Monday, June 12, 2017


Another argument against banning weapons in any form is that it destroys our Second Amendment rights to bear arms. But all the rights granted us in the Constitution have limitations. For example, despite our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, we cannot use profanity in this book nor can we use sexist or racist vocabulary.

Clearly the Second Amendment says no one has the right to take away our right to bear arms. We doubt, however, that the founding fathers would have supported the right of the dangerously mentally ill to own assault weapons whose main purpose is to kill human beings.

A ban on assault weapons, which are intended for use by the military and law enforcement, is not a ban on our individual rights. Such a ban is a step toward sanity in protecting average citizens and guaranteeing them the right to life and the pursuit of all the freedoms guaranteed us in the Constitution. We would argue that such a ban helps guarantee the rights of all citizens to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The public, then, is being duped when it comes to what is being done to keep our schools safe and prevent school shootings. The far right of our political spectrum has framed the argument solely in Second Amendment terms, wrapping themselves in a blanket of constitutional patriotism and labeling all those who question them as unpatriotic. The hysterical tone of these self-described patriots has reached such a crescendo that it drowns out any talk of protecting the Second Amendment and keeping guns out of the hands of those who are dangerously mentally ill. Furthermore, even a hint that incompetent school and police officials have played roles in these killings cannot be heard over the din. Holding people accountable for their actions or inactions that result in injury or death is brushed aside in the frenzied rhetoric.

The result is that two issues critical to improving school safety (keeping guns out of the hands of people who are dangerously mentally ill as well as holding people accountable for their actions or inactions that facilitate these murderous rampages) are not heard, much less discussed.

Thousands of dollars have been and are being spent on warning systems, period. A considerable amount of time and effort has been expended on drawing up security and safety regulations, but once these regulations are in place, it takes a human being to activate such a system. In other words, no matter how good an electronic system is, how well thought out safety rules are, it always boils down to the human factor—to those who have the authority to make decisions. And if there is one lesson to be learned from the Virginia Tech massacre, it is that people failed to do their duty—to warn. Those in authority who failed to warn have not been held liable.

Under Virginia Tech’s Emergency Response Plan in effect on April 16, 2007, it was the Emergency Response Resources Group (a.k.a. ERRG in Tech’s plan) that had the authority, and responsibility, for sending out a warning. President Steger was part of the Policy Group, which, per the plan, sat above the ERRG. Therefore, according to the plan, Steger had no responsibility to send out a warning. Chief Flinchum, however, had the authority to issue a warning based on the school’s published Timely Warning procedure in compliance with the Clery Act to issue a warning, but he did not do so. Secretary Duncan cited the conflict between Virginia Tech’s published timely warning procedure and internal procedure 5615, which was not well known. The Emergency Plan was under a different jurisdiction (see below). The school’s leadership did not follow either its Emergency Plan or Timely Warning procedures as written—neither Steger nor Flinchum have been asked to answer for that.

At the Appalachian School of Law, President Lucius Ellsworth belittled faculty members’ requests for campus security, chalking their concerns up to “women’s hormones” and assuring them nothing would happen. Within weeks, three people were dead and three more seriously wounded. Ellsworth has never been called to task for his disregard of security.

The pattern is the same over and over again—dangerously mentally ill people getting their hands on guns, people in positions of authority turning their backs on warning signs, and innocent people being gunned down. As of this writing, no one appears ready to hold individuals accountable for their failure to act and to warn when faced with an imminent danger of violencethat is true for both Virginia Tech and the Appalachian School of Law. The pattern is there: poor decisions, inactions, and no accountability.

The publicity surrounding improved warning systems gives the public a false sense of security, gives the politicians and school officials the fig leaf they need to say they are doing something. But unless these expenditures on new warning and security systems are coupled with holding people accountable, nothing meaningful is being done, and doing nothing is not an option; the stakes are too high—they are the lives of our children and loved ones. (To be continued)

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