S ince the shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., almost a month ago, where 20 students between the ages of 5 and 10 and six adults were killed, there have been a lot of ideas expressed about how to prevent it from happening again.
Most of those ideas are regurgitated after every mass shooting. Certainly we've heard them expressed after every school shooting since the Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colo., in 1999, when 13 people were killed.
And there have been 31 school shootings since Columbine.
Truth is, in the last dozen years or so, there have been twice as many school shootings in America as in all other countries combined.
So it seems fairly clear the rest of the world is doing something right or we're doing something terribly wrong in this country when it comes to keeping guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them.
I don't have an answer. In fact, I'm not convinced there is an answer. It seems pretty obvious to me that anyone with a screw loose and properly motivated to do harm to an innocent person or persons can figure out a way to make that happen.
With a gun, or by any of a couple dozen other methods of committing murder and mayhem if he/she so chooses.
A York-area gun shop owner, Steve Dobson, made the point that the Sandy Hook shooter could just as easily have waited until after school and then driven his car into a group of students, killing as many or more than he did with guns.
Clearly, that's true.
So I'm not sure more gun laws or gun restrictions will solve the problem. Unless, that is, we all agree to give up our guns -- the air will be filled with flying pigs, monkeys and giraffes before that happens.
What is the solution then? Well, the one thing that does make sense to me is to eliminate the sale of military-style weapons and ammunition to private citizens. No one needs to have that kind of firepower in their home.
Hunting rifles, yes. Guns used for recreational shooting, yes. Revolvers for personal protection, yes.
Beyond that, however, I'm at a loss.
Dobson seems to think the solution to the school shooting problem might be to put a gun into the hands of every teacher in every school in America.
"It's an awful thing, but if there was one teacher in that school with a gun, that (the Sandy Hook shootings) could've been prevented," he said a few days after the incident. "He (the teacher) could've protected the kids. If you can't trust a teacher with a gun, can you trust a teacher with your kid?"
Well, as a matter of fact, I can.
I had a lot of teachers in my younger days, and my children and grandchildren have had and now have teachers, too. And to be quite honest, I don't think I'd trust many of them with guns in their hands.
I certainly wouldn't want to see teachers walking the halls or teaching class with a gun strapped to their hip.
Because it's not within the skill set of most teachers to be proficient at handling/shooting guns or facing off against an armed assailant.
So unless they get the same training with firearms that police officers get, I don't want to see them patrolling our schools with revolvers at the ready.
Even if they do get the training, I'm not enthusiastic about having guns in our schools unless they're being carried by a police officer. And to be honest, I think that sends the wrong message, too.
Yet I know public safety and school safety is in the forefront of our collective minds right now. And for good reason.
Like I said, I don't have an answer to this problem, either. I'm struggling to come up with a solution just like everyone else is.
One thing for sure: As long as we're going to be a country where people are not only allowed to buy firearms, but are encouraged to do so as a matter of constitutional right, we're going to have this problem on some level.
Because people not of their right mind or those with a mean spirit can gain access to guns without buying them.
In Newtown, Conn., for example, the shooter used guns purchased by and owned by his mother. He shot his mother with her own guns, then turned those guns on the students/teachers in the school where his mother worked.
All the gun laws in the world couldn't have prevented that from happening.
I'm not convinced that vastly improved services by mental health providers could have prevented it, either.
Because there are 315 million people living in America, and sometimes people fall through the cracks or get lost in plain sight. It just happens.
And there aren't enough police officers to be everywhere or see everything when bad things are happening. That's just a fact of life.
Given a choice, I'd much rather live in a world where there are no guns and no need for them. But that's never going to happen.
So I guess -- and it truly bothers me to say this -- when it comes to protecting ourselves and our own, the logical response might be to purchase a gun and keep it close at hand.
Not in our classrooms. But certainly in our homes.
For those times when the police are not close enough in the heat of the moment to be of much help.
That, or you could pray for luck.
Or spend the rest of your days living in a bullet-proof bubble.
Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.