Editor’s note: In the aftermath of last week’s school shooting in Parkland, Fla., the Daily Sun asked a group of engaged citizens – none is an elected official or a declared candidate – to answer a set of questions. Following are their answers:
#1 Should the policy responses to mass shootings like the one in Parkland be a local, state or federal matter?
Patrick Payne: All of the above. Hopefully responsible.
Carl Taylor: Ideally, Congress would abolish manufacture and civilian sale of automatic, military-style weapons (i.e., weapons not really intended for hunting) – or at the very least the sale and ownership of large capacity magazines, bump stocks, silencers, night scopes and other means of modifying these weapons intended to increase their lethality. State and local governments would be responsible for implementation of these, and other regulations of sales, distribution and ownership of military-style weapons. Local governments should be able to initiate buy-back and destruction programs, such as that tried in Tucson and which was blocked by interference by the Arizona legislature.
Dick Monroe: Local policy allows stakeholders most affected (school districts, local police, social services, HOAs, etc,) to craft a policy that best protects their citizens. Federal policy is too broad and inflexible.
Harriet Young: I think we need federal guidelines to save lives from careless enforcement by balky states. There are reasonable guidelines between armed citizens and arming citizens with military weapons. We will not allow a tank in every garage, so we can restrict military grade weapons as a type.
Joy Staveley: I believe policy responses to mass shootings should be handled at the state level. The power and influence of the federal government should be limited.
Ann Heitland: Federal. It's too easy for guns to travel across state lines.
Donald Young: This is a very complicated problem with no simple solution as we are dealing with a constitutional question – the right to bear arms. However, I would say, not being a constitutional lawyer, that it is a state and federal matter. But, the infamous “but,” the state cannot violate the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Here is something President Trump has done: he has signed a memo directing the Justice Department to propose regulations to "ban all devices" like the rapid-fire bump stocks involved in last year's Las Vegas massacre. Given President Trump’s do-something attitude, he will hold their feet to the fire.
David Howe: The most effective solutions are probably local and state level.
#2 What priority should gun controls have in the range of possible responses?
Payne: The real safety of all present. Probably too much to expect for “all” but at least for the majority.
Taylor: Absolutely priority number one! The discussion of mental illness is a red herring, intended to distract from the main problem – which is a radical misinterpretation of the obvious intent of the Second Amendment. This was clearly intended to address the creation of local militias and the use of arms in that context.
Monroe: Minimum age to purchase a weapon, parental permission for minor to buy ammunition, permanent ownership prevention for minors convicted of concealed possession, domestic violence, animal cruelty and/or frequent truancy.
H. Young: I prefer the word gun sanity. Apparently, those who emphasize freedom as their top priority in a modern society feel any restriction upon their urges is tyranny. Religions preach against license as uncontrolled passion. I think sacrificing the lives of children to satisfy uncontrolled passion is a moral offense.
Staveley: While it may sound appealing to some, banning guns is not the answer to these mass shootings. All that would do is take guns away from law abiding, responsible, gun owners who wish to protect themselves and their families from harm, or to hunt, or recreate. Evil people, and/or those with mental illnesses, will always find a way to kill people. Make it harder for them to get guns and they will simply build bombs!
Law enforcement is rarely able to prevent crimes. U.S citizens have a right to defend themselves and to use guns lawfully. Prohibition did not stop people from consuming alcohol. It just generated more criminal activity. Banning guns will not prevent people who want guns from getting them.
We do not have more guns in our society today than in the past, so why do we have more mass shootings? I believe part of the problem lies in our culture today. We have devalued human life. Social media, email, texting and video games have taken the place of human to human contact. Violent Hollywood movies, and television, show people being cut apart and slaughtered. Nothing is left to the imagination these days. The traditional family is falling apart, and with it our moral values are being destroyed. We are being desensitized.
In the range of possible responses, the issues I raise above need to be addressed. There is no easy answer! Banning guns would only make the anti-gun folks feel better, but it would not be a solution that solved the problem.
Heitland: No response other than gun controls can be effective. Thoughts and prayers have surely failed us. Other countries have the same mental health statistics we do, but dramatically lower rates of gun violence and death because they have gun controls.
D. Young: The Constitution puts no limitation on what kinds of guns a citizen can own. Of course, the AR-15 could not be conceived of at the time the Constitution was written. Once you start down the slippery slope of gun control, where will it end. Perhaps we should call it “person control” rather than “gun control.” Perhaps better background checks would have prevented the slaughter in Parkland. But then again will all the “bad guys” submit to a background check? I doubt it. Therein is the dilemma: the average person with no criminal record or mental problems will undergo the background check whilst the criminal or a person with mental problems will find a way around the background check. If a person wants to obtain a gun he or she will find a way.
