School shootings — how could things change?

So, a 17-year-old shot ten people in a school in Texas.

Liberals for gun control are saying the same thing as before about banning assault weapons. Nothing is different, so nothing will change.

Donald Trump is saying what he said last time about background checks, no guns until age 21, and arming teachers. Nothing is different, so nothing will change.

The NRA is doing its best to make sure you know the problem is not the guns, in fact, guns are the solution. They always say that. Nothing is different, so nothing will change.

Are we OK with the status quo?

Is there anyone with the courage to work with the other side? Yeah, I know, whichever side you are on, the other side are evil awful people, but really, if no one works with them, nothing will be different, so nothing will change.

Do you think a national election will change this?

Even if the Democrats sweep the House in 2018, they are not going to end up with 60 votes in the Senate, which means they can’t do anything on their own. Donald Trump will still be president in 2018, and most likely in 2019, and even if he isn’t, Mike Pence will be. They’re not voting for a Democratic version of gun control.

Elections — at least this next one — won’t change things by themselves. Imagine all you want, but do you really think either side is going to support a radically different position on guns and schools? One side can’t fix this. No one is even trying.

I’m not insensitive. I hate seeing dead children as much as you.

But pain and rending of garments has not proven to be effective in creating change. Seeing children die has not created change.

The only change that matters will take place in the states. So we will have 50 different sets of rules, and guns and people in America can flow from state to state pretty easily.

Change will require a different attitude from Congress and the states, and co-operation. That’s going to take a very long time. And a lot more people will die before it happens.

Go ahead. Prove me wrong. I hope you can. But it’s not about what you want. It’s about what could actually happen.

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  1. I think it is inaccurate to assume that there are two more or less “equal” sides to this issue. I believe that the vast majority of us, gun owners included, want far stricter controls on guns and access to guns. (And contrary to popular belief, this can be done without running afoul of the Second Amendment, even under the current SCOTUS interpretation of it.)We are really being held hostage by a relatively small number of wealthy campaign donors, their lackeys in Congress, the NRA, and some uneducated and uninformed and whack job far right gun nuts. I agree that elections will change little or nothing. The only thing that will change this or any other issue, is to get money out of politics, and I don’t see that happening any time soon.

  2. We fought Big Tobacco by pointing the finger at tobacco manufacturers. When we realized most people start smoking as teens, that teens like rebellion and can sniff out BS, and we invited them to engage their peers, things started to change. Their anger was harnessed and directed at the tobacco companies with the Truth campaigns, etc. A portion of taxes on cigarettes was used to fund the effort. If we want to fight Big Guns, we’re going to have to tax ammunition, change laws, and harness the anger of youth and families. We can require gun owners to buy insurance, and make manufacturers liable. A million small actions can have an effect. Also, unleash the Kraken!

    1. Very nice, Joanne. But how will “we” change laws, tax ammunition, require gun owners to buy insurance, and make manufacturers liable? All these require legislative action. I don’t see how that can happen with the current congress, or any congress I can imagine that has at least 40 republicans in it.

      1. How do you change the culture? It’s not easy. In 1989, California’s Prop 99 levied a 25 cent tax on a pack of cigarettes with 5 cents going to anti-smoking initiatives which included an advertising competition. Paul Keye won — he’d studied ineffective CDC ads and messaging. He realized that the epidemic in smoking was man made. So, he decided to make it clear that Big Tobacco executives were the real bad guys (rather than focusing on health or behavior change). They were the ones who were lying, profiting, and killing people through addiction. His famous “Industry Spokesman” ad featured a smoky room with ad execs laughing callously about needing new “volunteer addicts” because others were dying off. In 1994, the tobacco execs were hauled before Congress. In 1995, Florida sued to recoup Medicaid money that had been used to treat smoking-related illnesses. They won $11B with $200M to be used to reduce teen smoking. And, they won possession of internal documents that proved the execs knew their product was addictive, lethal, and had still marketed specifically to 14-24 year olds. Florida used the money to hold the first Teen Tobacco Summit, bringing in 600 teens from every county in FL. They used them as a focus group to study anti-smoking commercials. The teens created Students Working Against Tobacco with local chapters in every FL county. They created the Truth campaign. They made it fun for teens to join their non-smoking group by picking groups up by train, giving them swag and advocacy training, and treating them to a concert. What does any of this have to do with guns? Every issue is different and complex. Some teens think it’s cool to own guns. Some teens are bullied and ostracized. Some teens get twisted ideas from social media. Some have emotional issues. Helping to resolve these issues takes money. The money can come from taxes on the product which has the added effect of making it more expensive. I just read today that Boulder has banned assault weapons, and that similar ordinances in other cities have held up in federal court. The police chief in Houston, Texas is in favor of gun control — police and veterans are credible speakers. It’s not going to be a simple answer.

