Saturday, February 13 , 2016, 1:15 am | Fair 51º

Charles Nichols: Lessons Not Learned After Newtown

By Charles Nichols |

At 3:17 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14, I received an email from KPBS news wanting to chat with me about my lawsuit seeking to overturn California’s 1967 ban on openly carrying a loaded firearm in public. This was the day of the Sandy Hill Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn.

After exchanging a few emails and two phone calls later, I was asked to appear on a live news segment the following Monday afternoon not to discuss my lawsuit but to talk about the Newtown massacre. Also on the show was to be an opponent of the Second Amendment.

I declined and suggested they instead ask UCLA law professor Adam Winkler to be a guest on the show. Professor Winkler is a liberal, he speaks their language. I am not a liberal and gave as my reason for declining to appear the plain and simple fact that no law will ever prevent an evil or crazy person from doing an evil thing.

That plain and simple fact is beyond the ability of liberals to understand. We have had laws against committing murder as old as history. For decades we have had state and federal laws prohibiting the unauthorized possession of firearms on schools and even within 1,000 feet of a school ground. These laws prevent good, sane, law-abiding people from carrying guns to protect themselves and their children. How many more mass shootings have to take place before people learn that criminals, by definition, break laws and crazy people simply don’t understand they are doing evil?

Laws did not prevent the massacre in Newton. Laws did not prevent the massacre at Columbine High. Laws did not prevent the massacre at Virginia Tech. New laws will not prevent the next mass shooting, neither would they have prevented the massacre in Newtown or anywhere else had they been in effect.

A couple of decades ago, an immoral President Bill Clinton advocated putting a police officer in every school. He did this for two reasons: It pandered to the powerful police public employee unions that are a core constituency of the Democrat Party, and more importantly, it polled well with the public. Those who remember the Clinton presidency remember that his public policies swayed with the wind.

The National Rifle Association made the same proposal and was savaged by the press. The NRA made the proposal because “more police” always polls well with the public. It also appeals to a couple of the NRA’s core constituencies; rank-and-file police officers as well as owners of “black rifles.” Rifles that the liberal press and opponents of the Second Amendment intentionally mislabel as “assault rifles.”

According to Gallup, the NRA chose wisely in its proposal. Only 12 percent of people polled said that increasing police presence in schools would not be effective in preventing mass shootings like the one that occurred in Connecticut; 34 percent said that having at least one school official at every school carry a gun for the school’s protection would not be effective. The public, unlike the liberal press, believe that more guns in the right hands at schools is the solution. The press will continue to rant and rave for more gun control but eventually, the Sandy Hill massacre will become yesterday’s news and the press will move on to other stories — until the next shooting occurs, that is.

Assault rifles are machine guns, and there aren’t very many machine guns in the hands of private collectors in the United States. In Switzerland, however, every able-bodied Swiss male upon reaching age 19 must keep a fully automatic assault rifle at his home. He must regularly take it to the shooting range, and he is required to keep what the liberal press would call a “stockpile” of ammunition, clips and military supplies.

Switzerland has had one mass shooting, not at a school but inside one of its state legislatures back in 2001; 14 people were killed. In all of Switzerland, there were only 69 homicides committed last year — homicides committed not just with firearms but with all forms of weapons including knives, hands and feet.

So why does Switzerland, a nation where the people who are more heavily armed than in the United States, have citizens far less likely to commit murder, and why are mass shootings virtually unknown there?

There are many reasons why Switzerland is so peaceful despite the number of firearms in private ownership. One of which is that every Swiss male upon reaching age 19 is subjected to physical and mental tests to determine if he is physically and more importantly, mentally stable for membership in the armed Militia. Those who are mentally and physically sound are issued a fully automatic assault rifle and become part of the armed Swiss Militia in which they engage in periodic training. Those who are of unsound mind or body are not given a machine gun but instead are placed in civilian service roles if possible.

Mental illness most often manifests itself in youth, and the Swiss have very effectively, although not intentionally, created an effective mental health screening system. Membership in the Swiss Militia is compulsory up to age 34. By that age, the sudden onset of mental illness is extremely rare, and people who develop a mental illness during their mandatory service in the Militia are quickly identified.

