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Sue Carlton: Armed schools and gun buybacks lose sight of long-term solutions

After the horror of what happened inside a Connecticut elementary school, we want to do something, anything, to feel like we can keep it from happening here.

So we're talking about gun buyback programs to get deadly weapons off the streets.

We're talking armed officers at our elementary schools come Monday.

You could argue both are well-intentioned if Band-Aid efforts to do something, anything, in the wake of the unthinkable.

But the danger comes in sidestepping what has to happen after 20 children and six educators were killed by a heavily-armed madman: Serious, meaningful change in our gun culture.

Monday morning, armed Hillsborough sheriff's deputies and Tampa police officers will be on hand when kids stream back into the county's 150 elementary schools after Christmas break.

This does not come cheap, as in $1.9 million in overtime for the Sheriff's Office alone, which is one reason (though not the only reason) some other local counties aren't currently planning on doing the same.

Way back when, my own public elementary school in Miami had a regular Officer Friendly on hand — a different face every year, but he was always called Officer Friendly — not there to keep bad guys out, but to make police familiar and accessible to kids.

Sadly, this is not that.

Officers will be present at least at the beginning and end of the school day as a show of security, a balm to shaken parents and a sign of what we've come to.

And even if I understand why, I hate that we think we need it.

This also plays into the National Rifle Association's stance after the mass shooting in Newtown and its attempt to deflect any possible blame for relentless and careless gun advocacy.

Arm our schools, the NRA said, because certainly what happened had nothing to do with, among other factors, the easy availability of guns. Never mind how the NRA has used its political clout to oppose gun limits even when sensible and to push gun rights even if dangerous.

Also in Hillsborough County, commissioners are expected to consider a yearly gun buyback program in which citizens can turn in guns typically in exchange for store gift cards or cash.

And if it means one less child finds a gun at home and pulls the trigger, one less gun falls into a gang member's hand, one less gun is tagged as evidence in a murder trial, one less stupid argument ends in death because a gun happened to be handy, okay.

A federal buyback effort? Let's go.

But here's the thing: Well-meant efforts to deal with what we saw in Connecticut can't substitute for fundamental long-term change. And in the aftermath of a national horror, there is talk of that, of moves that could significantly alter a gun culture gone wild.

They are changes, that, for the record, would not infringe on responsible gun owners' constitutional right to bear arms.

Because of what happened, we are now talking about a push to renew the assault weapons ban. We are talking about closing a gun show loophole that lets people buy guns without required background checks.

Because the only thing that will make what happened make any sense is real change for us and our guns.

Sue Carlton: Armed schools and gun buybacks lose sight of long-term solutions 01/04/13 [Last modified: Friday, January 4, 2013 10:33pm]

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