Montana Shooting Sports Association leader decries gun-free zones
Gary Marbut’s phone is ringing all the time these days with calls from national news organizations, along with lawmakers and citizens.
As some gun rights advocates call for increased firearms control, and others clam up entirely, Marbut is the go-to guy for quotes about maintaining the status quo or – better yet, he’d say – loosening gun regulations.
“I hear people say there needs to be a national dialogue about these bad guns,” said Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association. “I would respond to them to say I think there needs to be a national dialogue about the horrible public policy failure of the alleged gun-free zones. That’s the dialogue.”
Marbut is hardly alone in opposing gun-free zones. But for the past few days he’s been largely on his own as a gun advocate speaking openly about his positions in the aftermath of the shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school that took the lives of 20 children and six adults.
The National Rifle Association took down its Facebook page after the shooting. The page went back up Tuesday, with a statement from NRA President Wayne LaPierre saying “we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting,” and adding that the NRA will offer “meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.” Pierre promised a “major” news conference Friday.
The Newtown-headquartered National Shooting Sports Foundation (not affiliated with Marbut’s group) posted a short statement on its website Friday, the day of the shooting:
“Our hearts go out to the families of the victims of this horrible tragedy in our community. Out of respect for the families, the community and the ongoing police investigation, it would be inappropriate to comment or participate in media requests at this time.”
On Tuesday, it expanded upon that, pointing out that in a small community like Newtown, “not suprisingly, we had family, friends and acquaintances that were affected. We are weighed down by their heartbreaking stories and the sorrow that has blanketed our community.” That statement reiterated the group’s decision not to publicly discuss the issue.
Marbut said Tuesday that three issues require focus in the aftermath of the Newtown massacre: Perspective. Armed teachers. And gun-free zones.
He’s strongly in favor of the first two, and just as vehemently opposed to the last.
In terms of perspective, he likened the odds of a child being injured by “an insane active shooter” to being hit by lightning. In 2011, 240 people were injured by lightning and 39 died, according to the National Weather Service.
This year, the shootings in Newtown, at a Christian college in California and at a school cafeteria in Oregon killed a total of 36 people.
Marbut suggested that people concerned about protecting children might, “in a more rational world,” want to focus on the far greater risks posed by automobiles and water, he said. The Centers for Disease Control lists accidents as the leading cause of death for people ages 5 to 24. The second-leading cause for those ages 5 to 14 is cancer; for 15- through 24-year-olds, it’s homicide, according to the CDC.
As for arming teachers – and Marbut stressed that should be on a volunteer basis only – “if we believe that the potential for crazy people to shoot up schools is a genuine risk we need to address, then the rational way to do that … is to allow, through public policy, teachers who are willing to undertake the responsibility” to carry.
On Monday, Virginia Gov. Gov. Bob McDonnell, R-Va., told a local radio station that a discussion is needed on arming teachers.
One school district in Texas has been allowing teachers to carry for years. Superintendent David Thweatt told Fox News in 2008 that “we are seeing a lot of anger in society. … When you make schools gun-free zones, it’s like inviting people to come in and take advantage.”
Marbut said such zones defy logic, requiring the belief that “some madman who will ignore the most profound prohibition for any society, the prohibition against taking innocent life … somebody who has crossed all those stark lines would get to the edge of a gun-free zone and think to himself, ‘They have a policy against guns here, so I’d better go home and play computer games.’ ”
“Anyone who believes that,” Marbut added, “needs help.”
When it comes to the Newtown shootings, Marbut said that “like everybody else, I was stunned that a human being could be so crazy as to do something like that.”
That was his first reaction. His second?
“I wish I could’ve been there. If I had been there, it would have been one (victim) and done.”
Reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268, firstname.lastname@example.org or @CopsAndCourts.