When in doubt, call a conference

Statistically, our schools are safe. Students are safer there than anywhere else, including their homes.

Nonetheless, the sporadic spasms of violence — shootings in four states in the past two weeks — are such a shock to the social fabric and the national sense of safety that the authorities feel compelled to do something, if only to convene a conference.

Thus, this past week the president and first lady appeared at a hastily put together White House Conference on School Safety held in a well-to-do suburb known for some of the capital area’s best and safest schools before a screened, invitation-only audience, no Democrats or administration critics, and certainly no gun-control advocates.

Reporters noted that President Bush got through the hour-long conference without mentioning the word “guns” and that the first lady, attorney general and secretary of education mentioned them only in passing.

In a curious way, these adult post-mortems tend to ascribe some of the root cause, if not the students directly, at least to the culture they live in _ violent movies, music and videogames; inadequate parental supervision; a lack of respect for adults; little religious presence in their lives.

The instant case for this conference was the shooting, execution-style, of 10 young Amish girls in Pennsylvania, five of them fatally. These were the daughters of close-knit, pacifist, religiously devout families, and having no electricity violent rap music and videogames was not a problem.

Maybe these shootings were an unpreventable act of evil. But any serious discussion of school safety requires raising the question of whether and how a tormented and suicidal individual like Charles Carl Roberts should come into possession of the 9mm semiautomatic pistol, the shotgun, the 600 rounds of ammunition and high-voltage stun gun that he hauled into the West Nickel Mines Amish School.

The absence of any meaningful discussion of guns in a conference on school safety suggests that the White House was signaling that it was not going to do or say anything to offend or arouse Bush’s gun-rights base.

(Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)SHNS.com)


  1. American Woman

    Isn’t violence the option chosen by the legislative and executive branches of our government? Let’s bomb and kill them if we don’t like the way they act.

    That is the fine example being set for our children. Lying, cheating, and deception seem to be the norm in our culture of ends justifies the means.

    Sorry, I just don’t get it. That there is any question about the reason for the school shootings….violence begets violence….and we are reaping what we have sown.

  2. Wendy

    I continue to be offended by those who question how someone as tormented as Roberts could manage to have a 9mm weapon. They never stop to think that this person would have acted out violently with or without a gun because whatever evil was lurking in his head was finally too much for him to bear. If it hadn’t been a gun, it would have been a knife or a fertilizer bomb or some other weapon of convenience. Funny how we never hear the cries to ban knives or cars or ropes or whatever other tools are used to take innocent lives – only when the weapon is a gun. We don’t need gun control – we need effective enforcement of the already existing criminal laws because once you’ve controlled the guns, only the criminals will have them. That makes me feel so much safer!! (NOT!) And, no, I’m not even close to being a Republican. Roberts had an undetected mental illness that even his closest friends and family didn’t suspect – not even his inlaws, that traditional bastion of “I knew there was something wrong with him”. Once he decided it was time to go and take others with him, any weapon would serve – in this case, legally obtained guns. It’s time we went after the criminals, sweep the streets if necessary and take the weapons out of THEIR hands – not out of the hands of the law-abiding citizens. And, there is no way anyone, beyond God Himself, can predict who will fall victim to mental illness. It’s just what happens sometimes.

  3. With a population of 300 million people there should be some ghastly act of violence every day. The media mines this stuff and wallows in it to pander to ghouls and to keep us always in a state of sucker fear.

    As for guns. I’ve never heard of a gun that could protect someone from a stab in the back. NRA members are suckers. They’ve got your name. They could care less about your guns.