Like many educators, the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida hit me hard. I went through every emotion. I was heartbroken for all involved. I was angry that this keeps happening, and just like all educators I wondered, "What would I do?" In fact, one post from Pernile Ripp (@PernileRipp) brought out the fact that tons of educators in this country have thought about how they will protect their kids if this happens at their school. The responses to Pernile range from what can they use as weapons, how will they hide their students, and how will they get their students out. There were even teachers who have purchased ways to break glass so that they can break the windows of their classroom. Why on god's green earth is this an issue in this country? Why are we letting students die in our schools? What are we going to do about it?
Let's get something out of the way first. This blog does trend into a political issue. If that's something that offends you, I am sorry. If you don't agree with my point of view, that's fine. If anything, see this as a question of "How are we going to keep kid's safe?" No matter where you stand on guns the question is the same for everyone, "What are we going to do about it?"
I think the thing that pisses me off about the situation in Florida is watching people play the blame game. I have seen folks question the school's security measures, student reporting, his parents, and even the authorities about preventing this former student from shooting others. Even the President of the United States effectively blamed people involved for this happening. We can't do that. Are there things that could have been done to prevent it? Possibly, but the only thing that will stem the epidemic is government intervention. No matter where you stand on guns, we just can't afford to sit back and do nothing. Our leaders have to do something, and it might come down to our education community forcing them into it.
The first thing the government can intervene on is guns. Gun rights activist cling to the 2nd amendment like it's the be all end all of the world. If that's your argument, just know this; our founding fathers would have been devastated to see what's happening in this country. The intent of that amendment goes back to the days of the American Revolution where colonist had to have arms to fight for their democratic freedoms. We HAVE that in this country. You vote to have a government of different viewpoints that works on compromise. If you are keeping an AR-15 because you think the government will violate your freedoms and you may have to take up arms, you are inherently going the opposite way from democracy. You are keeping that gun to ensure that everyone follows your viewpoint. That's not a democracy. It's something much worse. Above all, if you think an AR-15 will protect you from the armed forces, you are going to be sadly mistaken.
No one is saying that we need to ban things like hunting rifles and handguns, although I think there are even reforms that make those safer. What needs to be banned now are any weapons that are semi-automatic, automatic, or devices that simulate either (such as the bump stocks used in the Las Vegas shooting). The government will never be able to ban the ones that are already out there, but we can ban the sale and manufacture of them immediately.
There is no argument for semi-automatic, automatic, or devices that simulate that type of fire. If you are looking for a gun for protection, a handgun will do the trick. No one needs a gun to defend themselves from an army. If the argument for semi-automatic and automatic weapons is hunting, you are just a bad hunter. Hunting should be something that requires skill and practice with something like a hunting rifle, not something that shoots so many bullets you are bound to hit something. Ownership of these weapons comes down to just a selfish want of them. The only thing you can do with them is to shoot them at a range, so why not have licensed ranges that are the only places that can have them?
After you ban the sale, what can we do about the ones that are already out there? It will never fly in this country having the government go in and take them. Why not have a buyback program? Give owners $1000 for each one turned in. That's almost double the retail price of the weapon. I imagine you will get some. That won't entirely do the trick though as the $1000 still won't temp some.
Why not require the rest to have a gun ownership license? In fact, I think this would be effective for all gun owners. Just like a car, you would have to have a license to own and operate a firearm. That then puts the background check in the hands of law enforcement and not the gun seller. Law enforcement can then make informed decisions who can and who can not have a gun.
Last but not least, we should require gun owners to have insurance. Cars have it, why not guns? Insurance would naturally make gun ownership something that law-abiding citizens with jobs could afford. It also gives anyone injured by that firearm some way to recoup their loses. In fact, it could even help the gun industry as they could be the ones that sell that insurance. That's a load of money just waiting to be made.
For those that are playing the blame game, many are blaming the school's security procedures. Are there ways Stoneman could have been more secure? I am sure that is something that the Principal is thinking about constantly right now. The hard truth is that there was probably not much else that could have been done. Anyone who is taking that stance has never taught at a large high school
Stomeman Douglas is a 3,000 student high school with multiple buildings. Judging from news reports, they had two school resource officers and a security guard. The shooter was a former student who looked like he belonged, knew of the school's security plans, and at best there would have been only a handful of people in the building who knew he was a danger just by looking at him. Judging from reports, it seems he was expelled for bullet casings and threats against the school, but at best only 7 to 8 people knew the direct facts of his case because of student privacy laws. People and security intervening before this happened were very unlikely, and this is a school who had more security in place than most.
On the people based security note, I have seen several places advocate for arming teachers. To be very frank, that is one of the stupidest ideas I have ever heard. To start, by time an armed teacher realizes whats going and pulls their weapon, that shooter will have had time to kill others already. You also have the possibility of accidents and mistakes being made. Above all, why would we ask teachers to sacrifice themselves here? Even if they were to kill a shooter, there is always the possibility a teacher would die in a firefight. How could we let that happen? Please, don't advocate for this solution. If this is where we go, we have lost.
