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More armed guards are not the answer

More armed guards are not the answer

The Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of Washington National Cathedral, has released the following statement in response to the NRA’s comments made in a press conference today.


“A week after the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, the National Rifle Association’s only response has been to urge Americans to put armed guards in every school,” Hall said. “That the NRA seeks to answer the problem of violence with more violence shows that their answers are directly at odds with the teachings of all faith traditions of the vast majority of people of faith in America.

“In this season when Christians celebrate peace on earth and goodwill to humankind, I call on all to reaffirm the Bible’s promise that hope and love are more powerful than fear and hate. We must urge our legislators to support a ban on assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines, and commit ourselves to improving mental health treatment and critiquing our culture of glorified violence.”

The dean’s response comes after he and the Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, gathered outside the Cathedral with a group of interfaith leaders to call on religious communities across the nation to demand swift action on gun control measures and to commemorate the one-week anniversary of the Newtown massacre with the tolling of the Cathedral’s funeral bell at 9:30 am.

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Dealing with the NRA’s comments just on a pragmatic level, most law enforcement officers would say that arming teachers is a disaster waiting to happen. Responding to an active shooter is a difficult situation and one for which law enforcement personnel receive lengthy training, including role-play exercises. It is unlikely that teachers would receive such training, or would wish to do so. Forcing officers who respond to an active shooter in a school to assess on the fly which persons carrying weapons are good guys versus bad guys is unfair, risky, and puts all involved in additional danger.

On an ethical and interpersonal level, I am shocked and appalled that the NRA would respond to the tragedy by recommending still more weapons. It’s like having tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds tell the family of someone who’s died of smoking-related lung cancer that they’re sorry about the news — and that the best way to deal with grief is to take up smoking.

Time for the NRA to show some decency and compassion and to think about how seriously flawed their messaging and behavior really is.

Eric Bonetti

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