Andrew Pollack, father of Meadow Pollack — one of the victims of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida — recently spoke at the White House concerning the issue with mass shootings in America. He was the voice of reason America needs to hear:
"We're here because my daughter has no voice. She was murdered last week and she was taken from us, shot 9 times on the third floor. We as a country failed our children."- Andrew Pollack, father of Meadow Pollack, who was killed in Florida school shooting. https://t.co/z5I3By9RHI pic.twitter.com/IyQ9H3xUzu
— ABC News (@ABC) February 21, 2018
“We need to focus on what’s important, and that’s protecting our children in the schools. That’s the only thing that matters right now, everyone has to come together and not think about different laws. We need to come together as a country, not different parties, and figure out how we protect the schools. It’s simple.”
He’s right. It is simple. Yet here we are turning it into right vs. left, pro-gun vs anti-gun, bullshit.
Tunnel Vision = Failure
An easy way to tell we’re on the wrong path is to ask people to define the problem after the Parkland school shooting. Many, in our current environment, will answer with “The problem is unregulated guns.” That’s incredibly wrong.
The problem is that a kid shot up his school. Thus, a problem statement for our discussion should include three questions: “Why did the kid shoot up his school?”, “What could have prevented this and what can prevent future occurrences?”, and “Who can implement these measures/controls in order to make our plan successful?”
If we’re going to focus on the right vs. left battle over guns, we will fail. The only way to get rid of the “mass shooting” problem via the gun focus is to ban all firearms, and remove all current ones in circulation (don’t worry, there’s only an estimated 350 million+ out there).
Part of a comprehensive solution will contain certain gun-control measures, but focusing on banning guns leads us to failure, and here’s why:
Unless you’re engaging targets at over 30m, you don’t really need a rifle. A pistol will do more than enough, and if you’re trained, you could bump that out to 50m. So banning semi-automatic rifles may help with situations like Las Vegas, but they won’t fix the school shooting issue. Please show me a school where the engagement range would be larger than 30m. I don’t know many classrooms or hallways that large or long.
So why do AR-15s seem to be the weapon of choice then?
Is it the ability to fire fast? No, a trained person can pull the trigger of either an AR-15 or a semi-automatic handgun at a speed fast enough to get the body count into double digits.
What about the capacity? Well, a rifle magazine can hold about 30 rounds, and a double-stacked pistol can hold about 15. However, it’s simple to reload both, and, technically, you could dual wield two semi-automatic pistols giving you the same active capacity.
So how about we ban these style magazines? Well, now you’re getting into the home-defense and self-defense side of the argument, and you’re not going to win that. It’s not a legal battle worth fighting. In a defense situation with a handgun, 15 rounds will go quickly.
So, now we’ve chased a ban on guns down the rabbit hole and we’re stuck. Even if we get the heavily sought after “assault rifle” ban, it may help with shootings like Vegas (doubtful due to current number in circulation) but it won’t help with school shootings.
A Realistic, Nonpartisan Way Forward
The mass shooting epidemic is a complex issue with a ton of variables, therefore we need a comprehensive solution attacking many fronts at once. The problem isn’t going to be easy to resolve — it’s going to take a lot of research, experimentation, and patience. If we let ourselves get obsessed with the gun control fight kids are going to continue to die. The blood will be on all our hands.
Below is a list of possible courses of action in a three-pronged approach. Note, they’re possible courses of action. We’re not saying they’ll all work or be accepted. But we do believe these should all be being researched and experimented with.
When you read these you’re going to like some and hate some. But if you’re truly concerned about our nation and our children’s safety, you’ll at least give them all a read and a chance.
First and foremost we need to research what’s going on in our society. This should be funded through both public and private means. Our first question when a kid shoots up a school should not be, “How’d he get an AR-15?” it should be “Why did they want to kill?” We have to figure out why people are more desensitized to killing than ever before. Once we find the “why” we need to try to fix it.
