Editorials

Pro-Con: Are tighter restrictions on gun owners the best way to prevent mass shootings?

Yes: This time let’s follow the students and pass tough new gun laws

Delays and deflection on enacting tougher gun laws must end. Meaningful restrictions must be enacted now!

The aftermath from Parkland is an all too familiar and alarming scenario, but the response and outrage feels different this time.

The critical difference is that students are more aware. Thanks to them, the discussion is happening everywhere led by postings on social media and a steady stream of news and discussions on TV often featuring students, concerned politicians, journalists and parents.

The missing voices in past school shootings have been students and these are perhaps the most important voices now.

Nationally, students have largely been unaware of past school shootings. Many are too young to remember them; others were perhaps shielded in some way from the news and the often far away incidents did not impact their daily lives as a result. They may have heard about it but never really understood their dreadful impact.

That peaceful bliss and ignorance on the issue has come to a screeching halt with the events of late.

The active and vocal student movement is taking hold as it becomes more and more clear that if we do not act — and act now — we will all be impacted. Students are speaking out, walking out, marching and taking action.

It is beyond ridiculous that Congress is too busy dividing itself along party lines to wake up and hear the gunfire.

Our schools should be a place to grow and learn and be happy, without worrying if today is the day that we, or our children, won’t come home — if today is the day that something will happen to us, our friends, our teachers, our classmates.

Children cannot vote or make campaign contributions, but politicians in this country have a responsibility to students too.

Yet lawmakers are failing to act, with many continuing to justify their prideful and selfish actions with dismissive lines like, “This isn’t the time for gun legislation,” or by embracing small legislative tweaks in an effort to tamp down the outrage.

There are numerous ways elected leaders can take action and pass better laws to keep us safe.

Requiring background checks on all gun buyers, licensing firearm owners, firearm registration, regulation of firearm dealers and ammunition sellers, lost or stolen firearm reporting, waiting periods and purchasing limits are just a few.

Addressing mental health is important too, but should be separated from the gun debate.

A popular deflection coming from the gun lobby and its allies now is the suggestion that teachers be armed to protect schools. This idea is as impractical as it is irrational.

How can that be a safe alternative? How can we be sure as students and parents that the teacher is properly trained? How can we be sure that the weapon will not be accessed by a child or someone else?

Teachers become teachers to help influence students and be positive role models. That pursuit is difficult enough in an already challenging and often underfunded environment. Educators need to be armed with more educational resources not weapons.

Enough! The time for distraction and deflection are over. Will politicians stand up now or wait to act until tragedy impacts their own community?

When their children are being killed because current laws allow someone to easily get a gun and shoot up a school, will they stop calling survivors “crisis actors”?

When their friends’ lives are cut short by automatic assault weapons, will they stop accusing people who speak out of using pain and hurt to pass gun control? When this happens in their community will they say it’s “not the right time”?

Americans do not let it come to that. March, speak out and vote them out if they don’t act. Politicians must push past their fear and act now before the next shooting hurts their loved ones or perhaps you.

Ava Michelman is a middle school student in Virginia. Don Kusler is a parent of two school-age children, a former gun owner from Texas and the national director of Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), a national progressive advocacy organization. Readers may write them at Americans For Democratic Action, 1629 K Street NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20006.

No: Blame for Parkland rests with local school officials and FBI ineptitude

No sooner had the smoke cleared when the canned clamor for more “common sense gun safety measures” began.

Those are Orwellian code words for further criminalization of law-abiding gun owners in violation of the Second Amendment. But it did not take long for the actual facts to emerge behind the horrible murders of 17 innocents at the high school in Parkland, Fla.

“I’m going to be a professional school shooter,” said one “Nikolas Cruz” in a YouTube post five months ago.

The FBI couldn’t locate the person with this rare name. Then in January a tipster actually identified Cruz and related his apparent plan to shoot up a school. The FBI failed to forward this explicit threat to its Miami office.

At the local level, police were called 39 times for service involving Cruz. One school kicked him out for fighting and another for misbehavior. His new school, apparently fearing he might bring a weapon, forbade him from having a backpack. Fellow students feared what he might do.

Criminal charges for terrorist threats, assault and shooting at a neighbor’s chickens could have been brought; convictions would have made him ineligible to buy firearms. Yet no prosecution was brought.

Cruz planned carefully and picked the ultimate soft target — a “gun-free” school zone.

There were no trained teachers with hidden firearms to defend against an armed intruder bent on murder. The nightmare of all nightmares would happen. Defenseless victims were gunned down, some of them brave teachers and a coach who gave their lives to save others.

The countless Americans who recoiled in horror and mourned include good citizens who own firearms and who have children in schools. Yet instantly, pre-programed attacks were launched against the NRA for its support of the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun owners. The goal is to criminalize the exercise of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

Under federal law, a person aged 18 or more who passes the background check may purchase a rifle from a gun dealer. Eighteen-year-olds can vote and join the military.

Yet because negligent government bureaucrats failed to prevent a massacre, the cry goes out to ban rifle sales to millions of responsible citizens age 18 or over.

The most popular rifle favored by millions of Americans is the AR-15, which fires only one shot per trigger pull and is not a military rifle.

The Supreme Court ruled in D.C. v. Heller (2008) that the Second Amendment protects the arms that are typically possessed for lawful purposes by law-abiding citizens. That includes the AR-15. Yet because negligent government actors failed to prevent a massacre, the cry goes out to ban this rifle.

The expired 1994 Clinton ban on “assault weapons” — a propaganda term for modern sporting rifles — had zero effect on crime. A Department of Justice study verified that. Yet a similar ban is now advocated because government failed to act and prevent the murders.

American students deserve better than to be placed in “gun free” killing zones. They deserve better than to live in an authoritarian regime in which only the military, the police and criminals possess firearms.

And they deserve to live in a society in which all provisions of the Bill of Rights are respected, where those who claim to be law enforcement actually do their jobs, and where they are protected in fact from those who would do harm.

Stephen P. Halbrook, Ph.D., J.D., is Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute, 100 Swan Way, Oakland, CA 94621, and author of “The Founders’ Second Amendment, “Gun Control in the Third Reich,” and “Gun Control in Nazi-Occupied France.”

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