By Ron Mullins and Thom Bolsch
Last month an individual took a rifle that was legally purchased, entered their former high school and committed murder.
Those are the facts surrounding this incident.
The resultant media circus would lead you to believe that we have an epidemic of firearm induced murders at public institutions of learning. They are promoting a public outrage oriented around “Our Children vs. The Second Amendment”. But is that the real topic of discussion? Are guns the issue?
Yes, lives were lost; and we sincerely grieve with the families and community from which those lives were taken. We also hope and pray that it is does not occur again. But a heated emotional diatribe from positions of the extreme will not find a solution to prevent history from repeating itself. Cool, reasoned heads that will talk through a dialogue of rational, practical thought provides the only opportunity to address this issue in a realistic manner.
But, let’s first shine a light on the issue and see it in transparency…
We draft this bit of prose to present facts and dispel the myths and misrepresentations of material currently in circulation. We have made every attempt to remove bias from this article and only provide material that can be verified by competent independent sources: such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Top Causes of Death Among Teens
To focus on the big picture, we turn to the CDC. The CDC is the expert in mortality. They have been gathering data and reporting on the demographics, health and deaths of U.S. residents for a number of years. In 2007 they released a research report covering teen deaths from 1999 to 2006 (following additional research released annually since then, the 2007 report’s numbers are still valid with minimal variation through 2015.)
In the years since 1999, the number of teens (age 12 through 19) that die each year averages 16,000 plus. Less than 1% of all deaths compiled each year. Of those deaths the number one killer of our youth – accounting for almost 50% of teen deaths – is “Unintentional Injury” (considered by the CDC as preventable: car crashes (including drunk driving), poison (including substance overdose), and drowning). Homicide is a distant 2nd place at only 13% – a fourth of the unintentional injury count; and suicide is 3rd at 11% – a fifth of unintentional injury count. Of course we can agree that every death is tragic and we all grieve for the loss of life, but is the media’s attention misplaced? 13% of teens die as a result of someone else taking their life; but half die from a “preventable” incident? Should there be a spot light placed on irresponsible motor vehicle operation – for both adults and teens? And what about the Opioid epidemic in this country? Based on the information that is available to the public at this time; opioid related deaths are equivalent to homicide, but not nearly a headline grabbing a topic as a school shooting for media coverage.
Returning to the question above: Our public debate might better be focused on “Our Children vs. Irresponsible Behavior”.
In the field of aviation, every civilian aircraft crash can be attributed to a small insignificant act – human error – that caused a cascading domino effect that causes the aircraft to crash.
Something innocuous such as an improperly tightened nut, or skipping an item in a procedures check. Generally, these incidences never surface and never impact the safety of the aircraft, crew or passenger. But, every once in a while, human nature omits something in the process, which causes something else to fail that goes unnoticed and the dominos start to fall until eventually, the aircraft falls from the sky.
Turning back to our Parkland school shooting; how many dominos fell before that incident? Had just one person intervened and prevented any one of those dominos from toppling, there would be no story.
From what is known to date: If the three Sheriff’s Deputies had stormed the school, if the one Deputy on site had engaged the shooter, if there had been follow up to the suicide hotline call, if officials had escalated reports made to law enforcement, if law enforcement had followed up on tips or if his mother would have acted on seeking help for the suspect’s hurt and pain at the loss of his father; would this have prevented the tragedy?
Should the topic be more along the lines of “Our Children vs. the Imperfections of Human Behavior”?
Are we still asking if this is a “gun” issue?
Did society fail the shooter and by proxy the victims? Do we have a broken system?
“The System”, comprised of policies, procedure and protocols to deal with issues is only a construct of human origin. If those within the system act with a sense of personal duty, character and obligation; the system works for us. Without that personal ownership, and the indifference and irresponsible behavior that follows; any system will break down and the people of society lose; and lives are lost!
Fact or Fiction?
