The recent massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., has created fear in schools and communities throughout our country. Disturbed by the murders, hundreds of thousands of mostly young protestors are demanding change. Proposals intended to solve or at least greatly reduce the deaths include providing firearms to trained teachers, posting armed police officers at schools, requiring mental evaluations for anyone wanting to purchase a firearm, raising the minimum age for purchasing a firearm and making rapid-firing weapons illegal. The proposals are many but the answer to “Is our right to possess firearms endangered?” can be answered in one word: No.
Our Constitution’s Second Amendment is brief: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a Free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
While seemingly simple, it is subject to different interpretations. Examples: One firearm-owning individual cannot be “A well-regulated militia”; military-type training is required to be “well-regulated.” The National Rifle Association focuses on only a select portion of the Second Amendment, “… the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” ignoring the fact that today’s rapid-fire rifles bear scant resemblance to the muzzle-loading flintlocks of colonial times.
Recently, U.S. District Judge William Young ruled, “Assault weapons and large-capacity magazines are not protected by the Second Amendment.” The NRA will almost certainly disagree. It knows little will be done to restrict firearm ownership, but will probably declare catastrophe is imminent and issue a “Call to arms” to all true patriots. All the association’s “Doomsday” letters conclude with a plea to join the NRA and send money, revealing the true purpose of the letters.
Moving on to the various proposals:
• Arming firearm-trained teachers – Although already adopted by a few school districts, this is a terrible idea. Shooting proficiently in a safe environment has not the slightest resemblance to combat; a classmate in the California Highway Patrol Cadet Class III of 1966 hardly ever missed the bull’s-eye during training and received the Class Marksmanship Award. Only a few months out of the academy, he was involved in a close-range, life-or-death firefight. He missed every time; fortunately the “bad guy” missed, too. If an educator had previous experience in a life-threatening situation, it might be different, but an untested and scared schoolteacher would possibly spray bullets all over the room and hit students instead of the gunman. Even experienced police officers usually miss far more than they hit in combat situations.
• Posting police officers at schools is an option, but where does the money come from? Judging by what happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, where an officer remained outside while students were being slaughtered, only experienced officers who have been in dangerous situations should be assigned to schools. The officer claimed he thought the shooting was occurring outside the school; that is almost impossible to believe. Part of a police officer’s oath is, “To lay down my life rather than swerve from the path of duty.” His duty was clear; he resigned soon after the incident, a better choice than being fired.
• Require mental evaluations for anyone desiring to purchase a firearm? There is little chance of that suggestion becoming law, as it would require record keeping. Many people are paranoid over government having records of firearm owners, fearing seizure of their weapons. Many states do not require firearms to be registered (see paranoia). Additionally, satisfactory mental evaluations carry no guarantees. Given the millions of unregistered and sometimes illegal firearms in our country, anyone inclined to commit murder could easily acquire weapons.
• Raising the minimum age for purchasing firearms would be of little or no value. (See above on the ease of acquiring weapons.)
• Ban rapid-fire weapons? The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives gives the following description: “A bump stock is an attachment that allows a semiautomatic rifle to mimic a fully automatic weapon’s cyclic firing rate to mimic nearly continuous automatic fire.” Such weapons are designed solely to kill people; only military and police personnel have legitimate use for them. However, a ban would have minimal impact, as statistics indicate they are used in only a small percentage of killings. Fully automatic weapons, such as machine guns, are illegal, but the ATF approved bump stocks in 2010. The NRA estimated there are 5 million AR-15s in circulation, so enforcing a law banning them would be nearly impossible and a ban would just be a “feel good” measure, unless an aroused citizenry demanded nationwide firearm registrations and aggressive enforcement. Don’t hold your breath.
FBI statistics indicate the murder rate has declined significantly over the years. While it must be emphasized those enduring unhappy childhoods rarely become murderers, a common thread is killers come from dysfunctional homes, those lacking love and guidance. Not even dozens of laws can change that; a positive home environment is up to parents or guardians.
Ted Shannon is a Mokelumne Hill resident and retired California Highway Patrol officer. Contact him at email@example.com.