Las Vegas Sun

April 20, 2014

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WHERE I STAND:

Fighting senseless gun violence with dollars and cents

Sparks Middle School Shooting

Jeannette Vasquez, 14, and Carlos Lara, 13, were among hundreds of students and residents who attended a candlelight vigil at Sparks Middle School in Sparks, Nev., on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, in honor of slain teacher Michael Landsberry and two 12-year-old students who were injured after a fellow student open fire at the school on Monday, before turning the gun on himself.  Launch slideshow »

I hope no one thought that the massacre in Newtown, Conn., was the last headline we would see about a deranged, sick, angry, hopeless or bullied student taking a family weapon and doing his worst to his fellow students and teachers.

That would have been naive. Gun violence continues to increase and senseless student-on-student violence seems unstoppable. Fortunately, all that killing was happening someplace else, like Colorado or Connecticut.

Not in Nevada.

Until now.

Tragedy unfolded in the Silver State last week when a 12-year old boy got his hands on a weapon and shot two fellow students and killed a teacher — a teacher whose tours with the National Guard in Afghanistan prepared him to do what everyone says was a natural act on his part. He put himself between the shooter and innocent children and took the bullet that might otherwise have struck another child.

We might have assumed this moment would come. Nevada is not immune to gun-wielding craziness. Advocates of stronger gun-safety laws say these senseless killings will continue until sufficient pressure forces politicians to stand up to the gun lobby, even if it jeopardizes their re-election chances.

Sometimes it takes political courage to save lives. Unfortunately, it is lacking. Politicians are more worried about staying safely in office rather than whether our children can play safely on playgrounds.

How many tears will it take, how many grieving mothers and fathers, sisters, brothers and grandparents, before the cold, hard hearts of the gun lobby and their puppets in the legislatures embrace sanity?

Is there a logic that will cause them to cast a vote for sane gun safety laws that respect the Second Amendment and convert attitudes within our gun culture? I believe there is, but we have been going about this the wrong way.

We have been urging political action to save the lives of our children. That doesn’t work, so let’s explain it to the lawmakers in terms they can understand.

With the caveat that my math skills, while credible, never threatened to topple those at the top of the math class, I have done some rough ciphering. Here goes:

The gross domestic product of the United States is approximately $16 trillion each year. Approximately 45 percent of American households have school-age children.

That means that every morning during the school year, Mom and/or Dad get up to prepare their kids so they can learn what they need to survive and prosper when it is their turn to lead our country.

And, today, more and more of those parents are dropping their kids off at school, putting them on the yellow school bus or kissing them goodbye at the door and wondering — will my child come home safe from school at the end of the day?

Sure, everyone brings the normal stresses to the workplace — can I pay the mortgage, can we afford that vacation, can I pay for the car repairs, and on and on — and we all learn to do our work while putting those personal stresses off to the side.

Over the past few years, though, those stress points have been exacerbated because of the economic destruction that began in 2008. We know full well what happens to productivity when people’s personal problems begin to overwhelm.

Add to that the nerve-wracking, work-distracting, creativity-stifling and focus-fogging stress of worrying for the safety of your children at school, no matter how unlikely, that on any one day a deranged individual will open fire.

Got the picture? That kind of unbearable distraction has to affect productivity by significant amounts. But let’s say it reduces workforce productivity by just 10 percent.

What is 45 percent of $16 trillion and then 10 percent of that number? You don’t have to do that math; it is the kind of money that will go a long way toward paying off our national debt in less than a couple of decades, balance our budgets in a couple of years and pay for the infrastructure needs of this country for many years to come.

In short, the lack of sane and sensible gun safety rules is costing this country billions of dollars every year. Not to mention what it does to our competitive standing around the world.

So forget about saving the lives of our children and grandchildren. Think of this endeavor as addressing the financial bottom line. That should make it easier for the politicians enthralled with the big money of the gun lobby to vote their consciences.

Unfortunately, this is the kind of argument everyone understands.

Brian Greenspun is publisher and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.

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