Is there an effective way to deter or slow mass shootings in schools? Can we take steps to impede the carnage currently taking place in many major cities across the United States? Can we find common ground to possibly save lives and protect innocent victims?
Let’s start with the great gun debate. Though some may not appreciate the value of the venerable U.S Constitution, the Second Amendment reads, “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” U.S. Supreme Court decisions in 2008, and again in 2010, further solidified citizens’ rights “to keep and bear Arms.” Founding principles, precedent and history mean nothing to dangerous naïfs such as Congressman Mondaire Jones (D-NY) as he proclaims, “If the filibuster obstructs us, we will abolish it; If the Supreme Court objects, we will expand it.” There are also those on the far right of the gun debate who irrationally contest any reasonable steps to place some degree of control over immediate access to assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. President Biden missed an ideal opportunity on Thursday evening to focus on those items which consensus could be achieved and instead chose a ban on assault weapons which had no chance of Republican support.
So, are there common-sense solutions which could have positive impact and garner broad public support?
Red-flag laws, which empower family members or police officers to ask a court to temporarily remove the right to own firearms from people exhibiting violent behavior. Broader use of this family and law enforcement tool could likely gain bipartisan support as Senator Marco Rubio has offered previous legislation in 2021 which would create a new grant program to adopt such laws. Strengthening background checks would also be a prudent step. Currently, to sell a gun, all U.S. licensed gun dealers must run a potential purchaser through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, a provision that was passed in 1993. Those ineligibles to purchase guns include people with criminal records, addicts of any controlled substance, certain people with a history of mental illness, those illegally in the U.S., those dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces, and subjects of domestic violence-related protective orders. But many private purchases at gun shows do not fall under the NICBCS requirement. Expanding the background check system is a reasonable step which may curtail certain dangerous individuals from avoiding a due diligence review…
But the discussion cannot be solely centered around guns. “Hardening” schools is now a necessity. Schools must unfortunately take actions to reduce the number of entrances and make it more difficult for a shooter to get into the building or campus. There are multiple innovative ways in which every school campus can become less porous, and guidance and recommendations from the federal government could be helpful. Local school boards can also effectively tackle and address positive “hardening” solutions. Every school also now needs a security guard or local law enforcement presence to provide additional protection…
Most importantly, addressing mental health and societal well-being is a priority, and can no longer be ignored. Liah Greenfield, author of “Mind, Modernity, Madness: The Impact of Culture on Human Experiences,” states in a recent Wall Street Journal article, “Ten years ago, based on the annual Healthy Minds study of college students, 1 in 5 college students was dealing with mental illness. Between 2013 and 2021, according to Healthy Minds, the share of U.S. college students affected by depression surged 135%.” Certainly, more must be done to mitigate any perceived stigma of mental illness so that those who need help are more likely to seek assistance. Family and faith are vital elements in providing a stronger sense of belonging and self-importance.
Finally, let’s not forget the daily carnage on the streets of multiple U.S. inner cities. Chicago alone had 51 people shot, 9 fatally on Memorial Day weekend. While the debate rages on relatively isolate and tragic school shootings, the violence and killings continue unabated in large urban areas. We must remember these victims and address this crisis as well. Hopefully, and prayerfully, more peaceful days are forthcoming.