It says something, and nothing good, about the state of opinionating in this country when a matter of life and death, like yet another school shooting, can't get the commentariat to move from Do Something! to a suggestion as to what.
The day after the Florida massacre, editorial after column after op-ed appeared in the public prints, full of balder and dash, dragging themselves from the dark abysm of pish and crawling to the topmost peak of posh. O, Mencken, thou should be alive at this hour.
The wires were full of editorial litter: Will this country finally get serious about gun control? Isn't it time for common sense laws? Attention must be paid.
But few offered any solutions, or even suggestions. As P.J. O'Rourke once said, some journalists don't think they have to step on cockroaches. They think all they have to do is turn on the lights and watch 'em scatter.
(Allow us a parenthetical thought before we go much further. One exception to last week's milksop offerings came from the New York Times, of all places, and its regular columnist Nicholas Kristof, who wrote "How to Reduce Shootings," a simple enough headline for a complex problem. It's easily found on the Times' website, and he offers real, and realistic, suggestions. Although we suspicion many of his proposals would find more opposition than he seems to expect.)
What exactly is a "common sense gun law" that isn't already on the books? The editorialists from coast to coast didn't say. What law would have prevented the shooting in Florida? Dispatches say the perp didn't have a criminal record and got his gun legally. Besides total confiscation of all guns in America--good luck with that--what extra law would have done the trick?
Is the country not serious when it comes to guns? The president of the nation and speaker of its House of Representatives took to the airwaves to address the matter. That sounds serious. Was attention not paid? There was wall-to-wall coverage of the latest shooting.
Maybe the editorialists, as so many do, just needed to bluster for 15 inches or so about the Big News of the day, then call it an afternoon. It wouldn't be the first time. Which may be the biggest reason, but not the only reason, why few Americans read their local editorial columns.
On the opposite but equally useless side, there are those (mostly guests on TV shout shows) who will howl about the Constitution of the United States, specifically the Second Amendment. It's a waste of air, and air time. It would take three-quarters of the states to excise the Second Amendment from our national rulebook. Or, more realistically, a U.S. Supreme Court majority with more leftish leanings when it comes to gun control. But both those options are a generation away, at least.
Is there anything that can be done today?
Our considered editorial opinion, which is more considered on this issue than many:
Many schools in this country are what's fashionably called Soft Targets. Let's change that. Soonest.
We know a man who, at one point in his life, had four children at four different levels of schooling: college, high school, middle school and elementary school. There were police patrolling at the upper three levels. But at the elementary school, there was a lonely sign at the front of the campus: Gun-Free Zone. And no police within shouting distance. Which do you think, Gentle Reader, was the softest target?
Get more cops on campus. If schools can afford a football coach, they can afford to keep our children safe. (First reports out of Florida suggest there was some sort of security officer on the campus Wednesday. But that doesn't disprove our point.)
For our friends on the left who might suggest that "more guns on campus" isn't the answer, we'd ask why we see so many police--armed police--patrolling the stands at football games. If security is important on campus come Friday nights, why not on Tuesday mornings?
Some have suggested arming teachers, especially at the most rural schools that (1) might have more financial challenges and (2) are a half-hour or so away from the nearest police station or sheriff's office. That quickly devolves into somebody accusing the pro-security types of "wanting to arm all teachers." Which is balder and dash, too. We've heard no argument, from any quarter, suggesting the nation arm all teachers. But if a principal can find four teachers on campus who'd like to go through the training, that's four more people between our kids and the crazies.
There are other steps that could harden these targets. Such as locks, cameras, etc. But nothing as effective as a cop on the school beat.
And the FBI must be held accountable on this latest fiasco. The Washington Post reports that somebody close to the shooter called the FBI on Jan. 5 to report his erratic behavior, the social media posts that were disturbing to say the least, and his stated desire to go on a kill-crazy rampage at a school. The tip, however, wasn't forwarded to the Miami field office. The FBI calls that a breach of protocol. We call it a fire-able offense.
If our tone today suggests that we're angry about the FBI's dropping the ball in this case, and about the thousands of schools around the country that aren't as secure as they should be, we're happy that Gentle Reader does not misunderstand.
On the same day that the five-column lead headline on the front page of Arkansas' Newspaper blared: "Gunman opens fire at Florida school," came this headline, a few inches down: "Fixes to state gun law/on way, legislator says."
Last year the Arkansas Legislature passed a law that would allow students to carry handguns into their dorm rooms--if they obtain something called an Enhanced Carry Permit. And keep the thing within arm's reach. That law is now troubling those who have to work out the details, where You Know Who lives.
In what universe is this law smart? Certainly not in this one. There's a proposal that might come up in this session to ban guns in dorm rooms. To which state Rep. Trent Garner of El Dorado complained: "Looking at that proposal, it's a bad step back for Arkansas, it's a bad step back for Second Amendment rights, and I think a majority of members do not support that."
If that's the case, then the state of lawmaking in 2018 Arkansas is worse than the state of opinion making in 2018 America. Say it isn't so. When we say there should be more armed people on the nation's campuses, let us emphasize: Those people should be police officers, not 19-year-old kids drinking stale Heinekens.
Now that's common sense. We wish it were more common.
Editorial on 02/18/2018
Print Headline: The gun (non-)debate