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Fear Sells

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There’s no way of knowing for certain how much ink, airtime, and bandwidth has been dedicated to the topic of firearms since the school shooting in Connecticut in December. Suffice it to say it’s been a huge amount.

What’s come to the surface in the aftermath — once again — is an irrational fear of all things related to firearms. Even talking about a toy can get a person into trouble.

Consider this from Reuters. A 5-year-old girl, a kindergartner, from Mount Carmel, Pa., was suspended from school for talking about getting home and playing with her toy bubble gun.

While waiting for a bus after school, the girl reportedly said: “I’m going to shoot you and I will shoot myself, and we’ll all play together.”

An adult overheard the girl and reported her to school officials.

She wasn’t talking about an Uzi, AK-47, TEC-9 or even a BB gun — not even a cap gun — but a Hello Kitty bubble gun. It only shoots soap bubbles, and she didn’t even have one with her. She was only talking about playing with the toy once she got home.

Brave adults even searched the girl, but she was clean. No gun or bubble soap was found in her bag or on her person. She was suspended anyway. The girl’s mother wants to transfer her daughter to another school, but the new school won’t accept her because of the allegation that the girl made a terroristic threat.

All of us, even those without kids, had a stomach-wrenching reaction to the news of the Sandy Hook shootings, but some people need a severe reality check here.

Not as bad as the reaction in Mt. Carmel, but still paranoid, was the reaction of school officials in Cape Cod, Mass., when a 5-year-old boy made a model gun from Legos during an after-school program.

There was no suspension, but the boy’s parents received a letter saying that he could face suspension if he had to be warned again for “using toys inappropriately.”

According to the story, the principal at Hyannis West Elementary told reporters that the school is just trying to maintain a safe environment for the kids.

“While someone might think that making a Lego gun is just an action of a 5-year-old, to other 5-year-olds, that might be a scary experience.”

Five-year-olds understand that play is play. Likely it’s the hypersensitive, politically correct adults who get freaked out.

And now there’s a story out about a high school in Chicago that held a shooting drill, similar to the traditional fire drill. One of the differences, however, is that this drill started with two deans firing starter pistols in the hallway.

According to MyFoxChicago.com, the “code red”  drill at Cary-Grove High School would require teachers to secure their classrooms, draw shades, and lock the door. Police would then swarm the building.

“The district says the drill is designed to prepare students to deal with a school shooting, and will help familiarize them with the sound of gunfire,”  the report said.

“Kids are able to hear it and know what it might sound like so they can react more quickly if a situation like that were to arise,”  the principal was reported to have said.

What has some people concerned is not that there would be such a drill, but that there would be the sound of gunfire.

The drill aims to teach students what real gunshots sound like, as opposed to firecrackers and car backfires. (Yes, there are better ways, like getting the kids to a range and teaching them to shoot, but there’s likely no way a public school would do that.)

Even the talking heads on the local Fox affiliate in Philadelphia are rattled. While one said the drill was a good idea, the rest of the morning show crew were appalled that gunfire — even from blanks — was used. They were in agreement with a response on Twitter that suggested students would need therapy because of the sound of the firearms.

This, too, is an overreaction based on an unjustified fear of firearms, a fear that’s being fanned by those who want to blame guns for the wrongdoings of some people and by others who want a disarmed populace.

Libertarians, and others who understand the right to self-defense — even against one’s own government — can talk all we want to about the reason for and value of the Second Amendment. We can be as eloquent as humanly possible — as so many columns have been — but rational thought and eloquence don’t always fare well against irrational fears.

Fear sells, especially in a statist society. It sells to the gullible the idea that more government is needed to keep them safe, that freedom kills kids. And the fearful eat it up. We have a lot of work to do to overcome the irrational.

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    Rich Schwartzman is managing editor at Chadds Ford Live in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.