        1. I know you’re on vacation, Josh, so I’ll take this opportunity to stay on the soapbox a bit longer. We talk about “school shootings” and “teens,” but these are by and large white teen boys doing the mass murders. It’s long past time we took a look at this group in light of #metoo, incels, hate groups, hazing, etc. Our society is in a period of transition on many fronts. Social mobility is stagnating. Segments of our society that have enjoyed privilege and opportunities in the past believe they are owed them in perpetuity. They now feel they are victims. They point blame at the vulnerable rather than the powerful. The combination of anger + access to weapons (especially weapons of war) is deadly. There is no anger management or emotional exploration. We’re not talking about addiction, here. We’re talking about engagement. What would happen if they were taught a trade under apprenticeships? Could their energy be re-directed under increased supervision and purpose? Parents who own weapons need a wake up call, because they’re not paying attention — they’re not as responsible as they believe they are. They’re not good role models for what it means to grow up male today. These kids are our own home-grown problem. And finally, we are losing “the commons” — preferring individual “rights” (which are really preferences), individualism, and corporate wealth over public safety, shared spaces, public education, public health, public parks — public society. That’s got to change.

  3. Perhaps you should try to negotiate with the other side – give them something in return for the gun control measures you desire. You want background checks for all firearm sales? OK, but let the government pick up the cost of that background check. In California, that’s about $25 per transaction.

  4. There really isn’t an “other side.” just a handful of extremists; most gun owners have no problem with background checks. Unlike Josh, and you, I see no reason to negotiate with the “other side.” They aren’t interested in negotiating, anyway.

  5. Josh asked for solutions and then proposed several legislative fixes. I offered a possible way there, negotiation and compromise on one specific proposal: universal background checks. Would that work? I don’t know, but it would likely have a better chance of success.

    If you don’t want to negotiate with us, don’t. See where it goes.

  6. Who is “us?” Are you a lobbyist? A firearms manufacturer? A white supremecist? Or are you one of millions of gun owners who have good intentions and who are fine with responsible regulation? If you are, you are not really on the “other side.” and, like the rest of us, that is not where the power is. ( As far as who pays for background checks, I can’t say whether I’d be open to the government paying for it. I guess that depends on how much it costs. I would need to know more. )

  7. I’m a technical writer working in the defense industry. I came to this website a couple of months ago after reading Josh’s book.

    In terms of sides, I’m on the side that doesn’t believe further gun control legislation is going to stop children from killing other children. I’m an NRA member and belong to and support several other firearm and Second Amendment groups including GOA, SAF, and CRPA.

    In terms of NICS background checks, the FBI ran around 27 million in 2017.

  8. I’m really tired of the arguments on both sides. It pains me just as much to see this stuff continue to happen. How will new laws, new taxes, new restrictions prevent these tragedies from happening? I’m a licensed gun owner. I have no problem with universal background checks – in fact I had to submit to one. I have no problem banning bump stocks, but would that really have prevented the mass murder in Las Vegas? You want to tax my ammo? Fine. I’ll cough up the money, but how exactly will that prevent murder? Ban “assault” weapons? Actually, real assault weapons – as in automatic rifles – have been banned for decades. We’ve covered that ad nauseam. This latest kid used a shotgun that he stole from his Dad. Are we going to ban those now? Why didn’t the father have his guns locked up? Anyone asking that question? Father of the year. He’s negligent.

    I don’t claim to know what the answer to our epidemic is, but I know it’s not more fear-based, feel-good legislation. You can’t legislate against evil. You have to fight evil at its roots. There are so many reasons why these kids have done what they did – and it has nothing to do with the NRA, the 2nd amendment, or right vs. left. They were bad kids. They’re crazy. They’re evil. They intend to kill.

