Guns and Schools – Part 2
By: George Noga – January 3, 2013
My previous post corrected much of the pervasive media misinformation and bias about the Newtown tragedy. It also described the real causal factors for mass shootings in schools. This post presents a principled plan to prevent rampage school killings.
Change the culture. We have lowered expectations and standards for personal and civil conduct – the vicious attacks, untruths and extreme negativity of the recent election campaign being a good example. Long established rules, limits and barriers have been destroyed. Daniel Henninger in the WSJ describes it as removing all the guardrails for society. There is a linkage between cultural disarray and personal disarray. When the entire spectrum of acceptable behavior shifts, those at society’s margins go off the tracks. Our intellectual, political, religious, media and cultural elites need to rediscover self control. This will take time and won’t solve 100% of the problem, but it is a needed start.
- Reduce the copycat effect. The copycat effect is real and proven. This is where the media need to exercise self restraint. No one advocates legal restrictions on the press, but a voluntary industry wide code of conduct would be a good start. Before this can happen the media must acknowledge its culpability in creating future horrors. Right now the media is too busy flogging the story for all it’s worth and deflecting blame onto the NRA.
- Treat and/or institutionalize the violently mentally ill. The statistics are too numerous to list but they all prove most rampage type attacks are perpetrated by the mentally ill. The heart of the problem is the existence of numerous people with severe mental disorders who are not being treated – and under existing law cannot be forced to accept treatment. In the 10 worst mass US killings, the majority were by people with untreated schizophrenia. Instead of changing gun laws, the imperative is to change laws pertaining to mental illness. That will do more than anything else to prevent future tragedies.
- Eliminate (fake) gun free zones. A sign proclaiming a gun free zone is a welcome mat for rampage killers. Gun free zones such as at airports are real as they are backed by metal detectors and a police presence. However, most gun free zones are merely notional and work only to increase the danger to those within the zone. It has been proven ad nauseum that more guns equate to less crime. Numerous mass killings have been stopped (see Part 1) by citizens with legal guns. Over 2,500,000 times each year legal guns prevent or stop crimes. The Gun Free School Zones Act of 1990 needs to be repealed.
- Understand that guns are not the issue. As I wrote last week, neither of the two deadliest school attacks in America involved guns. On the very same day as the Newtown tragedy, there was a mass school killing in China where 22 children were stabbed. Other mass school killings have involved dynamite, cars and fire. The sooner we all disabuse ourselves that guns are the culprit, the sooner we can begin to focus on the real causes.
- Learn from business. Mass killings in the workplace are down nearly 70% in the past 20 years and without any changes to gun laws. Of 20 mass shootings this year, only 1 involved businesses which have become more adept at understanding personality and risk. Most businesses use the run-hide-fight paradigm; they don’t ignore threats; they have violence prevention programs and they practice deterrence. They change the calculus in a potential killer’s mind that he will be able to control the situation until the SWAT team arrives. And yes, this calculus involves guns; there are few, if any, fake gun free zones in businesses.This approach is proven to work and it is idiotic to ignore it.
- Enact universal school choice. School deaths may be caused by individual monsters but they are abetted by a collective monster – government. Families are forced to send their children to specific schools where it is impossible (under existing law) for anyone to defend them. Some countries (Israel included) promote guns in schools and this has saved lives. If every family had choice, they could decide for themselves which school to send their children for the best education and also the best protection. I wonder how many liberals would choose to send their children to so-called gun free schools.
- Understand 100% protection is not attainable. Despite the best preventative measures, we cannot eliminate all school murders. Even if all the measures described herein were in place, some incidents would happen. We could use these to learn and to further enhance preventative measures. These should not be occasions for knee-jerk attacks on guns.
- Seek real solutions not political solutions. It is abundantly clear that viable solutions exist to vastly reduce school violence. We must resist the urge to adopt quick, feel-good political faux fixes which may satisfy for a short time but will do nothing to solve the problem. Passing a law can be quick and easy but real solutions take time and effort to bear results. We may need to shed some old shibboleths about guns in the process.
- Government is part of the problem not the solution. Government doesn’t do anything well except perhaps the military. Theoretically, it may be helpful to tweak gun laws to keep guns from the untreated mentally ill. I don’t advocate this however because government would botch mental illness the same way it botches everything else. Do you really want the same folks as at the DMV in charge of deciding who is too ill for guns? The solution to preventing school violence lies in more liberty and less government.
“It is not possible for any scient person to read this and continue to believe more gun laws are the answer. Yet that is all we are hearing.”
It should not be possible for any scient person to read this and continue to believe more gun laws are the answer – or even a tiny part of the answer. Yet that is all we are hearing. That is why I interrupted my holiday torpor to write these posts. We can vastly reduce school violence but only if we first abandon myths about guns and the lust for a quick political solution.
Finally, I cannot write about guns in America without pointing out that our constitutional right to keep and bear arms is not primarily about hunting, target shooting, sport or even self defense. Our founders considered gun ownership, first and foremost, a political right and it always must be understood in that context.