Since the Parkland shooting there has been a lot of talk about how to make our schools safer. Instead of getting into standard gun control or gun rights talking points, here are three common sense ideas that would actually make our schools safer and could actually get done if people got behind them.
1. We need a better process for putting dangerous kids on the list for background checks. Almost anyone who looks at the Parkland shooter’s history sees that he should not have been able to legally buy or possess a gun. Broward officials in the school district, DCF, and Sheriff’s office knew enough that they should have done something, but it’s not that easy to get it done.
If a school, county agency, or law enforcement sees a kid who repeatedly demonstrates violent behavior, there should be a way of flagging them so that they show up on a background check. The main background check system, known as NICS, is federal and run by the FBI. So fixing this requires Congress to act, and then requires local and state entities to follow through.
Any such change would need to address due process. The kid and his family should be notified that he is being put on the list, and have the right to a hearing. And there should be reasonable standards – one minor scuffle in third grade shouldn’t be enough put a kid on the list.
There would be some resistance to this idea from the extremes of the gun rights community. I’ve already been yelled at for this. But I’m pretty extreme and I think we should do this. I don’t think the NRA would oppose this and I’m not sure the more radical Gun Owners of America would either.
While I’m on this subject, I suggest that every parent ask their kids if they know of anyone in their school whose history is in any way similar to the Parkland shooter. The odds are that there are one or more like him in most schools. If you find out there is such a kid, do something about it. Talk to other kids and parents. Talk to the school.
2. This one will get a lot of readers angry but take a breath and read the whole thing. You still might like #3. Someone with a concealed carry license can carry a concealed firearm in toy stores, on playgrounds, in malls and restaurants, in concerts and almost everywhere you and your kids go. But in schools they can’t legally protect themselves and those around them.
So let responsible, licensed adults carry concealed in schools. In Florida this would require the state legislature to eliminate exceptions 9 and 10 in Section 790.06(12)(a).
Many readers will not like this. Right now you have several arguments bouncing around in your head. Every single one of them applies equally in the settings mentioned above, where “good guys” are allowed to carry guns. This is just common sense.
People are calling Coach Feis a hero. That’s nice. But if Coach Feis had been carrying a pistol he might have stopped the shooting and saved a lot of lives.
In a typical high school there are roughly 100 adults. If 10% of them carry concealed, that’s an extra 10 people who can stop a shooter. Adding one police officer or security guard doesn’t come close.
Now to be clear, what I’m suggesting would not require any extra training or special approval from anyone, and no one is forced to carry. There are other proposals out there that would require school or sheriff approval and substantial training. I don’t think that’s the best way because it would cost a lot and reduce the number of people ready to protect our kids. A reasonable compromise might be something like an 8-hour course on the special circumstances of carrying in a school.
This idea is unlikely to happen. Gun control leaders will blindly and angrily refuse to consider it because they’re not really interested in common sense steps that would make our kids safer. They just want to ban guns wherever they can.
3. There are longstanding and mostly positive movements in education where kids with special needs are not removed from the general student body, commonly known as “mainstreaming” or “inclusion”. Those two are not identical but the idea is that these kids will do better in life if they spend all or most of their time with regular students. In the past they were more likely to be sent to special schools or special classes within the schools. For most kinds of special needs, mainstreaming and/or inclusion are great.
Violent kids are different. They should not be mainstreamed. They should not be included with the general student body. We had our own personal experience with this a few years ago. Our kid wasn’t hurt but a friend’s kid was. We (four lawyer parents) fought like hell to get the dangerous kid out and we succeeded. It shouldn’t have been that hard.
The Parkland shooter was trouble since elementary school. The district knew. The teachers knew. The county knew. The sheriff knew. He was kept in regular schools and he was bullied. He got in fights, one video of which was widely publicized a couple days ago. That kid should have been in a special school getting special attention for his problems. It would have been better for him and a lot better for everyone else.
This is another area where we have to assure due process. But the pendulum has swung too far. We need to make it easier to remove violent kids from the general school population.
For those who are really concerned about saving lives, we could start with our own foreign policy. We have troops in 177 countries and we’re bombing 7 countries. Our government is killing lots of innocent people. Does anyone remember when people opposed our government doing that?
We could also end the drug war. Sure you can say we’ve only tried it for 104 years (since the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914) and it’ll start working soon. But maybe, just maybe, it’s time to recognize that prohibitions don’t work and increase crime.
That leaves my favorite issue – roundabouts. Carmel Indiana converted over 100 intersections to roundabouts. Traffic fatalities fell by 80% while they went up in neighboring Indianapolis. We can save lives by making our roads safer. Those lives matter too.