Just Another Political Football
The Political Non-Answer To A Troubling Challenge
It never ceases to amaze me by how little our political system eventually accomplishes with its actions. I realize that the system itself was intentionally designed to work very slowly but sometimes it seems that our representation believes that it should not work at all. I get it. I recognize the wisdom in going slow. I actually agree with it, but sometimes it can be frustrating. We cannot keep changing things on a whim, or a 51% vote. We need to be sure before creating coercion in citizens lives. Every law takes away just a little more of our freedoms. They are supposed to ensure freedom, not restrict it unless ABSOLUTELY necessary. We are not supposed to let emotion get the better of us. Congress is supposed to be a ‘deliberative’ body. THEY are given the task of thinking about issues, contemplating ramifications, having in depth discussions and debating exactly what is needed to resolve our challenges. To identify those things that are common to all without argument and instituting them into law, to find issues that can actually be discussed and look for areas of agreement that can result in legislation that while not ideal can be acceptable to all. This is known as ‘crafting’ legislation where no one gets all or exactly what they would like but find a way to ‘make a deal’ where everyone gets some of what they want or need. And the rest? It is NOT supposed to devolve into a street fight. We are not supposed to let the ‘children’, the ‘students’, direct our country’s policy. No single group should ever have that power. EXCEPT. Except the Congress. That is what they are there for. Believe it or not. It is supposed to become an ongoing debate where BOTH sides attempt to explain and work to CONVINCE others as to the ‘rightness’ and ‘reasonableness’ of a position so as to become a point of agreement in the future. People working together for mutual benefit. Individuals finding avenues of understanding to difficult questions. Men of integrity and character finding resolution amid confusion and frustration through intellectual discourse. It is a noble calling. They have sworn to represent ALL of the people. Certain groups may have given them the OPPORTUNITY to serve, but in the end they are supposed to represent all the people. Through existing law. Through the Constitution. This is not a choice. It is a great responsibility. It carries with it great obligations. And it’s not happening. Unfortunately, the reality is that the slowness of our representation does not come by way of intent and philosophy, but rather through ineptitude, ideology and corrupt self-interest.
In my many years, I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm and three is a congress
– John Adams
It is ironic, but our shooters, and our citizenry, are very much the same. They are emotional. They are self-absorbed. They care little for other people. They are mentally challenged. They make bad decisions. They are woefully under-developed as to the power of thought and philosophy. They have no idea what to do. They are very frustrated. They live in an environment of confusion. They do not understand. They are full of hate. They hate others because no one can help them. They hate self because they are incapable of resolving their own issues. They are in pain. They experience despair. They are dying inside. They are killing America. Some of them are doing it, one bullet at a time. The others, one vote at a time. Democracy is not a panacea. It is simply a means to an end. It can be a great tool. It has the potential to create a life of peace and harmony. Or it can devolve into a formidable weapon. Oppression and control. Coercion and chaos. You tell me. Which one do YOU see?
There is no ‘CONVERSATION’. There is no discussion, no debate. There has ceased to even be the pretense that there is one going on. Everyone talks about dialogue when they simply want you to listen, to what is not clear. When you do not agree, they do not explain, they do not create another argument from another perspective. They do not search for someone more articulate that may be able to persuade and bring clarity. No, they just speak louder, and louder, until it becomes nothing but a cacophony of venom streaming through a bullhorn. They cannot put into words exactly what they want, but you certainly get the point. They want it NOW!
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power
– Abraham Lincoln
So you have heard our plea for change. Nothing in particular, just the wish that we do something. There are actually quite a few options, and some of them could impact our problem. If you want oppressive gun control, I’m sorry, but you aren’t going to be very happy. And if you want teachers to defend the children, you will be impeded by those of singular focus that unfortunately will never entertain such an eventuality. Is there middle ground? None that I can see. Nothing obvious. There will be very minor changes that will not ever really impact the issue. There may even be another assault weapons ban. The first one didn’t work, and another will make little difference as well. There WILL be those that decide to try arming teachers and staff. Only time will tell if this is actually a detriment in any way. Difficult to prove one way or the other. And if there actually is an event at one of these schools? The response and the result will go a long way to determining the future of such an alternative. If even one child is hurt or dies it will be termed a complete failure by those who already despise the option. If there is a mistake in judgement? The experiment will be given a death knell. There will be no second chances. Maybe I’m wrong, but if history is any yardstick it will make it difficult indeed. If gun control becomes oppressive and fails to do the job? It won’t matter. The concept will continue to echo in our hallowed halls of government and reverberate in our streets. Liberal policies never go away. Ever. They are never termed failures. Never recognizing defeat. They are here forever. Only one thing is to be expected. The children will continue to die. UNLESS. Unless we do something really radical. If we talk. And listen. If we come to agreement. And fix things. But I am a writer. I like to contemplate possibilities. That sounds like science fiction. Don’t get me wrong. I really like science fiction. But in this case, I was hoping for something slightly different.
