Wheaton Patch accepts and publishes letters to the editor emailed to Local Editor Charlotte Eriksen at Charlotte@patch.com, or sent as a message through the Wheaton Patch Facebook page. Please note in subject lines the message is a Letter to the Editor.
In her Letter to the Editor entitled, , Ms. Sayeed has an understandable and admirable desire to both make sense of the horrific Sandy Hook tragedy and to suggest constructive solutions to ensure that it never happens again. Sadly, what Ms. Sayeed instead offers are failed policies, gauzy sentimentalism, and--especially for a Harvard doctoral candidate--a shocking lack of logic, fact-based knowledge, and critical thinking skills.
READ LETTER TO THE EDITOR: GUN CONTROL EQUALS BETTER SCHOOLS
Ms. Sayeed is addressing the symptoms rather than the root cause of these problems. She is also conflating two distinct tragic circumstances. The risks Chicago teens take in going to school are very real. However, the under-18 gun deaths she cites are caused primarily by gang violence, domestic violence, or parental neglect. These problems are predictable, sadly widespread in particular neighborhoods, and contribute significantly to the persistent challenges of the American underclass. The Sandy Hook tragedy represents a different challenge: "How do otherwise safe communities address the very rare but terrifying possibility that a monster will decide to unleash his inner turmoil on multiple innocents in a public act of unspeakable violence?" The first scenario is largely due to the breakdown of a functioning family support structure and failed public school systems in major American cities. The second pertains more to mental health policy, efficient threat identification, and the difficult balancing act between safety and civil liberties. Both are exacerbated by a culture that glorifies violence.
But neither problem will be solved, as Ms. Sayeed suggests, by more restrictive gun laws. She is wrongly equating gun control laws with safety.
Until the United States Supreme Court recently struck down the laws as being unconstitutional in McDonald vs. City of Chicago, Illinois (and Chicago more specifically) had some of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation. The state of Connecticut also has particularly restrictive gun laws, and Sandy Hook was deemed a "Gun Free Zone". Yet, gangsters are by definition lawless: they will not heed a gun law simply because it is on the books. Similarly, a madman who murders his own mother to illegally obtain weapons will not then heed polite requests to kindly check those very same weapons at the door. As a result, Ms. Sayeed's suggestion that we double-down on restrictive gun laws is astonishingly naive. Her suggestions are very well intentioned, but they are not very well considered.
This isn't to say there should be zero gun control laws on the books, but the knee-jerk reaction to blame the NRA and to push for even more gun control will not improve the current situation. Even worse, passing feel-good but ultimately feckless policies will create a false sense of security...until the next mass shooting tragedy kicks off yet another round of shock, grief, and heated political debate. The problems affecting inner city communities are complex and cannot possibly be addressed properly in a simple letter to the editor. Nor can the issues underlying the Sandy Hook tragedy. But as a start, when it comes to school safety, what about borrowing one idea from the transportation sector: Federal Air Marshals? Nearly every airline passenger is grateful for the peace of mind provided by strategically placing undercover armed officers on select flights. Why can't local school districts voluntarily implement a similar framework on a civilian level? If a few responsible adult employees in each school (perhaps some of the more burly male teachers or building custodians) became the designated concealed carry officers of a school building (and even then only after undergoing a thorough background check and safety training), it would create a significant chilling effect for would-be violent gunmen.
To save lives and to improve communities, what matters are not good intentions and inputs; what matters are actual results and outputs. Before we rush to slam the proverbial barn door shut after the horses have already bolted in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, let's all take some time to clear our heads and consider the likely consequences of specific policy proposals before implementing them.
Larry LaVanway is a practicing attorney in Wheaton and a resident of Glen Ellyn.