Snow Job Revisited

Harry Drabik

In the shadow of the Florida school shootings I set last week’s piece on student/teen safety as a snow job. I did so because a horrible incident like that is exactly what the NRA hates and its opposition appreciates. Both sides express, of course, deep concern for student welfare, but neither is very active on issues that regularly take teenage lives. The public cares about student safety but the opposing sides can’t agree on a balance between rights and responsibilities or civil liberties and governmental control. The issues involved are not simplistic. I used teen safety as a snow job turning attention, however justifiably, there instead of at the actual question which is actually and unavoidably gun control. Histrionics about teen safety in or out of school is little more than a convenient leverage for the larger question of guns in America. That is it pure and simple and no amount of sincere complaint or impressive huffing changes that one little bit.

The question, sarcastically put, has anti-gun nuts squaring off with gun nuts in postures little changed from decades ago. I’m not saying all no-gun and pro-gun people are nuts, but in each group some people hold intractable views that have so far, seems to me, done little to help work things out. And honestly now, doesn’t it seem time to look at this with calmer perspective? Can we agree that aside from the gun question itself something seems to have gone awry on the purchase end with background checking that missed dozens of law enforcement calls circulating around the shooter. Background checking has to work or it’s a waste of everyone’s time and energy. And it’s not as if enforcement made a sterling showing being present from the start but staying outside the building while the shooting went on. Isn’t it “Protect and Serve” and not “Wait and See”? I can fault those officers (apparently 4 from the Sheriff’s Dept.) who waited, but I can’t blame them, not when the public is often so hypercritical of police that some of these have grown reluctant to act for fear of being tagged as racist or an abuser of power. If we’ve had law enforcement walking on eggs for decades maybe it’s not surprising when they don’t run to the sound of battle. I’d wait too If I had reasonable belief  that whatever I did would be critically grilled to a char I might take the route of waiting for backup or say I was on guard to get the shooter if they came out. Whatever the practical facts (and I do not claim extensive knowledge of the Florida school layout) it at the very least seems we should ask why have a paid deputy at the school if they won’t act?

Both sides will play full court political advantage with this issue, and it’ll be damn hard to find any good guys. And yes, I do fault all around. It looked to me as if Trump sniffed the political wind before stepping up. And if Obama had been in office it wouldn’t surprise me if he came up with something smooth as he did expressing sorrow over a shooter in Paris (guns in France, who knew) as a random act. If a passionate believer goes to a Jewish deli in hope of killing Jews (the shooter’s expressed wish) that is not random any more than the Florida shooter going to a high school to shoot students is random. Obviously and not surprisingly the Trump manner was clumsy whereas the Obama manner was smooth and convincing. But each responded with political aims in mind, Obama perhaps more so in a lying characterization of something as random when it was not.

If we were to wager how many would say “This time we’ll solve it” versus “Both side will make political hay rallying their sides and nothing will change?” Where’s your bet going? Are we going to solve it? Is that where the smart money goes? If you are a betting person you can take it to the bank that any threat to gun ownership will send sales peaking and prices for guns and ammo soar as demand runs away from supply. Who reading this thinks we can get the Second Amendment taken out or even that we’d get an interpretation by the Supreme Court revised for the 21st century? Say you could get a ruling that would limit citizen weapons to black powder single shot and other “arms” as found in 1776? Does that prevent a disaffected youth from making black powder grenades instead or set about getting revenge with fire bombs? Shot, blown up, or burned it’s the same result if you’re killed and a awful aftermath if you survive.

In any case among the reasons gun abuse has proved daunting is the basic fact of it being a very difficult thing to deal with. If it was easy we’d have solved this one, but we haven’t, even though only three areas have to be dealt with. 1 What are the specific steps needed? 2 How will we do them? and 3 How is it paid for? See, only three little things to contend with, but no magic wands to work with. Bugger, huh? Proposals that lack those three elements are speculation, though for a tough problem maybe we need consider loopy things like armed teachers who could hardly be worse than having deputies outside not doing anything. If we want an answer we need to put everything on the table for consideration, so if you want to add Internal Security to the Dept. of Homeland Security here’s the big chance.

My out-of-step suggestion is to consider looking at the consequences of treating people as victims who as a result are not responsible for their situation or acts. The victim mentality sets up a dynamic that may not be helping us. An individual, including troubled ones, needs to see that individual responsibility is more empowering than victimhood. Guns don’t shoot themselves and trouble youth need to be reminded they are responsible and accountable. They shouldn’t have to learn that hard way as perpetrators that their actions have consequences. A rule banning showing the face and giving a shooter’s name would help, too. Both sides should be able to agree there.