The ideologies have been engaged. The battle is over. Or has it just begun? Only time will tell. The war continues. In Florida, the bill has been passed. Other states are watching, like North Carolina, having their own dialogue. There is a wait and see attitude. Isn’t that ALWAYS the way? They live by the code of crisis management. Nothing else will happen until another ‘Never Again’ event occurs. For now, they will play defense. The best thing to do in this instance for our representatives is to punt the political football. Why do anything today if tomorrow it becomes someone else’s problem?
MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL PUBLIC SAFETY ACT
While the chances for the bill being successful are rather insignificant, it is worth noting that the intentions, at least on the surface, seem to be sincere. We are a country that knows WHAT it feels and it LIKES to feel things. I often wish that there was some real thought and considered discussion and debate that could have gone along with all the ‘feeling’, but that is so rare as to be nonexistent in the current political climate. There are a few comments that beg to be made. A quick recap first.
In a nutshell, the bill calls for arming teachers and other school workers, and would raise the minimum age to buy guns to 21 from 18 and include a 3 day waiting period for all purchases. In the House, the Appropriations Committee voted along party lines to approve the measure to train teachers to carry guns in class under the direction of local law enforcement — ‘IF’ superintendents or the school board approve. In the Senate, they approved a similar bill, but required that BOTH the sheriff AND school district officials in a county agree to the program before it can be adopted. The opinions of the parents, the students or the public at large? What? Are you kidding? Not relevant. We use their protests when necessary. But now? Not so much. Any one of these entities will be able to stop the implementation. This aspect of the bill is dead before it begins. While there is some support for the measure from parents and teachers, I cannot find a single teachers group or superintendent that supports the idea, with many of the sheriffs following suit. Why even pass a bill that is obviously never going to be implemented in the first place? Extremely disingenuous. I can hear the refrain; ‘It’s not OUR fault! We passed the bill. It’s out of our hands!’ Isn’t that ALWAYS the case?
There was a push for an assault weapons ban. It was defeated pretty much along party lines. There was limited support from the republicans but not surprisingly the support from the democrats was 100%. We see that pretty much every day with the party of love and peace, tolerance and inclusion. Inclusion of what, if I may ask? I found no democrats in support of the school marshal plan. Not a single one. The democrats are always prepared to support a ‘trial’ program for those things they wish to ‘insert’ into our lives, and yet not a single one voiced the possibility to attempt such an experiment. Again, not a single one. Have you been paying attention the last few years? The partisanship that exists within our society is by far the greatest threat that will inevitably bring this great nation to its knees. Gun control is but one example, one symptom of the cancer that exists.
The price tag for the bill is about $400 million to pay for the components of the plan, including $67 million to fund the marshal program, $100 million to increase mental health assistance in schools, $75 million for “safe schools,” $90 million to make school buildings more secure and about $25 million to create crisis and action teams at the Department of Children and Families. Never let a good ‘crisis’ go unused. ‘Mental health assistance’? ‘Safe schools’? ‘Secure’? ‘Crisis and action teams’? What does all that mean? Aren’t there multiple programs already in place to deal with most of this? More money. More people. More bureaucracy. More ineptitude. Predictable failure. Any mention of how these things will fix the issues? Of course not. How do you come up with answers to a 50 year old dilemma in 3 weeks? You listen to children protesters. You pass a $400 million bill. Next issue please! Nothing EVER changes.
The $67 million “school marshal” program is the most controversial aspect of a House bill that imposes a three-day waiting period for gun purchases, raises the age to buy any gun from 18 to 21 and gives police more power to seize guns from people who threaten themselves or others. Most of the money for the marshal program would be spent on training.
The goal: 10 marshals (teachers trained to carry a gun) in every school, which would equate to 37,000 statewide. The state would cover the costs of background checks, drug testing, psychological exams and 132 hours of training. The House bill does provide a one-time $500 stipend for those who volunteer to have a gun. The bill calls for spending $400 million to put a school Resource Officer in every school, improve mental health counseling and make public school buildings safer. Actually, this is obviously untrue and a very clear misrepresentation. Where are the reporters in our society today? Journalism is indeed dead. Does the liberal media do any math anymore? Just using their own numbers, 10 marshals in each school turns that 37,000 number into 3700 schools. I already mentioned that the ‘average’ price tag for a Resource Officer is in the vicinity of $65k and I don’t even know if that includes benefits. Do the math. That is $240 million PER YEAR just for the SROs. I don’t see that as a line item. Where is the money coming from? This is a bill that is doomed to failure. The worst part is we may have the same bill in every state before the smoke settles. Like I said, TRILLIONS of dollars, with no end in sight.