Unfortunately, that system would not work in the United States. The Swiss are a very conservative and pragmatic people, and that is reflected in their elected officials and other public servants. In the United States, our elected officials and public servants are not only the last people who should be deciding who can and who cannot own a gun, they are people whom we would all be better off if they were prohibited from possessing weapons of any kind.

Which brings us to the proposal of arming school teachers and principals. Sandy Hill Elementary is a rural school. Perhaps some of the school teachers or the principal, properly trained and screened, should have had guns. It is a fact that moral, properly trained people with guns in schools very well might have made a difference, but most public school teachers in this country are not qualified to teach and are frankly so far out of touch with reality that arming them would only make things worse.

It is true that the best way to stop a bad person with a gun is a good person with a gun. Most school teachers are not good people, and those who are good people are not necessarily mentally suited to engage in combat with a madman. Some are, and they should be armed and trained — now!

Likewise with putting a police officer in every school. There was a police officer present at Columbine High. When the shooting started, he waited for backup police officers to arrive after firing 10 shots (to no avail). By the time the SWAT team entered, the massacre at Columbine High had been going on for two hours. The two shooters committed suicide after running out of ammunition and bombs. This was years before the federal assault weapons ban expired, a law that the loony left liberals like California Sen. Dianne Feinstein are seeking to re-enact today as their “solution.”

Similarly was the McDonald’s massacre in San Ysidro, where a mentally ill armed security guard, licensed by the State of California, shot and killed 21 people in 1984. The massacre lasted for 77 minutes before the shooter was killed by a SWAT sniper. As at Columbine High, police were present outside of the McDonald’s, but they waited for the police SWAT team to take charge.

Police departments are para-military organizations. When confronted with a mass shooting, police officers invariably wait until they have overwhelming force before acting. It is the rare police officer who acts on his own initiative in these situations; they are trained not to. Nor do we want to inculcate a police state mentality in young children where the police roam the hallways.

It is foolish to expect a solution from the government. Quoting President Ronald Reagan, “Government is not the solution ... government is the problem.”

The solution is in your hands. An obvious partial solution is to stop making your children an easy target. Home-school them if you can and stop voting for politicians who are idiots. That includes your local school board, city councilmen as well as county, state and federal officials.

An Orange County school administrator, who shall remain unnamed, announced to the media that he would not allow any guns in his schools — not police, security guards, teachers, anyone. He may have well announced to every copycat loser in the country to please come to his schools and do evil. People like this would not be in a position of power if voters hadn’t put them there.

California law permits public and private schools to issue permits to carry a firearm on school property and within 1,000 feet of a school without a state issued permit. If your school cannot find enough parents, teachers, administrators or volunteers from the community who are willing and able to defend your children at school, then remove your children from the school. Better yet, move. This will require a change in the way you have been doing things, but it should be obvious by now that going about doing things as usual isn’t working.

— Charles Nichols is president of California Right to Carry.

» on 12.26.12 @ 12:43 PM

Wow. Can’t believe you just made that absolute BLANKET statement about teachers and the USA education system (because it isn’t just elementary schools where this manner of violence has occurred, but also colleagiate, right?).  Wow.  Be ready for comments to your editorial!

You give the one example of Switzerland and how they, by their policies, reckon with gun problems, mental health and how the two intermix in regard to resulting violence.  There are also being presented other countries who have their way of having dealt with the gun problem, which provide an excellent counter argument to yours:  UK, Australia, Japan, and others.

» on 12.26.12 @ 01:37 PM

Both the UK and Australia passed blanket firearm ownership prohibitions and crime statistics have increased substantially. Not sure that using them as an example in support of gun control is a good one. Don’t know about Japan’s laws or statistics.

» on 12.26.12 @ 03:41 PM

We are not British, Australian or Japanese, that is the best counter argument. We are freedom loving Americans who believe it is better to be prepared to have and own a weapon and never have to use it than need one and not have it. What works in Switzerland may not work here, we are not Swiss and we are a far larger and more diverse population.

Living in a free country demands that we as individuals be far more responsible, knowledgeable, prepared and vigilant than those nanny coddled cultures where a large controlling government does that for you. Every time you acquiesce to a law to authority you are enslaved. The child, insecure and ignorant loves the warm comforting embrace of his mother. The adult learns to move about in an uncertain world on his own. You either grow up, face the reality of this earth we live on or die in that smothering embrace.

