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Living in Montana while the national debate on gun control hits a boiling point definitely provides a different perspective than in many other less rural states. Tens of thousands of Montanans head into the field every year to hunt big game to fill their freezers and feed their families for the next year. One of the most common topics of discussion in any local watering hole is likely to be about hunting and fishing, the guns or gear, and the ones that did or didn’t get away — but not about “poppin’ a cap” on fellow Montanans.

Because Montanans are so familiar with firearms, it seemed natural to turn to friends for their ideas on what can be done to prevent future incidents of mass shootings that are occurring all too frequently across the nation. As one might expect, many of their thoughts echo the national debate and the political maelstrom — with the main difference being that Montanans, by and large, actually know what they’re talking about when it comes to guns.

Arming teachers? That drew a zero. For one thing, teachers are hired to teach, not to shoot people. For another thing, most of those I spoke with thought it was flat-out idiotic that a teacher with a handgun would somehow be able to stop a determined shooter with a high-capacity semi-automatic rifle. And given that bulletproof vests are readily available and have been used in mass shooting incidents, it was generally thought to be suicidal for a teacher to face such an armed and armored opponent — despite President Trump’s vastly uninformed opinion that armed teachers would have “shot the hell” out of the Florida gunman.

Then there was the contention that since we have armed guards in banks and airports, it would make sense to have armed guards in schools to protect our precious children. While that position makes a lot more sense than arming teachers, there are definite drawbacks. For one thing, there was an armed guard in the Florida high school last week — but he preferred to remain out of the building rather than take on the rifleman slaughtering his schoolmates. And then there’s the sad image of an America so violent and paranoid that we have to send our impressionable young children to school under armed guard.

In the meantime, in a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, Trump bellowed out that Democrats were going to get rid of the Second Amendment. It’s common knowledge that Trump has no idea how government works, but apparently he doesn’t even understand what it would take to repeal the Second Amendment. He might want to check on the Equal Rights Amendment, which was passed by Congress in 1972 and is still, 46 years later, two states short of the 38 states necessary to ratify it. Yet another uninformed, divisive and baseless threat from Trump that does absolutely nothing to actually solve mass shootings.

Perhaps it’s time we acknowledge that the real problem is our violent society, where shooting people is often portrayed as a heroic action and conducting endless wars is glorified on a daily basis. Admitting American society has an addiction to violence is not something most politicians are willing to do, as evidenced by Trump’s clueless proclamations. But if we truly want to reduce mass shootings and not just play partisan politics, it’s time to face the reality that nothing short of instilling peaceful and respectful coexistence must be our ultimate national goal — and we’re a long way from that.

George Ochenski writes from Helena. His column appears each Monday on the Missoulian's Opinion page. He can be reached by email at

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