The kicker to all of this? The bill would create a program that allows teachers who receive law-enforcement training and are deputized by the local sheriff’s office to carry concealed weapons in the classroom, if also approved by the school district. The school’s superintendent has spoken out firmly against that measure. In fact, I have yet to find a single person within the educational system administration who supports any of this. There will be no approvals. There will be no marshals. There will be more shootings.
The scope of the problem is daunting. At worst it is an insurmountable challenge. Even with the marshals, it is inevitable that there will also be a need for Resource Officers. If you have been following the series, the costs are indescribable. My research has unearthed a fundamental aspect to the viability to any legislation that will be proposed, irrespective of where. Many smaller schools may be easier to protect in many ways but the Douglas campus in Parkland has 18 buildings and 3200 students. This is a huge impediment to security. Eighteen entrances and countless other ways to enter. The Virginia Tech Campus, home to arguably the worst mass school shooting in our history, has over 120 independent buildings, excluding sheds and various outbuildings, 26,000 acres and 26,000 students. To provide just a minimum sphere of security you would need a small army. How can you possibly protect something like that? The fact of the matter is that you really cannot. I know many people do not care about cost, but at some point there has to be a voice of reason, of practicality. Otherwise we will devolve into a society of socialism and communism. At some point you may achieve a modicum of security, but at what price? It will not be JUST a matter of dollars. It will be a matter of personal freedoms, a matter of personal choice, a matter of self. Is that the strategy? Is that actually the plan? It may well be.
A final comment on the Florida bill. It was reported that the bill would also give the ‘police more power to seize guns from people who threaten themselves or others’. Really? Just who makes such a determination and under what circumstances? I believe we can assume that all of the guns that the Parkland shooter possessed have been confiscated, and rightly so, but how do you take them away before the fact? Isn’t that what we have been talking about for 50 years with mental health assessments? Do we take away constitutional rights from citizens because they were in a bar fight? Maybe they cursed at a cop? How about a speeding ticket? Are police officers really competent to make a decision if they are a true threat? I can only expect that the Black Lives Matter members may have a small disagreement with such a power for cops on the street. Is it so hard to see an eventual abuse of such a power? Talk about the rush to put together a bill. Although I have to admit that it did take longer than usual. I wonder if anyone took the time to read it. I guess it really doesn’t matter.
Just as a side note; it has been a month since the bill has been passed. Broward County has already determined that they will NOT be entertaining the idea of armed teachers. No public discussion. No debate. Parents? Victims? Students? Where is the ‘conversation’? It is no longer relevant. But . . . . They DO want the money anyway. People are already complaining that there is NOT enough money in the bill to pay for the School Resource Officers. I knew that. How could anyone not know that? Simple math. All this money for ‘safety’? Did you know that it creates more government bureaucracy? New state commission on safety? New ADMINISTRATORS in the school system? New Department of School Safety in the Department of Education? So much for safety and security.
They are giving the ability for a judge to make a determination that an individual is a threat, based on the accusations of even a single complainant, and confiscate weapons and keep them for up to 12 months, until such a time as the individual can PROVE they are NOT a threat any longer, even if never PROVEN that they were a threat to begin with, GUILTY until they prove THEMSELVES to be innocent. WE all know it is next to impossible to prove a negative. And what will this cost the individual? Thousands? Millions? They are not going to simply take his word for it. It is a virtual ban for life from buying or owning a gun. And all of this with no due process! Read the bill. It is extremely illuminating. It is the future.
‘Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.’
– Martin Niemöller
Beware America! This is ALWAYS the way tyranny begins. The enemy is not coming, the enemy is already here.
So now Florida has a bill. Will it work? Nobody knows. My expectations are not very high. There has been a lot of talk about the support by the NRA for many members of Congress. They say it is a bad thing. The NRA is in support of protecting our children with armed teachers. I have seen no evidence that there is any connection between them and the violence in our schools. None. Zero. Nada. Zilch. Can someone please bring some clarity to an already murky argument? The teachers unions across this nation are passionately and vehemently against the proposals. How is this any different from the NRA? Their platform is much more visible and more lucrative for the monetary support of their own representation in Congress. Why is there no outcry as to THEIR influence? It should be a matter of choice, and that is extremely ironic and disturbing, since the only ones against any real choices are coming from the left, and the party of ‘choice’.