» on 12.26.12 @ 08:00 PM

“Most school teachers are not good people…”

Enough said. Thank you for vomiting your bag of bile all over the opinion page. I would guess that your mental health is not as good as you think.

The effectiveness of an evildoer is proportional to the tools he has at his disposal. Adam Lanza had military-grade weapons at his disposal because his mother was an angry, fearful person. Not unlike the author, I imagine.

There is no way that skinny, screwed up kid could have done so much damage if he had to use a knife, his hands, or his feet. A semi-automatic weapon with a 30-round clip is intended for a firefight, or a massacre. Not hunting, home protection, or sport shooting. Who is the firefight going to be with? The government?

What next, hand grenades? Should “moral” people be allowed to own those? How about flame throwers, RPGs, or Stinger missiles? I mean, if your duly elected government is the threat against which you arm, then these weapons will be needed, at a minimum.

Again and again, your “moral” people seem to bring up, and wittingly or unwittingly, arm a disproportionate number of psychotic children. Police yourselves, or the government will do it for you. Don’t expect the rest of us sit by and wait to get shot by your lunatic sons, just so you can live in a paranoid fantasy.

» on 12.26.12 @ 09:13 PM

Rambler, You are factually incorrect in your comment concerning “military-grade weapons.” Adam Lanza did not have “military-grade weapons” at his disposal; he had military “LOOKING” weapons. Semi-automatic rifles are normal weapons. Black guns with pistol grips may LOOK like the military version but the functional difference is that they are not fully automatic, i.e. “machine guns” which have been outlawed in the USA since the ‘30s. Your lack of familiarity of guns is apparent.

You say “There is no way that skinny, screwed up kid could have done so much damage if he had to use a knife, his hands, or his feet.” That is certainly true but what damage could he have caused with gasoline, homemade bombs, etc.

You really go off the deep end and lose any logic in your argument when you suggest that private gun owners will next want to obtain “hand grenades, flame throwers, RPGs, or Stinger missiles (which are designed solely to shoot down aircraft)” for self defense. That suggestion does not even merit an attempt to explain how absurd your suggestion is.

A discussion about the ways and methods to try to prevent tragedies such as the one in question will not be aided by name calling, as you employ, or mis-information and lack of understanding about facts which you also employ.

You might think about that before you send your next comment.

» on 12.27.12 @ 12:30 PM

Give some people enough rope and they are sure to hang themselves, and this longer-than-standard editorial proves that. What a sick mind Mr Nichols possesses. His comments about teachers are pure blatant sophistry absent even a hint of fact. Rambler and Suzanne you absolutely nailed that.

Mr Nichols you are a horribly conflicted individual. Your only solution is to let more and more people walk around with guns, yet you plainly don’t trust anyone but a few like-minded cranks to be qualified to own and operate one. Not even police, security guards or teachers are “good” enough for you (btw you forgot to include the massacre a few years ago that happened at an ARMY base. Not enough “good guys” with guns there, either, I suppose?).

You say “no law will ever prevent an evil or crazy person from doing an evil thing.” Why do we even have laws, then? Of course evil or psychopathic people will find a way to do evil things, but that’s no a reason to make it easier for them! If Adam Lanza’s mother had not been able to modify her weapon with a mass-murderer-sized magazine her son would not have been able to kill so many people. Laws might not have prevented that guy in NY from killing those firemen, unless he bought his weapons at a gun show where background checks are ignored in order to make a quick buck. If those gun shows were illegal it would be more difficult for some people to purchase guns, that’s a simple fact. It’s about increasing safety and making it more difficult for people to do stupid, evil, or unsafe things.
No one is saying any single idea will “solve” the problem by themselves, but when gun freaks like Nichols refuse to even include sensible gun laws and the public wherewithal to enforce them (by the way, one reason the ATF has so much trouble enforcing our current gun laws is because the NRA has used their political clout to hobble them) in the discussion, they simply prove how unqualified they are to even participate in rational dialogue.

» on 12.27.12 @ 12:57 PM

noleta res, When you cited the mass killing at the Army base at Fort Hood, TX you completely refuted your own argument regarding gun possession.

In fact, the individual that killed and wounded so many people was able to get away with shooting so many because the Army base was/is a GUN-FREE Zone.

