On April 20th most people who support legalized marijuana will be celebrating a famous police code by getting high. For the rest of us, particularly those of us who are outcasts, who were bullied or care about the current gun discussion, we will be marking the 19th anniversary of something we should not celebrate: The Columbine High School Massacre that left 15 people dead and many people searching for answers.
It was certainly not the first -You’d have to go back to before the Revolutionary War with Enoch Brown that left 10 dead in 1764 for that, according to Wikipedia. ( The link to “School Shootings in the United States” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_shootings_in_the_United_States ) It was, however, one of the first of the modern era, one of the first since Enoch to see double-digit deaths, and one of the first of many School shootings in the last 2 decades. (For reference: I graduated from high school in 1996, and this was the third major shooting since I graduated, behind Jonesboro and West Paducah.)
As I type this it has been almost a week since the most recent major news shooting, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that left 17 people dead. Like most other shootings, debate sparked up on blogs, social media websites like Facebook and Twitter, and most news broadcasts. Unlike most shootings, many of the students have become very vocal, using their cellphones to capture and spread the incident, social media to organize rallies and marches against gun violence, and calling one lawmakers to finally take some action.
I’ve been a vocal component of a minority: The people who oppose bans of any form but who want actions taken. The bans part is not to be taken lightly: among the most popular responses I see by politicians, depending on your political affiliation, is gun control, mass media (TV/Movies/Music/Video Games), and Mental Health. According to the Washington Post (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/10/26/gun-control-americans-overwhelmingly-blame-mental-health-failures-for-mass-shootings/?utm_term=.d28466010a56), more Americans see Mental Illness as the biggest cause, while Fortune Magazine and a new Washington Post/ABC News poll finds Congress and the President at fault. (Fortune Magazine – http://fortune.com/2018/02/20/florida-school-shooting-donald-trump-congress-mass-shootings/, Washington Post – https://www.washingtonpost.com/page/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2018/02/20/National-Politics/Polling/release_513.xml?tid=a_mcntx) Obviously, we can’t ban mental illness, but guns have been on the Democratic Party’s line-of-sight (pardon the pun) for almost as long as violent games, music, movies and TV have been the focus of the Republican Party.
Both types of bans would obviously violate the first and second amendments – but more than that, they would block the intended purposes of those amendments: To be able to voice and protect yourself from opposing governments – even our own.
That doesn’t mean, however, that nothing can or should be done – in fact, much of the problem we have with mass shootings now stems from us doing nothing, save for the occasional “thoughts and prayers” by those who have the power to change things. Something has to change.
If you follow me on FB you know most of the stuff I’ve posted has been liberal-based, calling for Gun Control, sharing ideas that could be implemented, and – when necessary – voicing opposition to those people who call for an outright ban. Much of this blog post, therefore, is going to lightly gloss on anything relevant here: This is more for the things I have yet to post or say online, those things that haven’t been discussed in greater context.
1. DO NOT DISMISS THESE STUDENTS
Something to keep in your mind as we discuss this: THIS INCIDENT IS STILL FRESH TO THEM. This didn’t happen to somebody else: They were witness to it, unwilling participants in a sick 19-year-olds game. (By sick, I mean both definitions that would apply here.) As time passes they may cool down or not be as active as they are now – but this is the swarm that follows when you take a stick to a wasp nest unprotected.
It disgust me that people are either using this knowledge to argue against their protests and organizing, or that people try to discredit them at all, even with video on social media. Fox News interviewed some of those students, then followed it up with analysys by Rush Limbaugh – arguing AGAINST the students. (A transcript of that can be found here: http://www.foxnews.com/transcript/2018/02/18/rush-limbaugh-reacts-to-parkland-school-shooting.html ) It doesn’t surprise me in the least – these students are demanding gun reform, which goes against the conservative view.
It’s easy to do “armchair governing” (Thank you Rob Ti for the term) online and try to twist their view to your political beliefs – but it’s best to take these students seriously, to not downplay, twist, or call false their claims or what they call for. The victims of the previous mass shootings didn’t deserve it, the 17 dead in this shooting don’t deserve it, and these students, teachers and parents crying out now don’t deserve it.
2. Veterans and Teachers with Guns in School
I shared an image over the weekend with a number of laws that could be implemented that didn’t include an outright ban, and got into a heated discussion with a former boss (another Rob, not the one above) about those viewpoints. (Him and I get into some typically heated discussions whenever I post anything he disagrees with.) One argument I made that I couldn’t easily back: conservative suggestions that could have been made to law regarding the matter.
In truth, there aren’t many things I’ve seen on this point that I’ve liked: Most of these shootings didn’t involve “terrorists” or “foreigners,” they were white American males; keeping “God” and religion out of school isn’t the reason or the solution to the problem; banning mass media will never be a solution; and allowing more open concealed carry opens a greater risk to anyone in a given area. (How good would you feel killing an innocent bystander in trying to protect a school, mall, other public building?)
There is a solution I do like, that would be a great idea to implement and get the public backing: hiring veterans, off-duty police officers, and other armed security to help prevent further shootings.
