Thinking of Florida

Dr. Malcolm Cross

More shootings, more talk.

The most recent horror in Florida has the dubious distinction of being the most deadly shooting spree on school grounds in modern history, with seventeen students and teachers murdered in cold blood.  While the investigations and related legal actions will no doubt go on for months, if not years, one can already predict the outlines of the national debate—sometimes dormant but never settled—that will continue:

  • More “thoughts and prayers” for the victims and their families will be offered will be offered;
  • More scorn and ridicule will be heaped on those who do offer “thoughts and prayers”  by those who say offering “thoughts and prayers” is simply a way to avoid constructive action;
  • More efforts will be made to promote more gun control;
  • More blame will be affixed to the National Rifle Association (I, personally, think the blame should be put on the monster who actually did it, but that’s just me, I guess);
  • More efforts will be made by the NRA to explain why gun control is not the answer;
  • And so on, until the next mass shooting occurs (and yes, it’s not a question of if, but when).

The gun control debate will be sterile.  Each side will trot out whatever statistics it can muster to argue that gun control will (or will not) work.  Gun control advocates will note that in countries which have either banned guns or made it exceedingly hard to get one, such as Great Britain, Japan, or Australia, gun-related deaths are far lower than in the United States.  Opponents of more gun control will argue that several American cities with the toughest gun control laws—Chicago, Washington, DC, etc.—also have the highest crime rates, and that Switzerland, which mandates gun ownership is far safer than Honduras, which bans it. 

And to all this will be added a new wrinkle—promises to explore mental health issues, efforts to identify those likely to suddenly start killing people, and measures to make it easier to incarcerate or otherwise restrict the freedom of those identified as potential menaces to society.  This new emphasis on mental health is being raised by President Trump, as well as by Florida Governor Rick Scott.  Critics have noted that both Trump and Scott have been beneficiaries of the NRA’s support in the past, and question whether their newfound interest in mental health issues reflects a desire to shift the debate away from gun control issues.  Perhaps.  But while debating the issue may prove helpful and enlightening, one must be concerned with the related issue of civil liberties and the degree to which mental health professionals could, or should, help restrict the civil liberties of those deemed potential threats to society.  One could do far worse than reviewing Philip K. Dick’s “Minority Report” for guidance.

Whatever the facts and merits of each side, the NRA will likely, by virtue of its wealth and political sophistication, stall and block the implementation of meaningful limits on gun ownership.  Whether this will prove to be good or bad news is in the eye of the beholder.  As I’ve written before, the right of the mentally sound and law-abiding people to own and use guns to protect themselves, their families, and their property should not be infringed; to limit their rights will make them less safe, without necessarily reducing the capacity the capacity of monsters to do evil.

However, there is one other set of ideas that should be tried:  Installing more armed guards at our public schools, while limiting campus access points.  Doing so will cost money and some degree of freedom as well, especially if, in our zeal to protect our children, we turned schools into armed camps.  Whether such a course of action would have reduced the carnage in Florida is an open, and unanswerable, question.  But given the human costs which have already been inflicted, such a course of action might be worth a try.   If lives can be saved, the costs will be worth it.


Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present).  He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014.  He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.

1 Comment

  1. Great article as usual!
    However, for clarity, Parkland was not the most deadly school shooting with 17 fatalities. Newtown had 27 and Virginia Tech had 32.

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