Yes, yes, yes and yes. The correct answer is all of the below.
Once again, the unthinkable has become more than thinkable. It’s become predictable. Left untreated, school shootings will happen again. We know this because we’ve seen this.
And once again, this latest one in Santa Fe has us thinking about what we can do to make it the last one. That might be too much to expect. But we all expect us to do something. Nothing, as it often is, is not an option. We’ve tried nothing.
I’ve heard many ideas. I haven’t heard a bad one yet. Well, maybe one bad one. I’ll try not to run out of space before circling back to that one.
We owe it to our children to consider every option on the table, including the ones that come from politicians not on our team. This problem demands less red and blue, and more red, white and blue, remembering that white does have to mean surrender.
We must keep guns out of the wrong hands. We must keep guns in the right hands. Here’s something most all mass shootings have in common: They didn’t end until the shooter was confronted by a qualified person with a gun.
Sure, it’s easy for some to scoff at the NRA’s good-guy-with-a gun-theory, but think about it next time before you laugh. Isn’t it a basic theory behind law enforcement?
Despite the shorthand headlines — “Patrick renews call for armed teachers,” it said on this paper’s Monday front page — I’ve heard of nobody, including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, suggesting arming all teachers. I’ve heard support for what is current law in Texas allowing school districts to make decisions about having qualified, volunteer school personnel have access to an on-campus weapon. It’s a realistic nod to a sad reality. Think about it. These shootings most often end with a confrontation with qualified, armed personnel. The sooner the better.
Perfect? No. Foolproof? Hardly. Accident proof? Nothing is. But there are situations in which it would be better than a one-way shooting gallery until off-campus or near-campus personnel show up.
The goal is to stop these incidents as far upstream as possible, preferably before the shooting starts. And these shootings start in a troubled mind.
Patrick has fielded belittling for his notions. Granted, Patrick is the kind of guy it’s easy to belittle. He often seems disturbingly doubt-free for a man of his age and experience.
The Patrick plan includes what’s come to be known as hardening of school campuses. He wants to restrict access by reducing the number of entrances, with a nod to making sure these are sufficient emergency exits. It’s indeed a conundrum: Making schools more difficult to get into while also making sure they are easy to get out of. It’s a challenge, but it’s doable and the concept is part of the solution.
For his suggestions, Patrick drew scorn, including from Fred Guttenberg, father of a student killed in Parkland, Fla., who said they were “the most idiotic comments I’ve ever heard regarding gun safety.”
Whatever you think of Patrick, I don’t think he suffers from a failure to want to protect the citizens of Texas.
“We have to look at ourselves,” he said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “It’s not about the guns. It’s about us.”
He gets partial credit for that answer. It is about us. And our guns. The correct full-credit answer is it is about the lethal combination of us and our guns.
“We have devalued life,” he said, “whether it’s through abortion, whether it’s the breakup of families, through violent movies, and particularly violent video games, which now outsell movies and music. Psychologists and psychiatrists will tell you that students are desensitized to violence, may have lost empathy for their victims by watching hours and hours of video violent games.”
I’ve heard the justifiable counter to that last notion, about how kids in other countries see those violent movies and play those violent games and those countries don’t have the mass shootings we do. Correct. But does anyone, including perhaps those who produce and profit from that strain of violent entertainment, think it’s helpful?
Gov. Greg Abbott, slow to join the we’ve-got-to-do-something bandwagon, is to be commended for convening round table discussions on gun violence. Regardless of the shape of the table, everything should be on it for discussion.
“I look forward to hearing from all sides of the debate, and from expert perspectives on these issues,” Abbott said Monday in announcing a Tuesday session with education and law enforcement officials. “Working together, we can ensure a safe learning environment for students and safer communities for all Texans.”
There’s lots to talk about. There should be universal background checks for anyone purchasing a weapon. There should be limits on the amount of ammo that can be loaded into a gun. There are some types of arms don’t belong in civilians’ hands. We should consider raising the gun purchase age to 21. We should stiffen the penalty for allowing a gun to get in the hands of somebody who shouldn’t have a gun.
We should take a deep look at how we can better control access to schools without causing other problems.
We can do this. We might have to look beyond our usual and pervasive political biases and admit the other side might have ideas worth considering. And we have to keep in mind the troubling but very real notion that once the shooting starts somebody has to shoot back.
I’ve heard lots of ideas, many worth considering. The worst one I’ve heard is from extremists who say it’s time for the government to collect up all the guns. As I’ve oft-repeated, including in a recent column critical of some of what I saw and heard at the National Rifle Association annual meeting in Dallas, I’m very skeptical about restricting the rights of the law abiding because of the wrongs of the law breaking. But there is much we can do without treading too heavily on those rights.
Collecting up all the guns is a bad idea. And even if it was a good idea, what would you do in the years (decades?) it would take to accomplish it, if you ever could? We need answers now.
Keep your mind open to all the suggestions, even if it means getting past your thoughts about the suggester. And leaders like Patrick and Abbott must be willing to get past their notions about anything that, to them, sounds like gun control.
I believe the answers can be found in all of the above.