Almost a year ago, a 20-year-old man walked into an elementary school in Connecticut and shot 20 school children and six adult staff members.
Since then, nearly 40,000 Oregonians—a number about half the population of Bend—have taken the time to apply for, and receive, a concealed weapon permit. During that same period of time—and for that matter, over the past 15 years since Kip Kinkel sprayed a school cafeteria in Springfield with bullets and killed two students—lawmakers have fidgeted with gun control laws, but made no significant changes. In Oregon, yes, applicants for concealed weapon permits are required to complete a gun safety class, but a 15-day waiting period has been dropped for instant criminal background checks (although, ironically, because of the soaring demand for concealed weapon permits, the wait has, de facto, stretched to nearly three months). Those sort of changes are essentially re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic—and offer no real solutions to the very real problem of shootings on school grounds.
In the near year since shootings at the Clackamas Town Center and in Sandy Hook, Conn., Deschutes County has been issuing concealed weapon permits at an alarming rate—a reported 300 each month; the equivalent of 10 each day. The number of concealed weapon permits in Deschutes County now exceeds 10,000—or, one for every 16 residents.
That number parallels state averages: Oregon State Police report one in 15 adults now hold a concealed weapon permit—a 50 percent increase since 2008, the year after a senior at Virginia Tech shot and killed 32. And regionally, these are the same trends: One in 12 adults in Washington hold a concealed weapon permit; in Idaho, the number is one in 16.
In issuing these permits, all three states in the Pacific Northwest follow roughly the same so-called "shall-issue" guidelines, a lax consideration which favors giving a permit to the person requesting. (Conversely, California follows "may-issue" rules, meaning the requestor must make a persuasive case for why he or she wants one. The difference is that only one in 550 adults there hold a concealed weapon permit; one-twentieth the ratio here.)
While some gun advocates argue that an increasingly armed citizenry will lead to a more regulated and safe environment, that rationale smacks us as a sort of Cold War mentality, stock piling so that fear instead of neighborly sentiments regulate our safety.
But, regardless of our opinions, the trend is towards more guns, without substantially changing gun control laws.
In the aftermath of 26 children and teachers killed last December, President Obama lamented that if that tragedy—and several other shootings in 2012—could not bring about sensible legislation, nothing could. A year later, nothing has happened, legislatively speaking.
In that vacuum of elected leadership, several private companies have set forward their own rules—most notably, last month, Starbucks announced that it was reversing an informal policy to allow patrons to carry concealed weapons into their coffeeshops.
But the most concerning debates are happening where it matters the most—at public schools and universities. In Oregon, guns ostensibly are not allowed on school grounds, but the law also provides an exception for concealed weapons. Likewise, the State Board of Education had banned weapons from campuses, but a state appeals court in 2011 knocked down that restriction. Point being: Nothing is being done to set forth reasonable and reasoned laws to manage gun ownership, while gun ownership soars.
We at the Source recognize that no matter how much editorializing we and other media outlets do, without political leadership to fashion reasonable laws—mental health checks, assault weapon bans—there will only be future schoolyard shootings. And, what's more, those laws won't exist unless some leadership truly steps forward with real suggestions.
That leadership does not exist. Sadly, we don't even know to whom to give the Boot.