Thursday, June 1, 2017


It is clear that more than a decade after the shootings at Columbine and the killings at the Appalachian School of Law and more than six years after the massacre at Virginia Tech, far too many school officials, law enforcement personnel, and politicians remain mystified and perplexed over how to meet the threat of school violence.

Yes, measures have been taken to improve campus safety, but not nearly enough. Most of the measures involve security and warning systems. Little has been done to improve campus mental health facilities, or to bring staff, faculty, and students together and explaining their rights and duties and making them part of the solution to the problem.

Lobbying and Ineffective Controls

All the crocodile tears and all the hand wringing have not produced the analysis, the will, or the determination necessary to adopt truly effective measures to minimize the threat of school gun violence in schools. Part of the reason for this failing is the unwillingness of state and federal politicians to address the vexing issue of keeping guns out of the hands of individuals who are a threat to themselves and others.

This failure to make more meaningful progress in school safety is not for lack of trying or lack of ideas, it is more for a lack of willingness to tackle difficult questions such as keeping guns out of the hands of convicted felons, convicted domestic abusers, terrorists, and people who are dangerously mentally ill.

If there is no willingness, no courage on the part of people in positions of authority to act, then there can be no real progress toward reducing the number of school shootings. The highly charged and dreaded words “gun control” always interrupt a rational discourse and dialogue on the problem of school safety. Politicians are so afraid of the National Rifle Association (NRA) that many cower whenever the words “gun” or “guns” are raised.

Bumper stickers such as “guns don’t kill, people do” or “locked and loaded” appear on cars and trucks in church parking lots everywhere in Virginia. Good Christians apparently don’t see the oxymoron. When it comes to commandments such as “thou shalt not kill,” they seem to share Cho’s selective mutism and remain silent.

The NRA has so brainwashed the public that even to raise the subject of preventing school shootings brings responses such as, “Ok, but no one is going to take my gun away from me.” No one ever said anyone was going to take guns out of the hands of decent, law-abiding citizens—but that is the Pavlovian response of many. I can talk rationally and calmly about a wide variety of topics with most everyone in the small Virginia town where I live, but bring up school shootings and the NRA’s brainwashing kicks in.  

Some estimate that the NRA is the second most powerful lobby in Washington DC.  I would not be surprised that if on many domestic political issues the NRA is the most powerful lobby. One of its latest excursions into mind control and violation of the constitutional right of freedom of speech is to get states to adopt laws that make it illegal for doctors to ask patients if they have a gun at home. According to the May 13, 2011 edition of USA Today, three states are considering laws that would penalize doctors and other health care providers for asking patients or their parents whether they have a gun at home.

According to USA Today, “The National Rifle Association and other pro-gun interest groups argue that doctors violate patients’ Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms by inquiring about gun ownership. Doctors say they ask only because of safety concerns. Prohibiting them from asking about guns violates the First Amendment, at least one constitutional law expert says.”

What about the right of any doctor to ask any patient any question pertaining to the patient’s wellbeing? If you are going to apply order of importance to the amendments, then it is not unreasonable to think that the most important consideration on the founding fathers’ minds was freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is guaranteed in the First Amendment, but many, including the NRA, appear to believe there is only one amendment in the Bill of Rights that counts and is free of any qualifiers—the Second Amendment. And, following that logic the Second Amendment trumps all the other amendments.

What a shame if the power of the gun lobby, coupled with the cowardice of politicians, rewrites history and interprets the Constitution to the benefit of a paranoid minority. And what a tragedy if this minority then plays into the hands of killers who are looking for guns to carry out their own twisted fantasies of revenge. (To be continued)

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