Peeling Back the Layers on School Shootings

As soon as news broke about the most recent school shooting in Florida, the debate about gun control began. There were immediate calls for gun sales to be restricted, for stronger background checks, etc. Within a few days, CNN held a town hall style meeting where an emotional audience and the local sheriff went on the attack against the NRA. Social media was inundated with calls for gun bans and answering defenses of the second amendment. At the outset, guns were the obvious cause, and both sides responded. I will come back to this.

Soon after this initial knee jerk reaction, information about this specific instance began to come to light. There was a sheriff’s deputy outside the school that stayed outside. The shooter had had 39 visits from various law enforcement agencies over the years. The FBI had been told that this guy was reported to them as a potential school shooter. Even as this information began trickling out, one of the students present at the shooting was making the rounds of talk shows, vilifying the NRA. (I don’t believe a seventeen-year-old becomes an expert on gun control simply because he was present at the shooting, by the way. It’s too bad that he can’t see that he’s a pawn.)

Information continued (and continues) to flow. There were four sheriff’s deputies that never entered the school. EMTs weren’t allowed to go in and treat the injured. The sheriff’s department had failed to make a report by someone who called in a warning about the shooter. The shooter had actually attempted to turn himself in at one point.

Over the last two days I’ve heard two stories which contend that law enforcement has declined to charge and arrest teenagers for various offenses because in one instance, the Department of Justice under Obama wanted fewer minorities in prison, and in the other instance, Florida school districts wanted fewer students in jail, but in school instead. The motivation for the DOJ seems to be political correctness or social justice. There are too many minorities in prison. Therefore, arrest and convict fewer. That’ll solve the problem.

There appear to be a few motivations behind the school districts keeping more kids in school. The first is money. Fewer kids in attendance means less money for the schools. The other seems to be for job security for politicians who can claim that their district is successful in keeping kids in school and out of trouble. At best these motivations are shortsighted or ignorant. At worst, they’re evil.

The results speak for themselves. If a kid like the shooter is never arrested, there is no criminal record to be found when he goes to buy guns. Additionally, he’s on the street able to commit bad acts, instead of behind bars.

Other possible contributing factors have been discussed when it comes to this particular shooter. He had mental health problems. This starts a discussion about whether there is enough support for students with mental illness in the schools. The shooter’s mother died. He had a bad home life. Do families matter that much?

It’s obvious that there has been a breakdown of some sort in the way the Broward County Sheriff’s office handles active shooting calls. If either or both of the stories I read about law enforcement not arresting teenagers for political or monetary reasons is true, this indicates serious institutional flaws that need to be corrected immediately.

I don’t believe this is the end of the story of what happened and of who the bad actors are. I believe Broward County has some rotten policies and bad actors. I also believe that the sheriff in charge knows this and is doing his best to hide these policies and actors behind an emotional appeal to limit gun rights. He wants everyone to look at his right hand so no one notices what his left hand is hiding. He knows that his career and his reputation are in jeopardy, so he’s fighting for his own survival right now.

Hence, back to the attack on guns. This is where many people want to keep the argument. Those who want gun ownership restricted or outlawed will make emotional appeal after emotional appeal. Take the guns off of the street before more kids are killed! Protect our kids! Politicians are getting air time and probably campaign contributions. As I mentioned, one of the students is getting a lot of attention right now.

I believe the gun control argument is what they used to call a ‘straw man’ argument in law school. Even assuming that all gun sales were banned now, and had been since 2016, this would not eliminate guns. There are approximately 300 million guns in the U.S., according the Congressional Research Service. So if someone wants to get their hands on a gun, they’ll be able to do it.

Maybe it would be more difficult to get a gun if they weren’t for sale in stores or gun shows. (I think it would just create a black market and drive prices up, but let’s play along.) No gun, no violence, right? What about the bomb made of fertilizer and other easily available ingredients used in the Oklahoma City Bombing? What about the use of U-Haul vans to plow into people? ISIS uses suicide bombers. Guns are not the only way to kill a lot of people if that’s your aim.

These arguments also ignore the elephant in the room. Gun ownership is a Constitutional right. It’s guaranteed by the Second Amendment. Why? Because a government that knows its citizenry is armed is much less likely to try to take away their other rights. Hence, there is no First Amendment without a Second Amendment. This does not become any less important or true because a bad guy decided to shoot a lot of people.

So why the gun control argument every time? Obviously, gun control advocates see this as a chance to further their agenda. Politicians can seem ‘tough on crime.’ More insidious, those in power want more control over those they ‘lead.’ I could get into a discussion about how disarming people is taking away their power and how that is exactly what dictators want. I could talk about how this country seems to be  dividing itself into two camps-the Left and the Right, which is a dangerous place to go when we need more unity. But I have a different point to make here.

Getting into a long and prolonged argument about guns every single time a mass shooting happens gets in the way of finding the ACTUAL cause and finding cures. It stands in the way of finding better ways to handle what will inevitably happen again. It prevents us from having a discussion that will allow us to maybe even prevent some of these shootings.

What if, as a country, we agreed that taking guns off the street won’t change a thing and set fire to that straw man? What if we focused instead on dissecting the problem? Is there a mental illness epidemic in the schools? If so, why? What can be done about it? Is there a breakdown in the family? Is it causing young men to feel alienated and unable to handle difficult emotions? If so, what can we do about it?

Is law enforcement not arresting people it should be arresting? If so, why not? And how can we change that? Should teachers be armed? Should there be armed guards in the school? Should students be allowed to carry concealed weapons?

There are many, many issues here that need to be examined, analyzed, and discussed. We have a lot of great thinkers and problem solvers in this country. I feel confident that we as a nation can solve this problem if we stop arguing and start working together to find solutions. I think if we worried less about being right about guns and more about solving the actual problem, we could do it. Together.




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