Country Parson Talks about Safety

I am involved in a discussion over at FB about gun control, mental health, arming teachers, etc. It has been a good, thoughtful discussion with some of my relatives back east. I share one of my comments, because this is what is swirling in my head, as I send my children to school each week day, and enter the pulpit each weekend. I think it makes sense, even without the surrounding context, and I share it here for your consideration. FB doesn’t allow paragraphs in comments, so I have broken it up to make it easier to see.

I ask these questions because, despite calls on the left for “more gun control”, that is not a viable solution in the United States without a change to the Second Amendment. And that will not happen in the foreseeable future. Restricting the purchase of rifles with pistol grips (so-called assault weapons) will stop no one. Semi-automatic weapons can not be reasonably banned, or even restricted, given the massive number of guns already in circulation. A ban would only be on the continued sale of new weapons, not possession of those already out there.

One may wish to change the second amendment, just as one may wish the police could respond faster to such incidents. But I am trying to find common ground based on solutions that could actually realistically happen. Faster police cars? I think that would not provide a faster response. “Voting them out” is not likely to happen, given the historic retention rates of incumbents. Is there a policy proposal that could gain traction to help prevent this?

I’m really trying to wrap my head around possible solutions. But most of what I hear assumes a world we do not live in. “Better parenting” is a great idea. How do we achieve that? Father not in the home comes up time and again in these cases. Should we make divorces harder to get? Is that a policy proposal we should consider and discuss? Would it pass? Anti-depressant drugs come up as a common factor as well. Should we restrict or ban those? Would such a proposal be effective, or possible?

Mental Health is an important issue as well. Can we improve mental health care? Are we willing to give the government more authority to involuntarily commit people for their own (and other’s) safety? Where do we put them? Are we willing to increase spending on that to a degree that it will make a difference? Do we increase taxes, or decrease spending elsewhere, and where would that be? How much will we allocate? Would 50 billion short term, be enough to provide the buildings? 100? What about the ongoing maintenance? That will likely be another 50 or 100 billion / year. Do we raise taxes by 300/per person to cover that?

When you add up the costs of “improving mental health”, I think armed police or teachers would be a far cheaper solution. But that doesn’t treat the mentally ill people who need help. And yet the law greatly restricts involuntary commitments. I am on the local hospital ethics board, and their hands are tied. We need significant changes in the law and in funding models to make “improve mental health” a reality. Is there the political will from the electorate to allow/require elected officials to make those changes? I am not convinced there is.

Gun control is good in theory – if we could actually get rid of all guns. But that’s sort of like “getting rid of all nuclear missiles”. It’s a nice idea, but it simply will not happen. North Korea will not give them up. Do we disarm ourselves to make a point? People in Wyoming will not give up their guns. Even if the political will existed to repeal the second amendment (and it does NOT exist), it would be as effective as prohibition of alcohol was. But it would not lead to bathtub Gin. It would lead to armed resistance. And many in the police or military would likely refuse to carry out orders to confiscate weapons.

Should we put metal detectors in our schools? That would also be almost a billion dollars just for equipment. There would also be the need for armed officers to oversee those. (If the officers are not armed, what would be the point) That would be around 50-100 billion dollars a year.

I am seeking a proposal that has a reasonable chance of passing in the real world, that has a reasonable chance of reducing these incidents. I believe arming teachers that are properly trained, or providing armed police in the building (not the parking lot) are the solutions most likely to be implemented that have a chance of reducing these incidents. True, arming police and arming teachers are two different solutions. But I am willing to discuss either one together or separately. Is there another solution we could find that could be implemented in the reasonably foreseeable future to prevent or significantly reduce the number of these incidents? That is my question.

I then added this as a separate thought:

Perhaps one possibility is that the federal government starts a program that will fund local municipalities to do both/and: provide training for teachers who wish to be armed while also provide armed officers in schools. Communities could choose one or both solutions if they wish. This would give local control to choose which of the two easiest-to-implement, and most-likely to produce good effect (at least I believe them to be) solutions works best for each community. Would that be an acceptable compromise?

Of course, FB works better with “on the fly” comments, not well thought out argumentation, so the above are just my jotted down thoughts mid-conversation. But the comments got too long for FB (even though I pressed <enter> anyway), so I share them here.

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