First of all, we need to take a long look at the Mental Health Issues. The most common thread in the lives of these murderers is that they exhibited bizarre behavior. This was true in Virginia Tech, the Giffords shooting, the Colorado theater shooting and the horrible incident in Newtown. Other measures may reduce the effects of these incidents, but the only way to completely stop these killings is to identify and stop the people who are prone to committing them. Let's consider the lessons from the recent tragedies:
Virginia Tech: In this case, the shooter actually passed a background check because the courts did not report his commitment to a mental hospital because of "privacy concerns". In the wake of this, the NRA successfully pushed for a Federal law that required that such commitments, which prohibit a person from owning a firearm for life, be reported to the FBI and be added to the background check database. Since then, concerns have been expressed that states have been slow to report such commitments - we need to make sure states are actually doing doing this.
The Giffords Shooting: In this case the shooter was acting so bizarrely that he was expelled from the local Junior College - but in spite of approximately 20 contacts with law enforcement, not one officer sent him to the hospital for a mental health evaluation. We need to find out why they did not do so, and states need to consider expanding the circumstances under which officers can send people to a mental health facility for evaluation.
The Colorado Theater Shooting: In this case the shooter was actually under the care of a mental health professional. We need to find out why she did not realize the depth of his mental illness, and if he broke off treatment what options were available to the doctor and what she did and did not do. This incident happened because the mental health system totally failed. We need to find out why the doctor treating him failed to recognize and report his condition.
The Newtown School Shooting: In this case, there are reports that the shooter was about to be committed to an institution by his mother. He was also known by the community to have acted bizarrely in public. All of this needs to be investigated. What difficulties did his mother face in committing him? Do we need to enable a relative to commit a family member for evaluation by mental health professionals? As in the Giffords shooting, do we need to expand the criteria under which law enforcement may send someone in for evaluation?
Our first line of defense is our mental health system. We need to strengthen it.
Second, we need to examine ways to deter these mass murders, and when that fails, how to stop them as soon as possible.
The Law Of The Second Gun: This is how law enforcement trainers frequently express the fact that in nearly every mass shooting, the killing stops when the shooter faces armed opposition. These shooters have thought and planned for a long time. They have already decided how they want it to end. When they encounter the first armed opposition, they know they are in danger of loosing control, so they carryout that plan. Usually, this means they commit suicide, sometimes they surrender - but the vast majority of the time the killing stops. Any solution that fails to recognize that a gun in the hands of a screened and trained individual both ends and deters these mass murders will fail.
The first step is to look at why these incidents happen where they happen. Nearly all of these shootings take place in so called "gun free zones". According to John Lott, a researcher and professor at the University of Chicago, this is true in literally 99.5% of cases.
What do I mean by gun free zones? Gun free zones are places where screened, trained and licensed citizens (as well as off duty cops) are prohibited from carrying firearms - but there is absolutely nothing to prevent a criminal from entering with a gun. These areas are a creation of the gun control lobby - they pressure businesses to prohibit the lawful carrying of firearms, claiming that this will promote safety, when they in fact know that it does just the opposite. Think for a minute: Mass shootings do not happen in real gun free zones (such as the sterile areas of airports) because there is enforcement. They also do not happen at firing ranges or gun stores because most people are armed. They are happening in what I like to call "phony gun free zones" - 99.5% of the time - because these killers are choosing them in order to avoid facing armed opposition. Gun free zones are killing fields created by the gun control lobby and we must do something about them.
First, let's look at the "gun free killing fields" we have created in our public K-12 schools. As we do so, we need to consider the experiences of two countries and one state:
China: After a series of school mass murders committed with knives and clubs (China bans ALL private firearms), China made the decision to station an armed guard at every school. A guard stopped such an attack, before anyone was killed, on the same day as the Newtown shooting.
Israel: This nation's schools face a worse threat than crazies - terrorism. They have effectively stopped school shootings by: 1) Posting trained and armed security guards at every school. If there is no guard, school is canceled for the day. 2) The armed guards are backed up by armed teachers who have concealed carry permits. 3) When students go on field trips, some of the teachers are armed. This has stopped school shootings and there have been none of the problems predicted by the gun control lobby.
Utah: For the past fifteen years, the state of Utah has authorized teachers with concealed weapons permits to carry in the class room. They even allow teachers without permits to carry with a simple authorization by the school's principle. Not only have there been no negative incidents associated with this policy, there have been no school shooting murders. Not even one. It appears that the knowledge that they will face armed opposition has prevented these incidents.
In addition to the above, consider the following: We have thousands of volunteer Firefighters, EMTs, Paramedics and even Police Officers - all of whom we trust in life and death situations. In addition a huge portion of our military is composed of reserves and the National Guard. It is therefore a complete departure from reality to contend that volunteers from the school staff cannot be trained to serve as armed security in emergencies. it is also an insult to teachers.