    Here’s a serious question: How can we identify high risk kids and/or would be murderers BEFORE they commit crimes? What are the warning signs? What actions should we take when we do ID them? Nobody wants the government monitoring social media accounts right? That would be an invasion of privacy right? Oh we want our kids to be free to express themselves in their safe spaces? If we’re serious about saving lives, maybe we ought to think long and hard about sacrificing a little privacy. Maybe we ought to hold parents accountable. Maybe we ought to put at least one armed security guard in every public school. Maybe we ought to have metal detectors in high schools. Think that’s crazy talk? I bet those practices might have actually saved lives. Anyone hear the story about the armed police officer who prevented a school shooting at a high school in Illinois last week? Probably not – because it doesn’t fit in with the current narrative.

    These kids showed plenty of warning signs. Nobody flagged them. Nobody did anything – including the FBI who saw the signs in Parkland. And here we are again, with the two “sides” pointing fingers at their respective ideologies, and more discussion about how more laws will prevent evil people from committing evil acts. Here’s a thought: let’s stop blaming the other guys, and start coming together to talk about common sense approaches to identification, prevention, and intervention. I’m not holding my breath.

  9. All of these shootings are angry men with access to guns. Let’s talk about just that for a moment.

  10. To point out the obvious: Emotions run fast and hot on this one. Breathe. Listen. Be open.

    Drop the us vs. them mentality. We are a society. It’s all “us.” This week it was some other parents’ kids, but they are all–victims, shooters, all–“our” kids.

  11. no, they are not all victims. if the news reports are accurate apparently the shooter killed his ex gf and another girl who refused to go out with him. he is not a victim. he is a privileged white male who feels that he is entitled to sex. sheesh.

    the NRA and the far right are fine with this. trees of liberty getting watered, and all that. it IS us vs them.

    1. I did not write they are all victims. I wrote the are all “our” kids (including the victims and the shooters). Violence, and the victims it leaves behind, is an issue we own as a society.

      Assuming we want to solve it (and there are elements who benefit from the discord, who would prefer we don’t solve it) — We need to talk it about instead of shout about it.

  12. The human heart is capable of great hatred and murder, regardless of who its owner is (white, black, male, female, etc.). Victim disarmament has never worked in all history, except for the benefit of tyrants. Guns are the most regulated product in the USA, but criminals never follow the law.

    The best way to stop school shootings is the ban victim disarmament zones (aka Gun Free zones), and harden the security in the same way our Congress and government buildings are secured. Our children should be at least as well protected as our money or politicians. Allow teachers who are already concealed carry holders to be armed on school grounds, and have armed security in every school. Stop publishing the name and bio of every school shooter so they don’t become infamous. They strive to get attention (even if it is after they die).

    The JPFO compiled a list of genocides that took place throughout the 20th century, and gun control was a key factor in all of them, resulting in 170M deaths of innocent civilians.

  13. Okay, I’ve got a plan for everyone to get involved. It’s a team effort.

    Let’s prevent the next potential school shooting!

    Early intervention is the key.

    Parents are the first line of defense:
    2. Ask your kid’s friend’s parents if they have guns and if they are stored appropriately.
    3. Pay more attention to your kid’s activities on and off line.
    4. Note and address how your child deals with anger and depression. Review: Atlasofemotions.org
    5. How do you and your spouse deal with anger?
    6. Is your child a bully or being bullied? This is very important. bullydefensetools.com/the-tools.html
    7. If you are an aunt/uncle/grandparent who sees something – address it with parents or with the child!
    8. If your child has issues that need to be addressed by a professional – Make sure you’re not in denial. Seek help! Don’t just deal with it, tolerate it, adjust your life around it, as the parents of some school shooters have done. Don’t let your son become the next unpinned grenade. Time is of the essence. It takes time for a troubled kid to self-radicalize into a mass shooter, and it may be hard to detect. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/06/when-your-child-is-a-psychopath/524502/
    9. If you are a neighbor who notices something – get involved.
    10. Most school shooters come from 2-parent, stable, middle-class households. They are not habitually violent nor part of a gang.

