selectmen and other Berkshire boards to adopt tough stands like the one offered by the MASC. If someone is made uncomfortable, so be it. There is no sitting this one out.