June 18, 2019 | 65° F

MAENNER: GOP gun reform policies inadequate

Opinions Column: Maenner's Musings


What seemed like an ordinary Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14 quickly turned into yet another shooting inside the walls of an American school. For the students and faculty not among the 17 who tragically lost their lives to a deranged individual with a semiautomatic rifle, healing is left to the passage of time. Yet, the passage of time brings with it a double-edged sword. While victims of past tragedies are given time to heal, purveyors of new ones are given time to plan, arm and strike. Even as the current law proves thoroughly deficient in protecting our schools, politics as usual continues to stifle and prevent any worthwhile debate and action regarding the epidemic of gun violence within this nation’s schools. 

With both houses of Congress and the presidency currently occupied by Republicans, any meaningful gun reform is incumbent upon the support of conservative politicians. In the wake of the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, proposals by Democrats to pass universal background-check legislation and bring back the assault weapons ban, which was supported by former President Ronald Reagan, have fallen on deaf ears as the Right has deflected any calls for substantive gun control measures by saying that more guns are actually the answer.

Putting politics aside, the current major proposals by Republicans regarding gun violence are not just wholly inadequate, but repugnant to say the least. Chief of the Republican Party's policy proposals in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting has been the idea touted by President Donald J. Trump that teachers should be armed. Even when disregarding the fact that doing so does not resolve the heart of the gun problem in the United States, there is no research currently available that would lead anyone to believe that arming school teachers would effectively combat school shootings. The Guardian notes that “a 2014 Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) study of US active shooter incidents in the US between 2000 and 2013 said of the 160 total incidents examined, 21 were stopped by citizens, workers or off-duty police officers. Of the 21 people, six were armed.” 

Of course, this FBI study also does not take into account the logistical nightmare that would proceed from arming teachers in a school. First, there would be the issue of where the weapon would be held. Any teachers carrying it on their person would be vulnerable to a student or group of students taking it from them for a whole host of reasons. Second, you would have to take into account that every teacher is responsible during an active-shooter situation of making sure their class is behind locked doors at all times in the safest possible position. A teacher who is then expected to leave the classroom to go hunting for the shooter not only puts themselves at risk, but also their entire class for the extra time the door is left open and unlocked, increasing the possibility that the total number of lives lost in the Parkland shooting could just be the fatalities inflicted to one class in another. Finally, having multiple armed individuals during an active shooter situation only makes the job of police harder, forcing them to have to decipher who the actual threat is, thus taking precious time away from law enforcement to eliminate the threat. 

In response to the backlash against arming teachers, Right-wing voices, such as National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre, have proposed an alternative which would instead see armed security situated at schools across the nation. Besides the obvious financial concerns due to the overall lack of funding for public schools nationwide, this line of thinking fails to recognize the fact that there was armed security at Stoneman Douglas High School in the form of the school’s resource officer, Deputy Scott Petersen, who failed to enter the school after the first shots were fired. 

Even if the officer had responded to the shooting inside Stoneman Douglas, it is unclear how much would have changed, but what is clear is that none of this would have happened in the first place had the shooter never been in possession of an assault rifle. While conservative proposals to combat school shootings purport to be the only viable fixes to this epidemic with respect to the Second Amendment, the truth is that they are doing nothing more than attempting to put a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. Any worthwhile reform must address the ease with which individuals are able to gain possession of firearms, while also taking into account the culture of guns that is pervasive throughout this country. One thing is for certain though: if the test of a society is how safe it can keep its most vulnerable members, then the United States still has a long way to go. 

Hunter Maenner is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in criminal justice and political science. His column, "Maenner's Musings," runs on alternate Mondays.


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Hunter Maenner

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