“Bringing more guns into our schools does nothing to protect our students and educators from gun violence,” Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association that represents three million educators, said in a statement. “Our students need more books, art and music programs, nurses and school counselors; they do not need more guns in their classrooms.”
In a perfect world I would agree. But first of all, there are no guns in the classroom at all now, except those brought to the party by the shooters, and the only alternatives they endorse will cost trillions of dollars which will preclude any increase in resources virtually forever. Do they NOT see this? And nothing can possibly protect your students and educators EXCEPT guns, in one form or another. Unless we fix the underlying problems, which we do not seem to be trying to do.
Bill Bond spent years studying school safety with the National Association for Secondary School Principals. Bond, now retired, was the principal of Kentucky’s Heath High School in 1997 when a student shot and killed three classmates. He doesn’t pretend to have found the answer on school safety, and after 20 years of studying the issue, he said there’s no easy fix. But he does know that teachers shouldn’t be armed with weapons. He said he worries that more children would die from accidental shootings if teachers were armed than from the actual school shootings.
20 years. No easy fix. He doesn’t have a clue. But he DOES know teachers should not be armed? There will be more accidental shooting deaths than from the shooters? Really. There have been 300 in 20 years. He must be kidding. Please tell me he’s making a joke. The tragedy is that he is NOT making a joke. He really believes this. He IS the joke. And the joke is on us. This is the essence of the opposition to any workable solution.
“I’m coming at that from a standpoint of a person that’s been in a school shooting, he continued. I have taken the gun from a guy that had just killed three kids, and also the perspective of a person who’s been around guns all their life,” Bond said. “If you’re in a school shooting, it’s a situation of instant decisions. I had 3 kids killed in 12 seconds. That’s how fast it happens.”
How is he still alive? 12 seconds. 3 dead. 5 wounded. The kid just handed him the gun? That’s not the way it EVER happens. What kind of decisions is he talking about? What did he do? Why didn’t he stop the event before it happened? I looked it up. The 14 year old just gave up after shooting the students who were in a group PRAYING. Schizophrenia. Depression. Mentally damaged. He stole the guns. No assault weapons. Same old, same old. Gun control is not the issue. Damaged individuals are. ALL of our efforts should go into that direction.
“If we want to talk about preventing school shootings, we should be talking about stopping kids getting their hands on guns in the first place,” said Mr. Skaggs, chief counsel at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “Those are the laws we should be looking at.”
Are you listening? His livelihood DEPENDS on gun control. And laws. How could you possibly expect any other response? After putting together this series I have never believed more fully or completely that guns do not kill, only damaged people kill. The evidence is irrefutable. If we find and treat these individuals, the shootings will one day virtually disappear. Only crimes of passion will remain, and that is another matter.
Do not fear the gun for it is but a tool
Fear he who does not value life for he is a perpetual threat
But in the interim, which will be lengthy, advocates say these kinds of reforms are the only meaningful way to protect schoolchildren. They point in particular to more rural schools, where an emergency response from police may take too long in the context of an active shooter incident. They also argue that gun-free zones are creating “soft targets”.
Several U.S. states already allow teachers to be armed in schools. One of them is Texas. Steve Clugston is the Superintendent of the Callisburg Independent School District, in Callisburg, Texas. He says one reason the district decided to allow armed teachers was because the area does not have its own police department. This is the case in dozens of school districts in small communities across Texas, and our nation. If a shooting happens in these areas, Clugston says, police officers likely could not reach the school quickly enough. “We do not have a local police department in our little town, and the sheriff’s office could be at least 15 to 20 minutes away on a good day. The main reason for this is to close that gap.”
Armed teachers must first have a license to carry a handgun in Texas. Educators in the Callisburg district receive training from experts in shooting and gun safety. They also complete drills in the schools on how to react to a variety of live shooter situations. As he sees it, Clugston said school violence is no different than a situation in which a family is being attacked inside their home. “Somebody is trying to kick in that door and threatening to kill everybody in that room. At that particular moment, there’s not many people that don’t wish they had a gun to protect themselves at that particular time.” Clugston says he believes arming teachers works as a deterrent to violence by sending a clear message to would-be attackers. His district places large signs in front of all its school buildings warning that armed teachers and employees are on the property. “We’re going to use whatever force is necessary to protect our people. When you look at a lot of these active shooters, they tend to target that soft target. We’re going to let them know we’re not a soft target.” Clugston says the reaction to the district’s program from parents and community members has been “100 percent positive.”
