Mass Shootings Point to a Problem—and It Isn’t Guns

I’m a father of four children who all attend public school. My love for them and their value to me and to society are immeasurable. When they enter their school building, where they spend the most time outside of our home, I want to know they are safe and have confidence that they are being protected. That is the hope of every parent regardless of party affiliation or political persuasion.

But in the wake of the terrible tragedy at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the debate has begun once again regarding guns. The gun control advocates wasted no time in calling for severe restrictions on the civil liberties of law abiding Americans. You can bank on many of the Left continuing to promote policies that not only fail to prevent future violence, but also infringe upon the rights of every American.

We’ve tried banning so-called “assault weapons.” In 1994 Bill Clinton signed The Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which banned not only magazines with a capacity larger than 10 rounds, but also created an entirely arbitrary list of banned features that classified a firearm as an assault weapon. Banning these largely cosmetic features had absolutely no effect on gun crime.

When the ban expired in 2004, a study funded by the Department of Justice stated that “By most estimates, assault weapons were used in less than 6 percent of gun crimes even before the ban.” It should be noted, too, that during the ten-year ban, mass shootings went up over the previous ten years. Even the left-leaning Guardian admits: “The 1994 federal assault weapon ban, after all, showed no evidence of impact on overall gun violence.”

The answer to these school shootings is not banning guns. And, being a realist, no matter where you stand on the issue of guns, a full-on ban simply isn’t going to happen in the short term, and likely never will. Gun ownership is too ingrained into the American psyche. There are too many firearms in the hands of Americans who are sane, responsible, and take gun safety seriously ever to make such a feat possible.

What is needed now isn’t political gamesmanship, but a realistic conversation about what can be done right now to prevent these types of horrendous acts of violence from happening in the future.

While these murderous psychopaths who commit these acts of horror and mayhem aren’t driven by any normal human desire, there’s still a logic to the locations they choose to attack: their violence is centered on soft targets, places that have little security and very little chance of resistance. Imagine banks not having security and then broadcasting to the general public the lack of armed guards or security precautions. We would think that insane. How much more valuable are our children? And yet we do precisely the opposite of what we do with our money when it comes to our schools by advertising that they are almost completely unprotected.

Politicians have done their level best to make our schools some of the softest targets there are right now. Liberals work tirelessly to make “gun free zones” that often are the most likely to be attacked. It’s time to repeal the 1990 Gun-Free School Zones Act, which in the real world means in most places all the normal law abiding people on school grounds have precisely zero guns when a heavily armed insane person shows up.

After 9/11, we made our airports and planes more difficult to attack. While I’m not suggesting we create anything like a TSA for our schools, it’s time to have a conversation about “hardening” schools. That includes physical barriers and restrictions on entry to make campuses and schools less open to those who might target children. In my kids’ grade school in Northern Virginia, there is only one point of entry where you must stand before a camera and show your driver’s license before being allowed into the school. While these precautions are by no means impermeable, they can dissuade attacks, slow down attackers, and allow authorities time to respond.

Similarly, we must increase our schools’ ability to have onsite response. We trust our kids to these teachers for roughly eight hours a day. Many schools employ police officers as School Resource Officers, but it’s time to increase their use across the country. We should also consider allowing teachers and administrators to be trained and certified as security guards.

Schools in Texas and Colorado have already decided to allow qualified employees to carry firearms at school, after proper training and background checks. Depending on the state, teachers could be trained over the summer. School districts could fund the training, with anywhere from 12 to 72 hours worth of training needed to be certified security guards. We trust teachers every single day to nurture our students academically, setting them up for success throughout life. We should extend the same trust to keep them physically safe at school, if they so choose.

What also needs to be addressed is how background checks are completed. It’s clear the Florida shooter had issues that were visible to many around him, yet was still able to purchase an AR-15. We need to have a conversation about how background checks are completed, the depth and rigor of the background checks, and the ability of federal, state, and local authorities to access every piece of information needed to ascertain whether someone should be allowed to purchase a firearm.

No one can dispute that recent perpetrators of mass gun violence should not have been cleared for gun ownership of any type. In the same way federal, state, and local law enforcement departments continue to face challenges in sharing information and data in real time (so-called “interoperability”), we must find a way to ensure that licensing agencies have the ability to access the information they need to make legitimate and accurate decisions on potential licensees.

But every time a politician attempts to make a good-faith effort to solve what everyone acknowledges is a gaping hole in gun licensing, the progressive, anti-gun lobby looks to take that opportunity to deny legitimate gun owners their Constitutional rights. Instead of working with their colleagues across the aisle, they try instead to throw sand in the gears of taking steps toward real safety. Either folks want legitimately to make a difference, or they want to play games for broader political purposes. If it’s the former, great. If it’s the latter, then they are part of the problem we are facing, not part of the solution.

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About Ned Ryun

Ned Ryun is a former presidential writer for George W. Bush and the founder and CEO of American Majority. You can find him on Twitter @nedryun.