Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

Opinion

January 25, 2013

Politicians’ agendas exploit citizens’ emotional reactions

GLASGOW — The age of reason in our fine nation, built on a well-thought document, is dead. Otto von Bismark would be so proud we have fully bought into making political decisions on emotional whims. That we cannot have a reasonable discussion about tough subjects.

The wise professional basketball philosopher Hakeem Olajuwon once said two things were never to be discussed in an NBA locker room — politics and religion. His wisdom was, aren’t those the two things we should be discussing?

Of course, those subjects are polarizing because our personal belief systems are built around them, intertwined in such a way that to discuss them illicits emotion. Those two subjects are what we are as individuals. Then they influence, emotionally, our reactions to every other topic — for instance, gun ownership rights.

The president of the National Rifle Association a week after the shootings in a school in Newtown, Conn., suggested every public school in the U.S. should have armed guards. That suggestion has grown to the idea that we arm the teachers.

Golda Walbert, a regular columnist whose writings usually cover history and historic moments of local interest, states in her writing on the front page of Section C today, that arming teachers is a bad idea. With her many years of experience in education, she understands the issues faced by educators better than any of us who are not inside schools on a daily basis. I trust her judgement and agree with her position.

Oliver North suggested in a recent column that not arming public school personnel will force thousands of parents to move their children to private schools. (He doesn’t say or ask whether all private schools have armed guards.) Arm them and I believe thousands of parents will take their children out of public schools, to educate them either in private schools or at home.

Complex problems do not have one-time, catch-all solutions. Give teachers guns and we can surmise some of the potential problems. Then, what is to say the students shouldn’t be armed in order to protect themselves. If the law would allow personnel to have firearms, how can we keep parents from bringing their own to parent-teacher conferences?

Don’t think this is a one-way street. The rhetoric about assault rifles is just as shortsighted. Those who do not like guns, especially military-style weapons (often labeled assault rifles), seem to have the view that a scary-looking firearm is one that should not be available to the public. Most research, it seems, suggests it’s not the type of gun, it is how much ammunition can be pumped through the firearm.

It turns out the man who committed the shooting in Connecticut did not use an “assault rifle” in the school. He used handguns with high-capacity clips. Most shootings in the United States are committed with hand guns. Research suggests hand guns with high-capacity clips are a greater threat than AR-15s.

“Mother Jones” compiled 30 years of data on mass shootings and found that semi-automatic handguns were used 68 times in 62 incidents (Many shooters had more than one weapon) and assault weapons were used 35 times.

It’s true people kill people, not guns. The weapons they choose does influence the number of people who can be killed in one location at one time. The amount of ammunition those weapons can hold plays a role.

We need political discourse that is open discussion with the objective being to improve a situation, but that would require we the constituents to also be able to have emotionless debates about issues.

We are allowing the political class to take advantage of us and our emotional responses. It must stop.

James Brown is editor of the Glasgow Daily Times. He can be contacted by e-mail at jbrown@glasgowdailytimes.com.

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