We must accept violence in our society as a reality. We need to implement active-shooter training in all schools and give children their greatest fighting chance. The government already has an “active shooter” response published on ready.gov, it’s too easy to turn this into training. It’s especially important to do so when the best chance of survival is counter-intuitive or counter to what fear calls for, such as not laying down or staying near walls (since ricocheting bullets and their fragments “travel along” walls and floors) and not huddling in groups.
And finally, we should look at the way the media handles these situations. When a streaker runs nude across a football field the NFL and partnering media do everything in their power to deny them camera time. By not giving recognition the act becomes worthless. Why then do we devote hours of airtime to school shootings detailing any “records broken” and profiling the perpetrator giving them their own messed-up version of fame?
Mental health has to be a part of the discussion.
We should look at enacting legislation requiring people to get limited mental health screening prior to purchasing a firearm, similar to the screening process on our troops prior to deploying.
We should look at placing restrictions on firearm ownership for those diagnosed by a physician with mental illnesses that threaten others.
We should also look at making qualified mental health practitioners a part of public school faculty as either a direct hire or outsourced asset. Teachers and other members of faculty must be able to communicate with these practitioners if they fear a student has mental issues, just as a teacher tells the authorities if they fear a student’s being domestically abused.
We should look at implementing education and assistance programs for parents who don’t know how to raise, or are incapable of raising, kids with mental health issues.
And finally, we must combat the stigma surrounding getting mental health treatment. We must be willing to ask others if they’re doing okay and, if they’re not, talk to them about getting the care they need.
Guns and Gun Ownership
Finally, we must admit guns are part of the problem. But we also must admit gun-ownership is protected by the 2nd amendment and is a part of American life.
We should look at enacting legislation to get a better system of national-level background checks put in place for purchasing firearms. We should look into standardizing the purchase process across the states, especially since firearms purchased in one state have deadly effects in another.
We should look at enacting legislation to make the age limit for purchasing firearms somewhere in the range when most individuals are fully matured, not 18. (And if you want to argue that at 18 you can join the military thus you should be able to buy a firearm…then fine, 18-year-olds can buy firearms if they’re supervised while using said firearm by a trained Non-commissioned Officer who’s 5-10 years older and the access to their firearm is regulated by a commissioned officer.)
We should look at a cap on magazine capacity and a ban on high-capacity magazines. We could cap capacity at 15 for pistols and 10 for rifles without affecting self-defense capabilities. Or, in lieu of a cap, we should look at enacting licensing and registration requirements to own these capacity magazines.
We should look at a ban on semi-automatic rifles intended for tactical, not practical, use. We should look at a ban on all attachments and modification items such as bump stocks that aid in skirting current rules and regulations. Or, in lieu of a ban, we should look at enacting licensing and registration requirements to own these types of weapons and attachments.
We should look at a nation-wide voluntary turn-in or buyback program. This will allow those who have regrets about a purchase, or the inability to take care of their firearms the way they should, an easy route to be relieved of the responsibility of gun ownership.
We should invest in technology concerning gun safety. Items like biological locks on firearms and long-range firearm identification are not as far away as we’d think. We must help usher in these technologies and start implementing them.
We should ensure schools have armed guards until we have a grip on the problem. The guards may not always be willing or able to step up to the plate in a time of need, but they’re an obvious deterrent, and more times than not they’ll do what’s right.
We need the National Rifle Association (NRA) and gun manufacturers to give up on some of the bloody profits and start helping to find a solution. They can either choose to be a responsible advocate for safe gun ownership and operation or a risk to the safety of our nation.
So, what is it America? Are we going to let our partisanship and our personal beliefs get in the way of an actual solution? Are we going to continue to turn this into a right vs. left fight about guns and get nowhere, leaving future generations of children to die?
If we aren’t willing to discuss all the above, and if we choose to simplify this problem to one about guns, we all need to be ready to see more kids pictures and names scroll across our screens.