We’ve discussed some pretty important topics that are currently being ignored; let’s consider some misrepresentations you will hear in the public debate currently in play:
“18 school shootings in 2018”. Everytown for Gun Safety is responsible for providing that misrepresentation. The reportable fact is that since 2013 there have only been 5 school shootings similar to the Parkland shooting. Still, we think that 5 is still too many.
“The Second Amendment is Outdated”. A complex consideration, but based on known views of the authors of the Bill of Rights, that amendment is probably NOT outdated. It’s construct was to allow for the citizenry to organize into a combat force to confront attacks on the new republic. The individuality of the amendment was not a consideration to the authors as it was expected that individuals would assemble with their tools of combat to repel attacks on the republic. Their expectation is that we the citizens, as a collective of individuals, should combat the threats and attacks made upon our soil, our people, and our nation. These threats, and their associated risks to our way of life are still real and valid in today’s environment. We only need look at recent history to witness that risk with overlords ruling with an iron first, crushing the lifestyle of the people. (There is much more content to cover hear, but that is a discussion for another day.)
“The mentally ill should not be able to buy a firearm”. To this topic, we agree. For someone that has trouble with functioning in daily society, having access to a firearm is risking danger to themselves and others. But; if we consider the character and personality of the perpetrators of mass shootings, what in their background would lead to a red flag? The Parkland shooting aside; most shooters share a trait of rampant depression and social isolation. They may have personality flaws, but they function in society. Without advanced psychological evaluation, the average layperson would not be able to distinguish the mental illness of the actor from any other individual with in their surroundings. And who get’s to make the decision on who can, and who cannot own a gun? There are certainly many different types of mental illness; and not all mentally ill people are dangerous.
“Civilians should not own an assault weapon”. First, it should be cleared up that there is no such thing as an “assault” weapon. Assault is a word describing a human act; it is not an adjective attributed to an object. In fact, any device can be used as a weapon; blade, projectile, blunt object and yes, pressure cookers – all can be a tool of death. If used responsibly, that tool is an advantage for society; if not, well, we know the alternative. And for purposes of clarification; AR-15 does not stand for “Assault Rifle”, it is a model number that represents Armalite Rifles and AR-15 is Armalite Rifle model 15. The only difference between a classic semi-automatic rifle and a modern sporting rifle is the wood grain stock in comparison to plastic and metal railings. All semi-automatic rifles operate in the same fashion; one trigger pull launches one bullet. The next bullet requires another pull on the trigger.
“We need more comprehensive background checks for a firearm purchase”. This sounds good for a sound bite. Requiring more extensive background checks may be a worthwhile action; however, considering the most recent shooting, there was sufficient material on the shooter to have thrown up red flags in any background check – had that material been escalated to proper authorities and acted upon. And in the case of the Sutherland Springs church shooting, authorities never entered critical information into the database that would have prevented the shooter from obtaining the guns used in his assault ( and yes, that is the proper use of the word assault).
Thoughts for Consideration
If we are serious about protecting our children while they are in school; then the topic is not “Our Children vs. ‘Fill in the Blank’”, the focus needs to be realistic actions that provide security at the school. Getting rid of guns is not the answer. Some items to consider might be:
- Install airport style security at every entrance and exit to the school building
- Install cameras at entrances and in the hallways – and have them monitored
- Bring armed security into the school building (armed and TRAINED teachers and staff or independently hired and TRAINED security)
- Establish an emergency response and lock down plan
- Hold parents and students accountable for actions – punish bad behavior
- Accept that teachers are there to teach; parenting is NOT their responsibility
- If our children are worth everything, why are schools so underfunded?
- Get involved in your child’s life as a parent, know them as individuals, and get to know their friends and their friend’s parents
As humans, as a society, as family we have a responsibility to the next generation to provide an opportunity for them to learn and become responsible adult citizens.
Let them watch as we come together and realistically, rationally and responsibly address this challenge to provide a secure facility where our children can mature to take on their role and responsibility as informed adults.
Stay Alert, Stay Safe.
© Copyright 2018 Ron Mullins and Thom Bolsch
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