No Good Answers (Well, Some)

Seventeen children were gunned down in a high school in Parkland, FL, and the response was predictable. Liberals called for more gun restrictions. Conservatives called for more armed security guards at schools. Everyone simply dusted off the same political positions they have held dear since they began caring about politics. Parkland is in a heavily Democratic area of Florida, so it was no surprise that the students called for more gun control, a position they had undoubtedly learned from their left-leaning parents. All predictable. All routine.

We are a divided country because we would rather be loyal to our politics than be reasonable, nuanced, and objective. The guns/school shooting issue highlights this divide. And it’s not going away.

For what it’s worth, here is what I would do if I were in charge of all time and space.

  1. Ban all high magazine rifles. That doesn’t mean that all existing high magazine rifles will instantly disappear, but as a matter of principle, we should all agree that those guns have no useful purpose among the citizenry other than to kill lots of people at once. Hard core conservatives will say, “That’s a slippery slope. Once you start banning some guns, eventually you’ll ban all guns.” No, I won’t. The First Amendment guarantees the right of free speech…but it is not an absolute right. In 1919, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said that free speech does not cover someone “falsely shouting ‘fire’ in a theater and causing a panic.” And any speech that directly causes others to commit criminal acts is not covered, either. The First Amendment hasn’t evaporated simply because we restrict some speech. All rights have limitations. Putting regulations on certain weapons is consistent with how all the Bill of Rights are applied.
  2. Allow handguns to be purchased after instant background checks for anyone over 18. I don’t want any 18-year-old to have an AR-15. But I do want an 18-year-old woman who lives by herself to be able to purchase a handgun quickly to protect herself against a stalker. Liberals don’t like this. They say that no one under 21 should be able to purchase any gun, because one can’t buy a beer until he/she is 21. But that’s an apples to oranges argument. I can live with a gun every day for years and the gun itself will have no effect on my judgment at all.
  3. Require every new school to have at least two armed, trained security guards on campus during school hours. All existing schools must present a two-year plan to have increased security, or lose state and/or federal funding. Even after all these shootings, most schools have little to no security, and visitors are allowed entry into the schools without as much as a wink. That’s unacceptable.
  4. Do not allow teachers to carry weapons. I like armed teachers…in theory. What I don’t like is students knowing that there are loaded weapons in the building that they don’t have to pay for and they don’t have to bring into the building. On balance, I would err on the side of teachers not having weapons. Leave the guns to the trained officers who are patrolling the building.
  5. Any student who makes a threat–whether serious or joking–will be expelled from school and be charged with a felony. Words have meaning. Threats are not free speech. If you act like a potential shooter, you will be treated as a potential shooter.

Here’s the thing: None of these ideas–individually or collectively–will end school shootings forever. That’s the problem when these issues are debated–each side thinks that if their idea would just be implemented, shootings would end overnight. But they won’t. Hey, murder has been illegal forever. Has the law against murder prevented murder? Nope, but the law has prevented many more murders from happening. Laws do not eliminate crime; they just represent how a society views certain activity.

My list addresses the gun issue and the security issue. A little bit of both. I think it’s a reasonable list of proposals. I think they are things that can be done without an incredible inconvenience or cost to local law enforcement or schools. But that’s just me. What do I know?

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