Newtown stirred emotions but offered few lessons

Posted by on Dec 17, 2012 at 7:56 am

We all would like to ensure this never happens again. We can’t. But that’s because of the good news: Despite the impression from media coverage, mass shootings are extremely rare — fewer than 200 Americans are killed each year in a shooting involving more than two victims. Also, schools are amazingly safe. With something as rare as a mass school shooting, the circumstances are unique enough that preventing them is nearly impossible.

The urge to “do something” is natural, rooted in compassion. But Congress probably can’t do much useful here. First, consider Congress’s last big gun control push — the assault weapons ban. It basically outlawed scary-looking guns, and had no effect on gun murder.

Next, recall Congress’s shoddy history of disaster-inspired legislation — Sarbanes-Oxley and the Patriot Act, for example.

On the local level, we’ll see new school security measures. Past crimes have given us the sort of security present at Sandy Hook Elementary School: Any visitors need to ring a doorbell and be buzzed in over a video intercom. Friday’s killer circumvented this by shooting out a glass wall.

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