The latest school shootings in Florida exemplify two major concerns demonstrated by gun-violence data. First, we have a leak in the background-check system that allows plum-crazy people to get guns legally. Second, we’re failing to adequately defend gun-free zones. If you wish the lives of dead children to have any lasting meaning, do something about these problems!
Those same gun-violence data — available through Motherjones.com — also suggest no significant protections are to be had from the usual proposals: clip-size limits, so-called “assault rifle” bans and such. That said, it would be wise to ban bump stocks and trigger cranks, devices that increase the firing rate of semi-automatic weapons into the range of fully automatic weapons. To his credit, President Trump on Tuesday directed the crafting of federal regulations to do just that.
Meanwhile, the current system of banning crazy people from possessing guns based on formal court decisions of insanity clearly is falling short. We’ve seen this in everything from the Columbine massacre to the Gabby Giffords shooting to the Las Vegas slaughter last year. And now we’re seeing it in Parkland, Florida.
In each case, family, friends and others are painfully aware of the shooter’s obvious mental problems beforehand. In last week’s tragedy, many classmates and teachers knew this person was dangerous with a gun. It appears local law enforcement might have known “something” was wrong with him, too. And the FBI was tipped off but failed to follow up.
We need a multi-step decision process where anyone can voice a concern leading to a real background investigation questioning real people who know or have interacted with the person in question — not some perfunctory online records search. Such extra effort costs, but the benefit is incidents prevented and lives saved. It all gets down to whether money trumps lives or vice versa. Simple as that. I recommend you judge your elected officials accordingly.
Quite obviously, triggering deeper investigations must not presume guilt till actual facts determine mental problems truly exist. We have to be very careful and fair in how we do this. But it could help — and more significantly than any of the usual gun-control proposals.
One thing we’re not doing is defending gun-free zones adequately. People in these gun-free zones are perceived to be sitting-duck targets by both crazies-with-guns and terrorists. And they are.
Don’t get me wrong. Perfectly good reasons exist to have gun-free zones. Schools, shopping centers and churches are a few of many such venues. Everybody understands why this is so. But we learned in 19th-century frontier towns that you have to defend gun-free zones adequately. That means properly qualified guards and a response time under a minute.
Properly qualified means peace-officer training, not just concealed-carry training. This is because any armed guard will be called upon to respond as efficiently as any peace officer would if there really is trouble to quell.
The one-minute response is based on the fact that those same 19th-century frontier towns were small. A deputy from the sheriff’s office could be anywhere in town in under a minute at a dog-trot at the first sign of trouble. When towns got bigger, death tolls went up as response times dragged out.
Defend gun-free zones and the crazies and terrorists will think twice. Again, does money trump the lives or vice versa?