Brennan: Let’s seize the opportunity
By Tom Brennan |
Before I offer my opinion on gun control, let me say that I’m a shooter. I have been a member of a skeet and trap team that heads for the firing line on Wednesday nights for the best part of 20 years.
The school shooting in Parkland, Florida, last week has mobilized a force never seen before in American politics as it has now — heart-broken but fired up high school kids and their furious parents. This could be a watershed moment in the nation’s history, but if the opportunity is to be realized it is important that such people make the right things happen.
Banning the AR15 and similar “assault weapons” would be impractical and a wasted opportunity. It would use up valuable momentum that could be put to far better use. The weapons-ban train has already left the station and there is no way to catch it. More than 10 million of the guns are already in the marketplace.
Banning new sales and initiating a buy-back program for old ones would only take the weapons from law-abiding citizens who are no threat to children or anybody except those who would do them or their families harm. Creatures like the Parkland, Florida, school shooter would never admit they have them; the guns would go into hiding and only come out when it’s time for somebody else to get killed.
There should never be another school shooting. That may be an unrealistic expectation and the next one will be yet another tragedy, but the greatest tragedy would be if the nation does not take advantage of its young people’s passion and make sensible changes that can help head it off.
Many things need doing. For one, the background-check system needs to be tightened and improved. Far too many nutcases like Nikolas Cruz can easily obtain them and squirrel their weapons away until it’s time to kill. But existing law should have kept an assault weapon out of the kid’s hands. He had been flagged as a potential problem by every agency that ever dealt with him, and even announced his plans to become a school shooter.
It would also be a good idea to raise the minimum age for buying such a gun from 18 to 21. Maturity in gun ownership and handling is essential and an age limitation would at least be a deterrent to purchases by kids like 19-year-old Cruz. And, of course, agencies like the FBI need to do their jobs properly and look into situations where mental cases are buying assault weapons — in violation of the law. If the FBI can’t handle the volume, individual cases should be referred to local law enforcement agencies, and the schools attended by such young people should be warned.
Arming teachers seems like a drastic step, but where teachers are willing and able to take concealed-carry training — and where school administrators approve — they should be encouraged to do so. Such teachers should be paid extra since they would be taking on security duties in addition to their normal classroom responsibilities. This approach could be especially important, and best accepted, in high-crime neighborhoods.
We may need to provide security at all of our schools. Right now they are terribly vulnerable. Remember that before the hijacking of airliners became popular with terrorists airports were wide open, with virtually no security checks. Anybody could walk in and get ready access to airplanes, even carrying weapons concealed in their baggage or clothing. Nowadays, passengers are routinely X-rayed and frisked, their baggage scanned and often physically inspected.
This nation has a tremendous opportunity to make its schools safer by taking advantage of the enthusiasm boiling in both our school children and their parents. If that enthusiasm can be directed into productive channels, the kids and their fired up mothers and fathers could make changes that would make our schools the tranquil fields of learning that they should be.
The time is right and the right people are ready.