Since I often see this paired with “armed Teachers” and concealed carry, let me be clear: We really shouldn’t be arming anyone with a close proximity to kids. Anyone who works with kids can express how easy it is to lose control of a situation, how some kids – many of whom aren’t disciplined properly by their parents – ignore other adults when they try to take charge, and how determined some kids are not to cooperate. Outside adults often don’t have enough authority or legality to step in, and even if that were changed and we trained them with firearms many teachers often work too close to students to take that chance. All you need is that one students, in a fit of anger or depression, swipe the gun from the teacher, and you suddenly have an armed student. NOT. A. GOOD. IDEA.
These factors play much better to military, first responders, and armed security: While they’d need to be close enough to stop a shooting, they don’t need to be so close to any students who might attempt such stunts all of the time. You also save money by not having to pay teachers to arm themselves – no unnecessary training, guns or ammo wasted. The people there would already be trained in these circumstances as part of their military, police, and security training – which would be more training than someone getting a “concealed carry” permit and gun.
There is one more reason to do this, though: Good PR. Police officers have been given a bad rap because of the atrocities that lead to the Black Lives Matter movement. Having a few people representing those police and military aspects in the schools during the lunches where students can talk with them may give a positive presence towards them, and may even convince a few more people into those professions.
(Because this would be good publicity, BTW, I suggest the funding come from the Department of Defense – If the Department of Education can’t afford to give the teachers the money for the supplies they need, how else will they be able to pay these trained professionals? There’s only a limited number of those who can afford the time needed for the job!)
The only major drawback – apart from the government possibly bungling this like a crackhead burrito – is one of the same as for the teachers: making sure not to put people there that don’t belong. Someone suffering from severe PTSD, for example, may have an “episode” in school – being armed, that could put a lot of people in danger. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (https://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/PTSD-overview/basics/how-common-is-ptsd.asp), 7-8 out of every 100 people in the U.S. will suffer from PTSD – even with a limited base of about 3-4 military/police per school, there’s a good chance of one of those “undiagnosed” veterans becoming a danger to themselves and others.
This is obviously not a foolproof plan – as you may have discovered, none of the suggestions so far are. However, in the arsenal of tools that could be amassed to deal with this mass shooting situation, this one may be the most effective.
3. Other Options Already Discussed in One Form or Another on Facebook
As I said, some of this was talked about on FB already – I’m only going to cover the highlight reel:
- 14 Day Waiting Period – There is no current federal waiting period to purchase a gun, although 10 states (including both of my homes in IL and WI) and the District of Columbia have them. The reason why I’ve always heard we had them was to prevent that impulse buy as a reaction to a stressful event. I realize 2 weeks is a long wait, but that’s plenty of time to conduct a more thorough background check, and catch any red flags (such as the FBI Debacle involving the Florida shooter) we could miss.
- Minimum Age to Purchase at 18 – The picture I shared suggested 21; however, you’re eligible for the military when you’re 18, which is why I suggest that age instead. This should go towards real weapons, as well as the “toys” – airsoft, paintball, etc. – where you could learn real shooting from. This is another “regulated by state” that should become federal.
- Universal Background Checks – This should be a no-brainer: Giving someone who’s shown violent tendencies, erratic or abnormal behavior shouldn’t be allowed to own a gun. That should extend to parents as well: A few of the shooter’s parents, including the one from Sandy Hook, had a parent supplying some of their weapons.
- Domestic Violence Ban – this doesn’t have nearly as much of an effect (that I could find as of this writing) on mass shootings, but it ties directly to the Universal Background Checks, and affects many domestic partners in abusive relationships. The same type of aggression applies, with the target being the same difference.
- Enforcement of Current Media Policy, and Age Restrictions on Certain Types of Media – This goes against my core beliefs, against many articles I have found (most recently from Rolling Stone – https://www.rollingstone.com/glixel/features/video-games-school-shootings-w516863 – and The Conversation – http://theconversation.com/its-time-to-end-the-debate-about-video-games-and-violence-91607 ) and the knowledge it will have on all of the media industries – but we need to start enforcing age restrictions on certain types of games, movies, and TV. While I would prefer the parent do their job to ensure that little Johnny doesn’t pick out the wrong message from “American History X” or “Call of Duty,” some people on the sales floor aren’t doing their due diligence to make sure not to sell to a minor. There’s no sense in having rules you won’t keep.
- Removal of the Dickey Amendment – ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dickey_Amendment_(1996) ) A problem that exists with Marijuana also exists with guns: You can’t research or advocate gun control. This HAS to be reversed if anything serious is going to happen.
Again, none of these individually will be a quick fix – but implementing them in combination may narrow the number of shootings we have to almost nil, if any.
The Most Important Thing – ACTION
The thing that has me more vocal now than before is that we’ve had plenty of time to learn, to speak up, to take notice, and to create action. What many people are pissed off about, however, is that lack – some of these suggestions have already been in and out of the legislative branch, to no avail. Many people online are attacking “Thoughts and Prayers” – something spoken by many a politician in recent years.
We’re not entirely powerless – we elect the people who represent us in government, who make the laws and lay the foundation of rules we follow. We have the ability to communicate with those representatives regarding this matter, and the ability to assist police and the FBI in preventing future killings.
The survivors of the Florida shooting are going an extra mile, utilizing mass and social media to bring awareness and attention to an already burning powderkeg. Rather than attacking each other based on political beliefs, we should be united under the demand that action is taken and something is done.
None of this discussion matters if nothing is done. If we want to change, the time is now to take action.