Lessons from the Michigan Shooting
by Ari Armstrong, March 1, 2000
A first-grade girl was shot to death by a classmate on February 29 in Michigan.
Within hours, Bill Clinton used the tragedy to promote his personal political agenda. As an AP article put it, "Reacting to a school shooting that killed a 6-year-old girl, President Clinton said Tuesday 'we just don't have any excuses' for failing to require child safety locks on guns and background checks on gun show purchases."
Of course, Clinton never mentioned a crucial fact as reported by Randi Goldberg in another AP article: the gun had been stolen. So no background check would have prevented the shooting, and the boy's father, now serving a jail sentence, was unlikely to have complied with any mandatory storage law. Goldberg notes:
The boy's [shooter's] father is serving time in the county jail and the boy lived with his mother... Prosecutors said the gun had been reported stolen in December and was in the boy's home. Tuesday night, investigators searched the home and found another stolen firearm -- a 12 gauge shotgun...
The death of young Kayla Rolland is a horrible tragedy that must break the hearts of us all. But that is not sufficient reason to adopt knee-jerk policies which so obviously have no bearing on the shooting but which will further infringe the legitimate right to keep and bear arms.
As Gary Kleck has found, firearms are used in self-defense against violent criminals upwards of 2.5 million times per year. Even lower estimates reveal the usefulness of guns against crime, and plausible higher estimates than Kleck's are available. Using Kleck's mid-range estimate, on the same day Rolland was killed by a gun, over 6,000 law-abiding Americans defended themselves against violent criminals with a firearm. But of course the anti-gun lobby and politicians completely ignore the beneficial uses of guns; they focus only on the tragedies.
The root problem with the Michigan shooting has nothing to do with guns, and everything to do with a dysfunctional, criminal family. A child whose father allegedly steals guns and ends up in jail is not very likely to receive quality moral training. Nor is he likely to learn firearms safety. The boy's father is a criminal, and criminals don't obey background check laws and storage laws, anyway. For the anti-gun lobby to use this horrible tragedy to promote their political ends is nothing short of intellectual dishonesty.
The only precautions that might have prevented the tragic shooting are firearms safety courses. If the young boy had learned about firearm safety in school, through a program such as the NRA's Eddie Eagle program, he would have been more aware of the real dangers of firearms and less likely to touch a firearm without responsible adult supervision.
One horrible aspect of the shooting is that a teacher who witnessed the killing was apparently too ignorant about firearms to stop it. Goldberg writes:
The teacher, Alicia L. Judd, was standing in the doorway when the boy, who had the gun tucked in his pants, took it out and pointed it at another youngster, [Genesee County Prosecutor Arthur A.] Busch said. The boy then turned toward Kayla and fired the only bullet in the gun, the prosecutor said.
So there was a time delay between the moment the boy pulled the gun and the moment he shot the girl. What was the teacher doing during this time? Most people with extensive firearms training would have lunged to grab the gun and unload it, thus likely preventing the horrible shooting.
It's unknown whether the teacher had any firearms training. Perhaps she was simply too frightened to act quickly. Regardless of any details which may be revealed about this particular case, it's clear that those with firearms training are more able to intervene in a shooting and save lives.
But of course firearms safety is not promoted by the anti-gun lobby. Instead, guns are reified and demonized, creating in many an irrational fear of even touching a gun, even when doing so could save lives.
If Bill Clinton really cared more about saving lives than about amassing political power, he would advocate firearms safety classes, rather than Politically Correct laws that will do nothing but render law-abiding citizens more prone to attacks by violent criminals.