It has happened again. Fifteen students and two adults were senselessly murdered by a madman. It was the 15th school mass shooting since Columbine – on April 20, 1999 – and the most deadly ever. When the shooter (we don’t give shooters’ names here) took the lives of 17 innocent victims at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14, he re-ignited the national debate on gun control and how Congress should respond to this growing madness. Are there arguments to be made on both sides of the gun debate? Absolutely. Will Congress finally do something? Probably not. But it’s really not that complicated.
First, there are several legitimate criticisms and things that need to be done – though none of them will really go very far to solve the problem. For example, in Florida it is legal to buy a gun at age 18, but not legal to buy alcohol until age 21. Should that change? Sure, it should. Congress should pass a national law restricting gun ownership to those age 21 and above.
Mental illness is a real problem. Should those who are mentally ill be restricted from buying guns? Or course, they should be. But keep in mind that about 70 percent of the American population is on mood-altering prescription medications. So determining who should be disqualified from gun ownership based on mental illness will be an unsolvable quagmire.
Should certain types of guns be banned? Or course. There is no need for Citizen Joe to have a high-powered weapon. But again, this will not solve the problem.
Here’s the reality – bad guys, by definition of being “bad guys” don’t obey the laws. Gun restrictions will be ignored or bypassed by those intent on committing such unthinkable crimes. More gun laws will do for gun deaths what prohibition did for alcoholism – nothing.
So what is the solution? Let me state one simple, indisputable truth, and then the solution will become self-evident.
Here it is – public schools are the most gun-free zones in America. Period.
In Florida – and across America – it is illegal to bring a gun on campus. When the crazed madman stepped onto the Marjory Stonemen Douglas High School campus Wednesday, he knew one thing was 99 percent likely – he would be the only person there with a gun.
What followed was three minutes of shooting. Three minutes. That’s all it took. Meanwhile, someone called 911, and the police were on their way. But here’s the thing – it takes three minutes to kill 17 unarmed citizens, while the average emergency response time for the police is five minutes. So the madman, on average, has all the time he needs to take out 17 innocent lives with two minutes left over for his escape.
So here is the painfully obvious solution. Allow school personnel to have guns – under very strict guidelines. For example, ex-military men and women should be allowed to bear arms. Teachers and administrators who complete a very rigorous testing process should be allowed to carry concealed handguns.
No one should know who has the guns, except the principal. But every would-be killer needs to know that schools are no longer gun-free zones. Right now, when the madman shows up at Campus X, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. But by arming those who pass background checks and rigorous training, a deterrent will exist that is not there now.
For any readers who oppose this idea, let me pose this question. If it was your child in a classroom, with only unarmed teachers and students, and you knew a madman was headed for that room with the intent of shooting everyone in sight, would you rather the teacher be able to defend your child or not?
Again, it’s not that complicated. We have tried gun control. Our strictest gun control zones – public schools – have become killing fields. Not allowing school leaders to be armed has proven reckless. Why not actually do something to protect our innocent children’s lives?
This very suggestion is being made this week in Tallahassee, before the Florida State Legislature. What state and federal politicians will do will rest largely on this question: Do we want to look serious about stopping the carnage, or do we actually want to save lives?
I repeat – it’s really not that complicated.