Following the school stabbing incident in Pennsylvania, the nation’s gun lobby is almost certain to draw comparisons to school shootings. They’ll likely claim that guns are no more dangerous than knives or clubs. They’ll point to the number of stabbings and beatings in the US. They’ll likely say that a crazed person with a weapon – any weapon – is dangerous.
There’s only one flaw with those arguments. In the Pennsylvania attack, no one has died. Yes, 21 children and a security guard were cut or stabbed. But only three are still hospitalized, and they are expected to recover. Contrast that with Columbine, Sandy Hook Elementary School and dozens of other school attacks in which attackers armed with semi-automatic guns quickly and efficiently killed numerous victims. Guns, especially semi-automatic guns with extended clips, make killing quicker and easier. That’s why they are the weapons of choice for law enforcement and our military.
Imagine if the Pennsylvania teen had brought a semi-automatic assault weapon to school instead of two knives. How many parents would be planning funerals? How many young lives would have been lost?
Weapons such as knives are up close and personal. The person wielding a knife relies on surprise. The victims have to be within reach. So, unlike guns, they give victims an opportunity to run away. Moreover, it’s much more difficult to attack multiple victims with a knife. Attackers with knives are easier to disarm. And, if first aid is immediately available, the wounds are seldom lethal.
To prevent more Columbines and Sandy Hooks, we need to make access to guns more difficult. We need universal background checks for gun purchases. We need gun registration so we can hold gun owners responsible if the weapons fall into the wrong hands. We need to ban semi-automatics and extended clips. We need to track gun serial numbers. All of this can be done. Following a mass shooting, Australia’s conservative government placed severe restrictions on guns. It bought back millions of guns and destroyed them. As a result, gun deaths in Australia are exceedingly rare.
What makes the US so different that we’re willing to accept the gun deaths of 3,000 children per year?