You just assume that at an Army base all soldiers are armed. In fact the opposite is true. Because the military bases are controlled by the federal government, the entire base, including private living quarters, are mandated to be gun-free. All government AND PRIVATE firearms must be locked up in a secure armory.

So as you see, a killer knows he will have free reign where guns are prohibited (like at a military base, a school, etc.) because people there will be unable to defend themselves.

If you don’t believe me, read it for yourself at <>.

» on 12.27.12 @ 11:13 PM

No use arguing with idiots. Rambler and Noleta honestly believe you can make the world safe and danger free simply by making what they perceive as dangerous illegal. We live in a country that abides by the rule of law, unless you are insane or a criminal, in which case laws don’t matter. There is a way to deal with that and that is to strip all people in the country of their personal freedom. Rule by absolute authority commanded from the all mighty government. Or the alternative which is a prepared, knowledgeable, vigilant adult population that takes care of itself.

Rambler and Noleta, children in adult clothing, cannot fathom such a society. They instead seek the warm smothering embrace of the state to take care of them. The state armed and in charge will make sure they are safe from criminals and crazies, just like it did at Fort Hood.

With more than 300 million fire arms already in circulation, no amount of door kicking government confiscation will rid the land of these weapons. You may get most but never all and that means the danger of some crack pot lunatic getting one and spraying the innocent with projectiles will always be there.

Yet, as abundant data shows, those places where the safe, sane and law abiding are allowed to keep and bear those same weapons, the lunatics and criminals stay away. The knowledge that a vigilant and prepared citizenry is willing to defend itself against an act of terror is enough of a deterrent. And when it’s not at least that same citizenry is ready to fight back.

That is why conservatives and liberals alike are buying guns, high capacity clips and massive amounts of ammunition in record numbers as we sit here arguing. The basic need hard wired into our DNA to survive determines what people will do in these uncertain times, not some weak kneed platitudes by the children.

» on 12.28.12 @ 12:33 AM

One way to put our positions to the test is for all of those that think more gun ban laws and gun-free zones is the way we should go should show they way and put up a sign in front of their homes and businesses something like “No guns here or allowed on the premises.”

And all of the politicians that continue to cry out for more restrictions on the ability of citizens to have the means to defend themselves should lead the way by publicly dismissing their armed security details and giving up their concealed carry gun permits.

» on 12.28.12 @ 01:57 AM

Feelings of impotence are soothed by gun ownership. The more a person feels in control of their life, the less they generally need a gun.

Art and the Bishop, both well-meaning, both deluded. I have nothing against a well-regulated militia. Take the safety courses, pass the psyche evaluation, agree to keep the weapons under control at all times. Pay for liability insurance. Agree to be responsible for whatever is done with those weapons.

Then, own the gun. Not 30-round clips, but standard 5-round clips. Keep it on you, or lock it up. Nobody else gets the gun safe combo.

I suspect many of the gun freaks would fail the psyche eval, and that’s why they scream so loudly.

» on 12.28.12 @ 02:10 PM

I don’t know any “gun freaks”. Most gun owners I know are both conservatives and liberals, well trained, safety conscious and ardent opponents to most gun regulations spouted by puffed up intellectual narcissists who haven’t the spine to defend themselves from anything.

It doesn’t matter what tool I have or what accoutrements it is fitted with and it is none of your business either. When you and the rest of the confiscation and acquiescent crowd come to grips with the fact that dangerous people exist and if they want to kill you they will find a way, then you can join us at the range. Hone your skills, learn safety first hand and familiarize your self with one of the best personal defense tools available. Once that is done we can then try to figure out what to do about the growing number of menacing lunatics out there without stripping the good guys of that defense.

As for what I own and what it is capable of, better to have it and not need it then to need it and not have it.

» on 12.28.12 @ 06:27 PM

Rambler thinks that gun ownership is driven by “feelings of impotence” (which) “are soothed by gun ownership.” And “the more a person feels in control of their life, the less they generally need a gun.”

Well I’m here to tell you that I haven’t noticed a feeling of impotence and I believe that I am and have been in total control of my life. That is why I have been so successful in my career.

BUT, I will admit that I would never have gone up against the prowler that was half my age and outweighed me by about 50-70 pounds as I did several years ago if I wasn’t armed. I never had to pull the gun on him but was confident in my confrontation with him and while detaining him until the police arrived (quite a while later BTW). So is that what you mean by “soothing my impotence?”

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