With all of the above in mind, I propose the following plan - which has been proven to work in China, Utah and Israel:
1) Place armed police officers in as many schools as possible. They should be on patrol - not placed at a stationary post where a shooter can easily take them out. If there are not enough officers to station one per school, they should be randomly rotated through the schools in such a way that a potential mass murderer cannot easily know that there is or is not an officer on campus. If China - a totalitarian nation with no private guns - stations guards at every school to protect the children, should we do less?
2) Train and equip volunteer teachers and staff to really protect students in emergencies. The brave actions by teachers at Newtown were futile because the had to face an armed killer with bare hands. It is absolutely absurd to contend that teachers cannot be trained to properly handle firearms. Is this not an insult to these fine professionals? Are not many teachers and staff veterans, retired cops, retired military, reserve police officers, and members of the Guard and Reserve? If they can function in these roles, why are they incapable of protecting students after they have been properly trained? Remember, these people do not need most of the skills a cop needs - they only need a small sub set of them. Remember this has worked in Israel, so we are not reinventing the wheel.
These people do not need to carry firearms in order to both provide deterrence and end any shootings that may happen. Even though we know that teachers actually carrying firearms has resulted in zero problems in Utah, there are alternatives that avoid this but still provide for an immediate, armed response. I would propose that in districts where people are concerned about teachers carrying weapons in the classroom, that they remain in bio-metrically secured safes, accessible only to the trained individuals. These safes could be set to send an alarm to police dispatch when they are opened - thus insuring that police respond every time the weapon is accessed. This should eliminate any concerns about students gaining access to the volunteer security officer's weapon, while providing nearly instant access in an emergency.
We demand that schools be ready to deal with fires and medical emergencies - it's time to demand the same abilities in regards to those who want to kill our kids.
Having proposed the above in regards to schools, I now turn to the matter of other public places.
First, experience has taught us that real gun free zones - such as the "sterile" areas in airports - are in fact very safe. It has also taught us that gun free zones consisting of only a sign have the effect of attracting mass killers. Something must be done to address the matter of unsecured "gun free zones".
I propose that states strongly consider passing laws that require any place or business open to the public, that chooses to ban the legal carrying of firearms by licensed persons, to actually secure that public space to prevent the illegal carrying of firearms. Failing this, they should pass laws that make those who create phony gun free zones legally responsible for the totally predictable results. It's time to get rid of the signs that do nothing to make people safer, but in fact have the opposite effect.
Additionally, those in charge of public areas such and theaters and shopping malls should be exempted from legal liability if they either provide a true gun free zone (with screening and enforcement) or if they permit people with concealed carry permits to carry firearms.
These measures would have stopped or at least limited both the Colorado theater shooting and the Oregon mall shooting. It's time to look at the other side of the equation: The ability of people to defend themselves.
Finally, it's time for the President and Congress to take action in regards to concealed carry permits. There are two realities that we all must face in regards to this issue:
1) The Supreme Court is very likely to affirm that the right to carry is secured by the 2nd Amendment in the near future. Two Federal Appeals Courts have already made such rulings. It seems highly unlikely that the Supreme Court would rule that the 2nd Amendment only protects the right to keep firearms, when them Amendment specifically speaks of the right to carry firearms as well. Hopefully, they will rule that government may require permits and training - but since four states do not have this requirement and simply allow anyone legally able to own a gun to carry, it is possible that they will rule that a permit is unnecessary.
2) Permit requirements vary greatly from state to state. The situation is somewhat similar to drivers licenses in the early days of automobiles. The Federal government could raise standards for permits by setting minimum training and background check requirements for permits by mandating that permits issued in states that meet these requirements be recognized nation wide (provided they are issued by the permit holder's state of residence).
We know from 25 years of experience in 41 states that crime is lowered and lives are saved when law abiding, trained citizens are permitted to carry. The blood baths predicted by anti-gun rights groups when each of the 39 states changed their laws to allow trained citizens to carry NEVER HAPPENED. How many times to we need to prove these people wrong? We are rapidly running out of states to demonstrate this truth, since 41 states now issue permits to anyone who meets the background and training requirements.
If President Obama and the Democrats are smart - if they really want a conversation - then this is something they could offer gun rights advocates in return for say, background checks on private sales. Sadly, chances are that gun control advocates are not interested in a conversation. They have no interest in listening, no interest in the facts, and no concern for the Constitution. They do not care that people have died in the killing fields falsely called "gun free zones" they have urged others to create. They do not care that none of the measures they are pushing would have had any effect upon any of the recent shootings. They only want to push measures that advance their real agenda: A total ban on firearms.
When the measures that they are proposing now do no good, they will always be able to propose more restrictive measures. They are already talking about repealing the 2nd Amendment.
The gun control lobby can prove me wrong by actually being reasonable and listening to our concerns and working for measures we can all support. I'm not holding my breath.