When It Comes To School Shootings, Stop The Bickering And Solve The Problem.
Rep. Julio Gonzalez, M.D., J.D.
The Chamber of the Florida House of Representatives is a very austere place. Upon entering, you feel the weight of your constituents urging you to work for the betterment of all Floridians.
Despite its loftiness, during session, it is also a place bustling with activity as members scope out other members' positions on issues and chairmen are approached regarding the possibility of having a bill heard.
But on Wednesday, February 14, 2018, all of that came to a halt as the announcement was made that a terrible mass shooting incident was taking place at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, and a moment of silence was called in solidarity with those who were tragically affected by the day's events. The work of the Florida House continued after that, but at a much more somber pace.
As we know, seventeen people paid the ultimate price for this senseless act of violence while countless others were left with a huge void in their lives and in their hearts. And those of us in the Florida House were left with a renewed call to do something to address this tragic problem.
The question, of course, is what?
The easy but fruitless answer is to reach for gun control legislation. All sorts of ideas have been floated ranging from a ban on assault weapons all the way to confiscation. The problem with these suggestions is that no matter how many of these laws are passed, the nefarious shooter will continue to obtain weapons and wreak havoc on the frail and unarmed. Although many are frustrated by the Congress's inability to enact stricter gun control legislation, the ineffectiveness and futility of these measures is the very reason for the gridlock. Unquestionably, if gun control measures truly worked, their passage would be unstoppable.
So, absent these ineffective measures, what else can be done?
Well, there are actually some very promising solutions. For starters, school districts can enact programs designating individuals with familiarity in handling weapons (such as concealed weapon permit holders, military veterans, former law enforcement officers, etc.) to carry them in schools for the purposes of protecting students in case of an active shooter or hostage situation. These programs may include training requirements, background checks, and psychological testing in order to qualify to carry in a school. These individuals ought to be carrying in a concealed manner so that no student or stranger would know the identity or number of such designated carriers.
Many states prohibit the carrying of any weapons in all schools, public or private, thus rendering the members of churches with schools on church grounds powerless to respond in the case of an active shooter incident. Those restrictions need be lifted, particularly during times when the church's school is not in session, such as Sundays, the same time that services are being held.
States ought to enact legislation requiring school districts to develop policies and response plans to active shooter situations, and drill them, so that all involved know how to respond.
Simulation programs, such as the one run by the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine where field enactments are created requiring coordinated responses by local SWAT, EMS teams, and assigned weapons carriers. This will allow for better coordination amongst the different players needing to work together and for the identification of challenges before they are encountered in live events.
Like in other areas, prevention is the best policy and overreliance on the federal system is a prescription for failure. Consequently, state law enforcement must be tasked with the job of identifying high-risk individuals and with investigating them before a mass casualty event takes place. It follow that state legislatures must pass laws and appropriations providing these agencies the tools they need to hunt down these would be killers and get them the interventions they need.
So why haven't these very reasonable and logical steps been enacted? In my experience, the number one reason legislation in this arena meets so much resistance is because of the conflations and misguidance provided by its opponents. Without fail, whenever these measures are presented, opponents turn the debate into a discussion about the expansion of guns in schools or the intrusion on gun free zones when, in fact, these measures represent no such expansions or intrusions. Additionally, fear mongering inevitably takes place as if the fear of the unknown were greater than the acknowledgment of the certainty of another deadly occurrence.
Clearly, our country's problem with violent behavior and murderous conduct is much greater than the mere existence of guns, and we should never have a discussion about gun violence and school safety without noting the need to improve the moral ills afflicting us. More importantly, we cannot allow the paralysis that grips us regarding gun control to keep us from enacting useful and lifesaving measures. Doing so not only represents a terrible negligence on our part, but it will also lead to more tragic and needless loss of life.
Dr. Julio Gonzalez is an orthopaedic surgeon and lawyer living in Venice, Florida. He is the author of The Federalist Pages and cohost of Right Talk America With Julio and Rod. Dr. Gonzalez is presently serving in the Florida House of Representatives. He can be reached through www.thefederalistpages.com to arrange a lecture or book signing.