June 26, 2019

A Tragic Situation With No Easy Solution

No one likes to use the word “impossible” when referring to a situation today, especially a tragic situation involving a school shooting. But how do we prevent shootings at schools when they are done by underage students with no history of mental illness? Or former students disgruntled by their experience in the school and seeking to punish or correct the situation by ending the lives of teachers or fellow students? In the recent Texas school shooting, Dimitrios Pagourtzis was 17 years old. He could not legally have purchased a gun under any existing laws or even under new proposed efforts to control the sale of firearms. The only answer seems to be that we have just too many guns in our country today. It is reaching monumental proportions.

It is estimated that there is a gun for every man, woman, and child in this country. Illegal firearms move back and forth across our borders daily. Anyone can buy a gun who has money and has contacts on the black market. Our enlightened leaders have proposed arming teachers, thereby placing more guns in the schools. Most estimates of the number of guns in the United States use federal tallies of the firearms manufactured, imported and exported by U.S. gunmakers. A 2012 Congressional Research Report published one month before the Sandy Hook school shooting put the number of firearms at 242 million in 1996, 259 million in 2000, and 310 million as of 2009. The figure of 310 million marked the first time that the number of firearms in circulation surpassed the total U.S. population.

Regardless of the actual number of civilian firearms in circulation today, there is no ambiguity around one crucial fact: U.S. gun manufacturers have drastically increased their output in recent years. In 2009, U.S. gunmakers produced 5.6 million guns. By 2013, that annual production had doubled to 10.9 million guns!

We seem to be trying to close the barn door after the horse has long left. According to the FBI, 23 million background checks were performed in 2015 in contrast to the 8.5 million performed in 2000. But illegal guns are too easily obtained today making the background checks somewhat irrelevant. ATF officials say that only about 8% of the nation’s retail gun dealers sell the guns that are used in crimes. Many guns used in crimes come from unlicensed street dealers who gets their guns through legal transactions, straw purchases, or from gun thefts. A legal firearm purchased through a reputable gun dealer may cost as much as $700 or more. Sold on the street through an illegal dealer, this gun purchase could drive the price up to $1,500 or more.

It does not take a very intelligent man or woman to realize that we are fighting an uphill battle and we are losing. We are swimming in guns, legal and illegal. Putting metal detectors keeps the honest person from carrying a gun into a school. Hiring security guards is fine but at that point we can assume that an intruder has already entered or plans to enter the school with a gun or why would we have an armed security guard to start with. With guns in the millions floating around our streets, the only answer may be the control of these guns. There is no easy answer but all the steps that we have taken so far do not seem to have worked. As long as guns are easily accessible, shootings will continue and an impossible situation will get even worse.

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Written by
Donald Wittmer

DONALD WITTMER is a retired business executive who held key roles in the automotive and banking sectors. For a time, he also served as a Fiscal Agency Manager for the Detroit branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. He received his undergraduate degree from Cincinnati's Xavier University, an M.A. in business management from Central Michigan University, and earned certification in bank operations from the School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A husband, father, and grandfather, he teaches part-time at the Kent Place School for Girls in Summit, New Jersey.

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Written by Donald Wittmer