What is wrong with his comments? This is the reality. It is not radical. It is not irresponsible. It is practical and reasonable. And the opposition has no workable alternatives. Give staff the ability and opportunity to defend themselves and their students. Give the children the opportunity to live. I just don’t understand.
And we will continue to agree to disagree. According to Rasmussen, 54% of Americans believe government failure is to “blame for the mass shooting.” Only 33% of Americans blame guns. Eleven percent of Americans say they are unsure what contributed to the occurrence of the mass shooting. And yet they continue to tell us that ‘America’ wants gun control. ‘Their’ America maybe, but not the real America. They just want someone to fix it. When the group of respondents was narrowed so as to include only those “who have children of elementary or secondary school age,” the percentage of Americans who cite government failure as causal jumped to 61 and the percentage who blamed guns dropped to 23.
As is always the case, there are accusations being thrown around like confetti. We’ve looked at most of the front line alternatives, large and small. The reality is that our politics will most likely insure that none of this will ever be implemented and therefore will be unable to make an appreciable change in the way we do things. The easy things will be ‘adjusted’ and the politicians will hope that it will go away. If they really wanted to do something they could, you know. But the realities of the money necessary, not to mention the intellectual necessities, as well as getting re-elected, are just too much of an obstacle to any real reform.
I am continually dismayed by the tactics used in our political dialogue. Instead of trying to come to some kind of consensus, the opponents continue to allow their well-developed ability to hate consume their actions. Their obsession with the NRA is truly concerning. They never seem to build, but only attempt to destroy. They are not happy simply with disagreement, but once again wish to begin a campaign to boycott companies that support the NRA but that will only make adversaries just dig in deeper in the future. Have you ever noticed that only liberals want to boycott? It is just so simplistic, and so disingenuous. Isn’t it curious that the party that is implacably AGAINST bullying fully supports a course of action that is nothing EXCEPT the actions of an organized bullying campaign? Why is it necessary to coerce ALL the people ALL the time? If you don’t want to buy a product, then don’t. If you don’t like a company then do not deal with them. If you can make others agree with your position, it will eventually disappear. Why the organization? Why do you not allow your own people to have the choice? Why do you wish to destroy other people’s livelihoods? All you actually do is to call attention to the FACT that you do not truly believe in freedom at all. Why do you have to force them into following YOUR agenda? You force your own people. You attempt to force those that disagree with you. You want to control everyone and everything all the time.
There is no consistency. They support countries that support the onerous tyranny of women and gays. They hate big business but spend all of their hard earned dollars on products from the biggest companies. They want living wages for all workers, but refuse to give up their iPhones made in countries like China that pay their workers pennies on the dollar. They hate the 1% but buy everything and anything that their celebrity actors and sports figures promote. They love to hate things but they sure don’t want to give up any of their luxuries. The word hypocrisy comes to mind.
And yet they never ever try to talk, to discuss. They are always quick to call for a conversation, but are never ready to actually converse. They attempt to sound reasonable and open and yet it never happens. Force. It’s what works for them. Hate. It fuels the agenda. A means to an end. A disingenuous and hypocritical course of action. Devoid of character or integrity. And it is ALWAYS the same story. Why is that? Why do people never recognize it for what it is? Never willing to convince, through intellect and reason, and to help others understand their positions. Why not that instead of pure force? What are they afraid of? It is all very sad. It is pathetic. Is this all by way of chance, or has it always been the plan? Either way, it is unacceptable.
The protestors are rarely energized for long. Their attention spans are arguably the shortest of any group in our society. All of their efforts could have been directed toward substantive change and reform. Instead it has been funneled into just more coercion and hatred. They just can’t help themselves. They may feel content with themselves but remember an important aspect. They are not changing anything. It always makes a bully feel good when they get the opportunity to bully someone. It’s taken 60 years but the generation of love and peace has morphed into the generation of hate and conflict. It is just so obvious. And so very sad. I am really blown away that more people do not comprehend this. It is to ALL of our detriment. Don’t complain about what is happening. It’s exactly what you wanted. I don’t know how you could have expected anything else. The writing has been on the walls for decades. It is the graffiti of life and it cannot be whitewashed away.
But controversy continues in the public sphere. It may never end. We’ve presented our position. Hopefully it has given you food for thought, and not just more reason to hate. Something has to be done. Something of substance and with a chance of success. Something thoughtful, helping those who need our help and not harming those that have done nothing wrong.
America is a great country. We have overcome many obstacles. We have a great challenge before us. Will we rise to the occasion once more? I certainly hope so. The bodies of even more children will be the price of failure.