    1. Classmates, teachers, and in-school police officers may be better able to spot a troubled kid than parents.
    2. Hardened schools with high security don’t necessarily prevent shootings. Prevention over security is key. (That said, what about arming teachers/rooms with pepper spray? What about having cameras or trained adults on playgrounds?)
    3. Spot distress before it blooms into rage, psychosis, or homicide.
    4. Have specially trained teams rate the severity of behavioral threats and have escalating interventions: moment of anger = counseling, evidence of planning or access to weapons = more elaborate plan. Monitor, let them know they’re being monitored, offer mental health services. Look at court records. Search for weapons in the school. Tracking and communicating among schools, in case student is transferred.
    5. Shooters will “leak” their plans to others (through social media in 4 of 5 cases).
    6. Provide a safe path for students to speak up if they see/hear something. Cultivate trust with them. Teachers, authorities, should eat lunch with students and get to know them on a personal level.

    Health providers:
    1. Doctors – ask questions about guns, bullying, emotional issues.
    2. Let’s reduce the stigma around mental health issues: treatment actually works IF people have access to services.
    3. Treat and track all young psychopaths (1% of children). Half of them grow out of it. The other half are believed to account for about half of all violent crimes.

    Voters and legislators:
    1. Red flag laws work to prevent tragedy and should be passed in every state – under a red flag law, a family member, friend, or police officer may ask a judge to issue a “gun violence restraining order” against someone who is considered dangerous to themselves or others. If granted, police can seize the guns immediately.
    2. Restrict the manufacture and sale of weapons of war (may not decrease the number of incidents, but would decrease the number of fatalities.) Half of all school shootings (in a study done with three dozen countries) in which two or more people died occurred in the US. Americans are no more troubled than people of Europe or Canada. The difference is access to guns.

    Most of my information came from this article by writer/journalist BARBARA BRADLEY HAGERTY who has interviewed dozens of experts and sources (as opposed to just airing her opinion or having an agenda): https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2018/05/school-shootings-prevention/560753/?utm_source=polfb

  14. Sam- I was not aware that Australia is now run by a tyrant.

    Joanne, some really good ideas here. I especially agree with parental responsibility. And make them legally liable, as well. But, that doesn’t help with the adult nuts though, as schools are not the only place where mass shootings take place.

    1. Barbara — All adult nuts started out as children. Also, the topic of this blog is specifically school shootings. I’d like to underline that the ideas from the article aren’t my opinions — they’re from Barbara Bradley Hagerty’s research. She spoke with many experts on the front lines. On a different, and more general note, I’d like to tell you about a show I’m watching. The Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” is about a teen who commits suicide and leaves behind 13 cassette recordings — one for each person who betrayed her trust before she took her life. The show was being filmed on my block, so instead of grousing about the noise and the effect the filming had on our ability to find on-street parking, I decided to watch it. It brought me back into my own memories of the high school dynamic — the cliques and bullies, the young predators, the mean ones, the outcasts, the clueless teachers and parents with their well-meaning but ineffective advice. I reviewed my personal memories from this lens — things I’d long forgotten — and gained new understandings. Now, season 2 has been released. In addition to the girl’s suicide, a boy’s attempted suicide (with his policeman father’s gun), rapes, and bullying, there’s a trial. One bullied outcast bought a couple of guns and taught another how to use them. I’m wondering if the plot is leading up to a school shooting. We’ll see. But last night, I thought about that kid with the gun. He is not a major player at all. He’s not looking for fame or glory. He’s the weird loner with a camera. He’s not angry, as much as he is frustrated that nothing is changing — it doesn’t matter that students tell the truth, or involve the police and counselors — nothing changes. He will probably take matters into his own hands. This show is making me think differently — deeply — about what happens when we fail to address the problems in front of us — the systemic problems that require more than just having an opinion about something or pointing a finger at someone for their behavior. The solution to systemic problems starts by putting out on the table our shared values. If your strongest value in this discussion is your right to own a gun — we won’t get anywhere. If our strongest value is the right of every child that’s born in this world to be safe, fed, healthy, and educated, then we have a place to start as a community in making sure that becomes their reality.

    2. What do you call it when innocent, law-abiding people are disarmed by their government?

      Victim disarmament only benefits aggressors, whether they are from the government or criminal elements in society.