A brief exchange on a cable TV news channel a week ago offered a thumbnail sketch of the dysfunctional gun control debate in the United States.
A young, male reporter asked a former police officer-turned security expert what could have been done to prevent the multiple murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The guest said gun-free zones created by state laws actually increase the chances of massacres. He told the news man that someone in authority in every school — a principal, a designated teacher or a security officer — should have access to a gun that could be used to confront a gunman.
The reporter sat with mouth open for a moment and then told the man that his comment would have people scratching their heads in disbelief. Apparently the reporter had not visited with his guest ahead of time. The broadcast journalist made his own gun-control thoughts known and seemed to expect his guest also was there to call for some form of limits on gun sales.
Look for more of the same in coming weeks and months.
After President Barack Obama announced last week that he wants "concrete proposals" to reduce gun violence by January, I'm betting that both sides in this debate will talk past each other as they have done for years.
Democrats are emboldened by last month's election results. They retained control of the Senate and the White House.
Republicans on the other hand are not defeated. They retained a strong majority in the House and have no intention of retreating on hot button issues.
Vice President Joe Biden said during his first meeting on finding a solution to gun violence that he favors a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. He was meeting with law enforcement officials and "disinvited" the press after a few minutes so his task force could have "frank discussions."
Frankly, the elimination of assault weapons would have a negligible effect on gun violence in the United States.
The FBI Crime Statistics from 2011 indicate that rifles of all types accounted for 323 homicides. Many of these rifles were .22 caliber small game guns or deer rifles and not military-style rifles.
By way of comparison, 1,694 homicides involved "knives and cutting instruments" and 728 were achieved through the use of "hands, fists, feet etc."
President Bill Clinton signed an assault weapons ban in 1994. It expired in 2004 and the crime rate, which had been falling, continued to fall. The ban did almost nothing.
Here's the point: If Congress, by some miracle, banned military look-alike rifles, it would give some Americans a warm feeling of security — false security.
There's little chance that Congress will do that.
If Congress required that every school have a weapon or two under lock and key and required that someone within the school be trained on how to confront an armed intruder, it would give pause to some people intent on murder.
That plan was put forward during Meet the Press by William Bennett, who was secretary of education under Ronald Reagan.
There also is little chance that Congress will do that.