Are their adjustments to the building that could be made to keep him out? Well, possibly, but again those would be incredibly difficult. I saw one victim's mother say that metal detectors were the answer. In some instances, they could be, but for them to be effective, they desperately need trained staff not teachers to fill those roles. To get 3000 students into a school efficiently that would take a significant security staff. It's possible to make it happen, but the funding would be tough. Even if we did have them a shooter like the one in Florida would have just shot whoever was working the metal detector.
Can building procedures be more secure where we do things like lock all doors and keep kids inside? They can be, but is that what we want? I want my kids to be able to use outside as part of their instructional day. I want them to be able to have lunch in courtyards and play on playgrounds. If we become even tighter on school security procedures, those things might not be possible. The reality is that they may not even work anyway. In the Newtown shooting, they had those procedures. The shooter shot out glass and entered the building anyway. We also would have to deal with school buildings that are simply not built with these types of issues in mind. Schools should have procedures in place, but making them even tighter can start to have an adverse effect on our children.
One of the most significant places of blame is mental illness, and I agree that is an issue. There is alot that can be done. Before we start this conversation though, just remember President Trump rolled back restrictions on the mentally ill owning weapons in 2017. When we look at this shooter, he obviously needed treatment. Who was going to get it for him though? Most of the time the treatment for mental illness falls on the parent, and after his adoptive mother passed, he had no one he could depend on. What we desperately need is a psychiatrist in every building (especially high schools) who can actually take action with kids. There needs to be procedures to take those actions, but a school psychiatrist needs to be able to force hospitalization for mental illness in extreme cases. The best thing that could have happened to this former student would have been that. He would have gotten the help he needed, and he might not have viewed the school through a different lens.
In other instances (and at least intially here), blame has often been put at the feet of the parents. Parents often have a lot of blame to be taken, but we can not depend on an improvement in parenting to end this tide. Parents see their children through rose-colored glasses, and they try to do everything they can to handle children with serious mental illness. They have no training in that, and they often fail. If you need an example, just look at the Newtown shooter. His mother tried everything to reach her son, but she was also trying to do it all on her own. That individual did not get the help he truly needed, but judging from reports it was not a question of the mother not trying. We need to improve support for parents drastically. There needs to be a way for them to get support for managing disturbed children, and for that support to be able to set them straight when they don't see it. We can't depend on this step though, in the case of the Florida shooter he did not even have parents he could go to.
Students should always report threats they hear and they can stop many shooters in their tracks, but depending on that will never be enough. Many students don't have the life experience to know when someone is serious, and many of these shooters are such loaners that they may not even be able to tell that beforehand. We have to continue to educate students on reporting, but we can never depend on it either.
Where the blame can be placed somewhat is on law enforcement. In the days since the shooting, its become evident that the FBI had several tips warning about the shooter. In most cases though, they don't. In other instances, their hands are tied. We need reforms now on how our government prosecutes serious threats. We also need broad reform on what becomes part of background checks.
Law enforcement needs to be able to prosecute threats no matter the age level and no matter where they were posted on Social Media. This student had been making threats repeatedly on Social Media, yet he still passed a background check. If law enforcement could have seriously investigated and prosecuted the shooter for those threats, he might not have been able to get that AR-15. They dropped the ball on the investigation, but even if they hadn't, there would be little consequence to it. We have to change that.
I do believe digital lives should be able to be protected. Law enforcement should not have the ability to do things like unlocking your phone. That information can stay private. That should never apply to things put publicly on the internet. If someone went and screamed, "I am going to kill all of you" in the middle of the law, it would be seen as a terrorist threat, and there would have been real consequences. That type of behavior happens every day on the internet, and it is incredibly hard to give them the same punishment. I think its time we require entities like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and a host of others to help law enforcement track down these threats. If we did, the FBI might have been able to follow up more fully on the comment the shooter left on Youtube.
We also have to give law enforcement the knowledge base of what kids are actually capable of when there is a serious threat. Many times juvenile records are sealed, and school records are protected by student privacy laws. Don't you think if a student is seen as a danger to that school, that law enforcement should be able to see the total picture? If all of that information could be part of a background check, law enforcement can make informed decisions on where to investigate and can make informed decisions about who should not have a firearm. We have to give law enforcement the power to put together a profile of students who are a real threat. If we don't, they may not be able to see that threat.
This all comes down to, "What are we going to do?" We have to do something. We can't do nothing. If you believe common sense gun control is not the answer, then what is your solution? Please help us do something. This county is built on compromise, and it's time to find the one that saves kids lives. We are open to any solution that will help.
Personally, I am starting with my vote. I am pledging right now to not vote for anyone that takes money or has an A rating from the NRA. This even includes Senator Johnny Isakson from Georgia who my family has known for years. I interned in Washington for him 2003, and my sister got her Air Force Academy appointment from him. I would not have even met my wife without him (we met in DC as interns), but all of that does not matter because he has an A rating from the NRA. Unless he does something about this tide of school violence, he will never get my vote again. I encourage you to do the same. I just want him to do SOMETHING!
If you believe guns are not the issue, don't let that stop you from holding your elected official accountable. Make them do something, or VOTE them out of office. Don't let them do nothing. Advocate for your solution, but be willing to make compromises. This country was built on compromises, and if that's what we need to stop this violence, we need to come to that compromise quickly.