What Are School Shootings Good For?

“I am committed to getting to the bottom of what happened,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray in 2018. He was trying to explain why the FBI had not acted to prevent the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, despite having received tips about the shooter more than once. 

Mark Bowdich, at the time acting deputy director, testified that the tips provided to the FBI included, “statements about [the shooter] harming himself and others; references to the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS); that [he] had threatened his mother with a rifle; that he had purchased several weapons; that he wanted to kill people; that he was mutilating small animals; that he was going to explode; that the caller tried to call the person with whom [the shooter] was living, but she could not reach him; and that the caller was concerned that [he] might shoot up a school. The caller also observed that [the shooter] was 18 years old but had the mental capacity of a 12- to 14-year-old.” 

If that’s not enough, the Parkland shooter had also posted online “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” Which is not very ambiguous. Oh, and the police had been called to his home 39 times in the previous seven years. And still, as Time reported, the FBI “admitted protocol was not followed and the information was never investigated.”

Wray is still director of the FBI, of course, and to the best of my knowledge he hasn’t “gotten to the bottom of what happened” yet. If anyone has been fired, we haven’t heard about it. But we can at least ask ourselves: What is the federal government doing to prevent future school shootings?

Nothing, of course. If the government wanted to prevent shootings, it would permit teachers to carry weapons, and provide free gun safety training to any teacher who wanted it. Trump suggested this at the time, and Florida enacted a state law to that effect.

Big-government politicians predictably take the opposite approach. In 2019, New York’s brilliant Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill explicitly banning teachers from carrying guns on school grounds. Not that it had been legal before the bill was passed—guns were already banned from New York schools. But Cuomo and the New York Democrats wanted to make absolutely extra sure that no teachers would be armed anyway.

New York State Assemblyman Judy Griffin, who sponsored the bill, said, “Arming teachers with guns can only lead to further tragedies.” She didn’t provide any examples of armed teachers having led to tragedy—in addition to Florida, several states permit teachers to carry licensed firearms and there is not a single instance of one of these teachers “leading to tragedy.” But Griffin explained that “this legislation ensures that teachers will never have the burden of choosing between protecting their students or themselves from a violent shooter.”

So Judy Griffin says she doesn’t want teachers carrying guns because they would have to bear the “burden” of choosing whom to protect in the event of a shooting. Not only is this an asinine thing to say, it’s backwards: If a teacher kills a school shooter, that teacher hasn’t made a choice between protecting himself and his kids. He’s protecting everyone. On the contrary, it is an unarmed teacher who might have to make such a choice—for example, by deciding to throw his body between a shooter and his children.

I can quite readily believe that a New York State assemblyman is stupid enough not to be able to distinguish between a teacher with a gun and a human shield, but I have difficulty believing that all Democrats on the national level can be similarly excused.

The first really serious school shooting—and until 2007 the deadliest—was the 1966 University of Texas tower shooting. This led to the passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968, which established the ATF and created the federal firearms licensing system (which was immediately abused by the government and eventually reformed—only to become even worse—in 1986). Shootings invariably led to calls for stricter gun control, and often produced results. For example, the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut led the state to reintroduce a ban on AR-15s and to limit magazine capacities to 10 rounds.

The federal government’s perpetual desire to ban private weapons and bring America in line with the rest of the world has always faced the same problem: Gun owners are extremely law-abiding. A 2015 report noted that not only are gun owners more law-abiding than the average American—they tend to be more law-abiding than the police: The rate of felonies or misdemeanors among policemen is just a fraction of the rate among the regular population, but still six times higher than it is for pistol permit holders.

And despite the wailing over domestic terrorism, gun owners also failed to bring their weapons to Washington on January 6, where of course the only shooting victim was a protester. From Washington’s point of view, this was a terrible disappointment. How can they call for gun control when gun owners insist on being the least likely subset of the entire population to commit crimes, particularly gun crimes?

There can be no popular pressure for banning guns unless American gun owners do terrible things with them. And there’s really nothing worse than shooting up a school full of defenseless little children. Defenselessness heightens the horror of the situation and makes the outcomes worse. My grandfather at a New York school in the 1930s wouldn’t have been defenseless because he used to bring a shotgun with him to school, as did many of the children. Those days are long gone.

The vulnerability of schools in Democrat-controlled states and cities positively defies explanation. But whatever the intention, and whatever the explanation, there is no denying that school shootings are a political lever—really the only effective political lever—against gun ownership. You might ask yourself what fresh tips the FBI is ignoring today that will lead to the next preventable horror. And you might move to a state where your kids can be safe in school. I suspect not many parents would choose New York.


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