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The Children Might Lead Us Out of the Tired Debate Over the Second Amendment

March 24, 2018

The teenagers who attend Parkland High School in Broward County Florida, the site of the most recent major school shooting, have developed a list of recommendations for ending the carnage in schools, a list that was published earlier this week in the US edition of the Guardian. These recommendations were prepared by the staff of the Eagle Eye, the school newspaper at Parkland High School. I wholeheartedly agree with the level-headed and clear-eyed list of recommendations, which follow in bold red and the student’s elaboration on the ideas, which appear in bold italics. My critique of the recommendations is offered in italics.

  • Ban semi-automatic weapons that fire high-velocity rounds: These weapons were designed for dealing death: not to animals or targets, but to other human beings. The NRA likes to squabble over definitions to distract the public away from the core issue: there is no need for civilians to possess military grade weapons designed to kill other human beings. 
  • Ban accessories that simulate automatic weapons:we believe that bump stocks, high-capacity magazines and similar accessories that simulate the effect of military-grade automatic weapons should be banned. Amen! 
  • Establish a database of gun sales and universal background checks: We believe that there should be a database recording which guns are sold in the United States, to whom, and of what caliber and capacity they are. This might be the most difficult idea to secure approval for, but it is also the easiest to achieve and the most common-sensical. As the students note, we already mandate the registration of automobiles… but… securing registration of future gun acquisitions will do nothing to help law enforcement officials identify the millions of weapons already in circulation… and knowing the NRA’s tactics they could use that deficiency as evidence of the students’ naiveté to distract the public from the other recommendations that are practical. 
  • Change privacy laws to allow mental healthcare providers to communicate with law enforcement: We must improve this channel of communication (between mental health providers and law enforcement). To do so, privacy laws should be amended. That will allow us to prevent people who are a danger to themselves or to others from purchasing firearms. That could help prevent tragedies such as the Parkland massacre. I would take this a step further and encourage the sharing of information among all social service agencies… a recommendation I made 15+ years ago in my essay “A Homeland Security Bill for Education”
  • Close gun show and secondhand sales loopholes: Thanks to loopholes, people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to buy firearms are able to purchase them at gun shows and secondhand sales. This may be a “second generation” fix… and could lead to the NRA’s use of Fabian tactics to prevent passage of a bill that would address some of the other recommendations which could develop momentum for more widespread reform. 
  • Allow the CDC to make recommendations for gun reform: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should be allowed to conduct research on the dangers of gun violence. How this probation ever came into being is beyond me… but if data cannot be collected on gun abuses it makes it impossible for those who want to limit the availability of guns to “prove” that ny limitations will yield results.
  • Raise the firearm purchase age to 21In a few months from now, many of us will be turning 18. We will not be able to drink; we will not be able to rent a car. Most of us will still be living with our parents. We will not be able to purchase a handgun. And yet, we will be able to purchase an AR-15. It would not be cynical to suggest that the NRA’s response to this would be to lower the drinking age, make car rentals available to teenagers, and MOST ASSUREDLY allow teenagers to purchase handguns. This, like the gun show loopholes, may be a second generation recommendation… or it may turn out that CDC research indicates that this isn’t the problem we think it is now.   
  • Dedicate more funds to mental health research and professionals: Federal and state government should earmark more funds specifically for mental health services. Those with mental health issues, especially those who express aggressive, violent, suicidal and/or homicidal thoughts should have the opportunity to receive the help they need regardless of their economic status. This is where the GOP is most hypocritical. They blame the violence on the mental health of “the shooter” and not the shooter’s ability to procure weapons but fail to provide any new resources for mental health. Indeed, their cuts to “Obamacare” and their decisions in many GOP led states to not accept federal dollars for Medicaid is evidence that the mental health defense for mass shootings is bogus. 
  • Increase funding for school security: We believe that schools should be given sufficient funds for school security and resource officers to protect and secure the entire campus…these funds should not be appropriated from the already scarce funding for public education. Governments should find resources to secure the millions of children that attend public schools without taking away from the quality of education that is offered at these institutions. The federal and state governments WILL provide MORE money for school security… but it will be at the expense of not only the “scarce funding for education” but at the expense of implementing other recommendations on this list. Moreover, the students’ desire for more “school security and resource officers is misguided. As noted in many previous posts, the scarce funds for school security should be devoted to “softening” the schools by providing the mental health counseling and other social services currently lacking in schools. Students should realize that providing more “good guys with guns” is precisely what the NRA wants. It’s placement on this list should be contingent on the provision of funding for everything else. 

A close look at this list indicates why the children might lead us out of the tired debate over the second amendment. Nowhere on the list do students want to confiscate guns from anyone, which is probably a politically savvy move but one that begs the question of whether police will be empowered to take weapons away from individuals who pose a threat to others and themselves. I believe such powers should be provided in cases where a judge has issued a restraining order or determined that an individual’s state of mind is such that their possession of a weapon poses a threat to themselves or to others. If a “red flag” provision were added to this list and it was made clear that the softening of schools was more important than the hardening of schools it would mirror my thinking completely.


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