Byrd: Bulletproof blankets won't fix the problem

BY MATTHEW BYRD | JUNE 19, 2014 5:00 AM

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Designed by the Oklahoma-based manufacturer ProTecht, the Bodyguard Blanket “is a bulletproof pad designed to protect students during disasters at school,” according to an interview conducted by The Oklahoman on June 7.

The purpose of these blankets? ProTecht hopes to sell them to schools to help protect school children in the event of a tornado or, also listed, a mass shooting.

In Muscatine, an inventive teacher named Daniel Nietzel has created a device called “The Sleeve.” It is a carbon sleeve that is able to apply 500 pounds of pressure on classroom doors knob, preventing it from being opened by a person with a gun and a motive.

In the year and a half since the small Connecticut town of Newtown became a symbol for American mass shootings, there has been about one incident of gun-related violence per week, according to data compiled by Everytown for Gun Safety. These include the Seattle Pacific shooting (one dead, two wounded), Reynolds High School right outside Portland, Oregon, (one dead, one wounded), and UC-Santa Barbara killings in Isla Vista, California, (seven dead, 14 wounded).

Mass shootings, and particularly school shootings, are now just another trope in American life, a simple heuristic to be used when delineating the fundamental traits of American culture. We have Westerns, football, the Fourth of July, hamburgers, hot dogs, and mass killings done via firearms.

This is, of course, an entirely voluntary choice. We know how to stop mass shootings. We’ve always known. Incredibly stringent gun control. Universal background checks, assault-weapon bans, a ban on high-capacity magazines, longer waiting periods on gun purchases, ending concealed carry for handguns.

It worked in Australia, where after the horrific Port Arthur massacre, which took the lives of 35 Australians, the conservative government passed some of the world’s most restrictive gun laws. There hasn’t been a mass killing since. It worked in the United Kingdom. After the Scottish Dunblane massacre, in which a man armed with handguns murdered 16 children, handgun ownership was banned. The UK has one of the lowest gun death rates on the planet. The United States has 20 times the gun-death rate of any other developed nation, according to the Unnited Nations.

It’s easy to point the blame at the fanatical NRA, which warns of a government-sponsored holocaust as the ultimate outcome of even mild gun-control legislation. It’s easy to point the blame at Republican politicians, who see any attempt at enacting American gun control as a descent into tyranny, and it’s easy to point the blame at Democratic politicians too cowardly to even slightly risk their political fortunes in favor of implementing sensible public policy. When universal background checks failed in the Senate last year in a 54-46 vote — a product of the Senate’s undemocratic filibuster — the six votes that killed it were Democratic dissenters.

But ultimately, in an open, democratic society, the blame lies on the American people. On us. We don’t want gun control, we’re not going to force our leaders to give it to us, and we’ve even come to accept mass shootings as a routine part of American life. Sales of ProTecht’s bulletproof blanket have skyrocketed, beating the manufacturer’s expectations. Nietzel’s “Sleeve” is being installed on every door at Muscatine Community College while the invention awaits a patent.

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