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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

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  • RBear
    February 18, 2018 at 8:11 a.m.

    Interesting op-ed. It seems to be bipolar in opinion. More guns. Less guns. More security. Less security. The bottom line is that we have too many guns already. Citizens do not need any more guns. There is no way to vet who is good and who is bad. Our nation has the highest gun ownership ratio in the world and the highest school shooting rates in the world. Laws are on the books and, in this case, were followed.
    One simple fix would be to ban semi-automatic assault rifles and high capacity clips. During the last ban initiated in 1994, mass shootings were significantly down other than Columbine. They have been on the rise since the ban was lifted. Other nations ban such weapons or require significant reason and restrictions for owning them, including mental evaluations and reason for need. There is a direct correlation with the use of these weapons and they should be the focus of any efforts to curtail school shootings.
    For all the "reasons" by some in here, I suggest you find alternatives. People hunted without them before their introduction. I did and did decently. Using an assault rifle for protection is pretty absurd, if you look at the logistics. It's time to get rid of these weapons of choice for mass shooters.

    February 18, 2018 at 9:07 a.m.

    Amazing column. No mention of the common WMD used in all of these mass shootings - the assault rifle. Also no mention of Leecher Ryan's refusal to bring bump stop ban to floor of House.

    What we're those words... pish... posh?

    We don't need to turn our schools into high security prisons. We don't need to sell more guns to teachers. We need fewer guns and no assault rifles.

    The tide is about to turn. It will begin with Republicans being swept from power. The NRA must be seen in the proper light - as an enemy of the State.

  • BoudinMan
    February 18, 2018 at 9:09 a.m.

    "But few offered any solutions, or even suggestions." You were not paying attention. The 2 suggestions/solutions I have been hearing for a long time: ban assault weapons, and prohibit certifiable mentally ill persons from legally purchasing firearms. Of course, the NRA, er, the repubs did away with the latter provision.

  • Packman
    February 18, 2018 at 10 a.m.

    Hey RBear - You accuse this op-ed of being bipolar and then proceed with bipolar comment. When you say "ban" do you mean confiscate? You must since you say we have too many guns. Did you say "fix"? Fix as in total prevention? Lastly, can you define "assault weapon"?

  • RBear
    February 18, 2018 at 11:03 a.m.

    Pack assault weapons have already been defined by the 2004 law. The term ban was also defined in the law. Why should the definitions change?

  • RBear
    February 18, 2018 at 12:02 p.m.

    With regards to “fix,” I mean aspirationally strive to achieve something better than the current situation which is not working. Why shouldn’t we aspire for better?

  • notbot
    February 18, 2018 at 2:35 p.m.

    Three republicans one dem, one independent here say, quit yer bitchin and let’s vote. We’re all ready to pitch these tea baggers, alt right, white nationalists out of any party. They don’t belong.
    The problem is it is at the donor corporate level..Stephens, Wal-mart, Tyson here locally all to blame with big bucks for Cotton, Hill, Rutledge and the backwater poop we got from many counties they boosted. Westerman and Womack are sorry on guns and DACA, too. No self respecting citizen wants a wall across the southern border of the U.S. or believes that will help anything.