Howe: I would prioritize more gun control as "low."
#3 Realistically, what do you see coming out of the strong student reaction to the Parkland shooting?
Payne: Realistically? A knee-jerk reaction.
Taylor: If the determination of student victims to create change fails to cause legislators and civic leaders to re-examine our current gun culture, then we should be truly ashamed as civilized people. I admire these young people for confronting political leaders on this issue. Australia, when faced with mass shootings, made changes in gun laws that resulted in a drastic reduction of gun violence.
Monroe: These students are pawns of the hard anti-gun movement. Fifteen-year-olds have more emotions than reason, and policies made on emotions are almost always deeply flawed.
H. Young: I do think there will be enough legislators exposed for feeding at the NRA trough to defeat them. This is the essence of our politics today; the need to raise money to win elections weakens the spine of incumbents and challengers to bow down to big donors. The answer is money or huge amounts of public pressure. Arizona’s senators both took NRA money; now they are both leaving.
Staveley: My guess is that stronger background checks may be one outcome. Perhaps a commitment to address mental health treatment will result. Undoubtedly there would be a commitment from law enforcement at all levels, including the FBI, to sharpen their response and intervention protocol.
Heitland: I have hope that our politicians will respond and that these students will register and vote to make the politicians respond. When young people affected by the Vietnam War got angry and rose up, things changed.
D. Young: Not much. The press already said these students were confronting the President when in fact they were confronting the Florida State government. The press will play this against the President because they hate him for beating their dream candidate, Hillary.
Howe: It's already coming - platitudes, speeches, politicization, acrimony, division, suspicion, and some attempts at problem-solving. This is primarily because the students are obviously aiming at two goals - more gun control and damaging the NRA - rather than ideas to prevent school shootings.
#4 Ideally, what should come out of it?
Payne: The realization that present “Controls” are not. And a heightened awareness of the real situation we find ourselves in, every day, everywhere and in every activity. Pay attention. Respond.
Taylor: I grew up in the West and in a hunting culture. No one I knew would ever claim that automatic or semi-automatic assault weapons were necessary or even practical for hunting or recreation. At the very least, thoughtful political and civic leaders should restore the federal rules regulating military type weapons that were allowed to expire in the early 2000s. In addition, I hope that ethical and compassionate political leaders distance themselves from the NRA, its contributions and lobbying for unlimited weapon sales and ownership.
Monroe: Ideally, federal, state and local officials should build a unified framework using latest technologies to create data and communication resources to define a means (within a judicially acceptable framework) of tracking potential threats. We already have many diverse data sources, but access restrictions often mean we can only “connect the dots” after the fact.
H. Young: Ideally, the American people decide that the lives of children are more important than the Second Amendment, which was written by mere mortals in a time when it took 10 minutes to load a musket. Those who hate government per se will never be satisfied, so we might as well count noses and see just how many people really value a deadly weapon more than their children.
Staveley: What I believe should come out of it is something like Israel does. They arm their teachers and administrative staff and train them on a regular basis. They don’t have school shootings because the shooters know the students will not be sitting ducks. They know they will be confronted and stopped. It works in Israel. it does not stop the missiles and bombs, but it has prevented the mass shootings we have seen here. Additionally, it may be prudent to have better school security at the grade school and high school levels. Perhaps there should just be one entrance and exit that all entering school grounds must go through. Perhaps everyone needs to be checked just like they are now, in many places, for special events. People really need to realize that most mass shootings have taken place in gun free zones. That should tell us something. We will never be able to stop all evil or mentally disturbed people from doing bad things. But disarming innocent, law-abiding citizens, is not the solution.
Heitland: For starters, reinstatement of the assault weapons ban per Senator Feinstein's bill and stronger background checks per other bills pending in Congress. Outside of government action, I like the idea of banks refusing to allow their credit cards to be used to purchase guns; that would be concrete evidence of their statements about corporate moral responsibility.
D. Young: Keen awareness of the issue. The students can’t solve it but their cries should be heard. You can hear the liberals now saying “ban guns.” That is unconstitutional. But what is constitutional? That is for the President and Congress to work on and then be settled by the Supreme Court. That, thank God, is why we have three branches of government.
Howe: Ideally, reasoned investigation into causes and cures should come from it, but that should be happening anyway. I hope these inquiries bring solutions to better defend schools from attackers, and more precisely defined pre-purchase background checks to keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn't have them.