At a recent campaign event, 13-year-old Tyler Jagentenfl asked Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul to "take the Second Amendment out" of his answer and just explain "why US citizens need guns."
"You can't take the Constitution out of it," Paul responded. He spoke about the fundamental right to bear arms, then offered up a basic Republican talking point of this 2016 campaign: Bad people have guns. It takes good people with guns to stop them.
Afterwards I asked Jagentenfl — one of a group of students from Hollis Montessori School who attended the Paul event — what he thought of the candidate's answer.
"He dodged," he said. "I specifically asked him to leave the Constitution out of it."
Well, you really can't take the Constitution out of the nation's ongoing gun debate. But Paul did dodge the issue at the heart of this young man's query. It wasn't about gun rights. It was about the presumed need for guns and what that says about today's world.
Zealots argue we all need guns for protection because of a new and alarming world order that requires good citizens to take down bad people who threaten them. As a recent New York Times article notes, the notion that more good people with guns can solve the problem of bad people with guns has become the standard response to mass shootings. It's a myth that doesn't really keep us safer, argued Politico writer Matt Valentine.
Accuracy aside, is it the cultural mindset we want for our children anyway?
According to the Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence, every day, seven children and teens die from gun violence; five are murdered and two kill themselves. Do we really think more guns in the hands of "good people" would stop that?
Do we really want to believe a gun in the hands of some good citizen was the only way to stop the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School three years ago in Newtown, Conn.? That there was nothing that could be done before the shooter killed 20 students and six adults? The gunman, who first killed his mother, and later killed himself, had a long and troubled history of mental health concerns.
Robert Dear, the Planned Parenthood shooter in Colorado Springs, killed two citizens, along with police officer Garrett Swasey, who answered the call for help. Wouldn't it be better to more effectively identify people like Dear with mental health issues and restrict their access to weapons — than to lose a good person like Swasey?
Perhaps guns in the hands of good people became the only way to stop the San Bernardino shooters after their murderous rampage. But that's because the radicalization of husband and wife either went unnoticed or unreported by people who chose to look the other way. Wouldn't changing that be better than arming citizens to stop terrorists at the point of attack?
In addition to keeping guns away from bad people — much better to teach our children vigilance than to teach them to be armed vigilantes.