In the wake of the brutal Parkland shooting that resulted in the deaths of 17 people, finger-pointing and emotions continue to dominate the discussion. Marjory Stoneman Douglas survivors and the mainstream media alike continue to remind us that those who don’t support their gun control policies are unsympathetic NRA shills who want children to die.
Perhaps the most persistent falsehood in all of this is the idea that the NRA’s lobbying is to blame for this shooting. For instance, Florida Senator Marco Rubio was repeatedly asked at a CNN town hall if he could pledge to not accept NRA money. Somehow, defending the Second Amendment is evil, but using a tragedy to attack political opponents is not.
For all the talk on the NRA buying off Florida politicians, little of it is concerned with facts. The organization’s political action committee has not made any direct contributions over the last decade to any serving member of the Florida Senate or House. Marjory Stoneman Douglas junior Sarah Chadwick missed this when she tweeted: “We should change the names of AR-15s to ‘Marco Rubio’ because they are so easy to buy.”
Over the last eighteen years, the NRA has spent $203 million in the political industry with just $1.1 million going to candidates for federal office in 2016. The organization’s 2016 political spending ranked them just 488th in campaign contributions for groups that spent more than $1 million. By comparison, Comcast spent $12.7 million in the 2016 campaign cycle without a single lobbying accusation.
The truth is, the NRA’s political impact does not come not from lobbying. It comes from their active base of five million Second Amendment supporters.
Alas, all of this NRA lobbying talk ignores the government’s immobility that genuinely led to the deaths of 17 people. The plain fact is, the FBI and local police failed the Parkland community massively, not the NRA.
With two FBI tips, 39 house visits and 18 calls to the home, it’s painfully clear that government authorities failed on every single level. Unfortunately, local authorities also failed during the shooting, not just in the events leading up to it. Armed resource officer Scott Peterson waited outside the building for minutes during the massacre. Even worse, statements from Coral Springs cops suggest that three more Broward deputies waited outside the school amidst the shooting.
Nevertheless, the gun control crowd continues to attack NRA lobbying and call for political action. So here are some things we can, and should, do.
For starters, we can strengthen background checks and focus heavily on mental illness. We need a greater degree of transparency between local, state, and federal bodies in this area with respect to mental illness. We can also fix the way we deal with mental illness in general. In the fifty-four years since President John Kennedy made mental illness a federal issue, the federal government has failed to fulfill their duty and the situation has so deteriorated. Returning this duty back to local communities is just one effective step worth taking.
Additionally, we can enact gun violence restraining orders. These would allow family members to seek a court order that would then permit police to temporarily seize guns from people deemed a danger to themselves or others. As we saw in Parkland, the shooter left several warning signals, collecting knives and guns while displaying violent behavior. With the local police failing to act on these red flags, it only makes sense to empower the people as a further line of defense for mass shootings. With this policy, there is no collective punishment by targeting a tool of crime. Rather, there is a constitutional individualized approach focused on targeting troubled people.
Finally, we need to increase security in schools. Concealed carry on campus makes sense: the law cannot strip every person with a mental illness of their weapon and police take minutes to arrive on the scene. And unlike most proposals we’ve heard, it is backed by hard evidence. Dr. Eric Dietz found that the “introduction of a minimal (10%) armed faculty with [a] resource officer” could slash school-shooting casualties by 70 percent and response time by nearly 63 percent. In addition to concealed carry, increased practice of school safety procedures is essential. Through these two measures, we can vastly improve school safety.
If we are serious about protecting our children, we might consider concealed carry on campus, deeper background checks and gun violence restraining orders. Through these measures, we can keep more firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill, defend our children in school and preserve the gun rights of law-abiding citizens.
Now here are some things we should not do.
First and foremost, we should not raise the gun-buying age to 21. The evidence in support of this action is scarce, as most of the mass shooters in the 21st century have all been older than 21. In addition, it’s illogical to disarm a 20-year-old single mother trying to protect her child. Both a 20-year-old and a 22-year-old single mother have the right to defend herself and her child.
We should also not ban bump stocks or semi-automatic rifles. All such bans do is harm law-abiding citizens, criminals would nevertheless find them readily available. To provide a clear example, the Washington Post published an article in 2015 titled “Getting a gun legally in Europe may be hard, but terrorists have little trouble.” Similarly, the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban did nothing to prevent the Columbine massacre.
The policies proposed by the gun control crowd are unlikely to improve school safety. Nearly all of the measures proposed thus far target the tool and not the troubled person. The only plausible measure is improving the background check system and even with this, schools remain unable to deal with an active shooter should stronger background checks fail. Targeting a tool that a mentally ill person may use is not effective policy; it is a knee-jerk reaction that does not truly protect our children. So while I do not doubt that the intentions of gun control advocates are pure, it is a dangerous mistake to judge policy by intentions rather than results.
In the end, we cannot resurrect the fallen in Parkland. But we can, and must, work to protect our children going forward, for their safety is certainly worth more than dogma, emotions and political feuds.