Misapprehension about gun terminology, the meaning of the Second Amendment, why kids kill, and how our schools protect students — all these elements have sown confusion and spawned solutions unlikely to change anything about mass school shootings.
With my experience of 10 years as a police officer, 25 years as a classroom teacher and an extensive background with firearms, I propose addressing our misplaced sanctimony and emotion with reason.
Some in the current debate conflate assault weapons, assault rifles, semi-automatic rifles and machine guns as if they are one and the same. No class of firearms called “assault weapons” exists. Firearms confiscationists invented it to scare those who don’t own guns into believing that AR-15s — the weapon used in many recent mass shootings — are the same as M16s.
Any item that could injure another person — flyswatter, umbrella, coat hanger or stale, hard cornbread wedge — is an assault weapon. Assault rifles are shot from the shoulder and are capable of full-automatic fire. Some possess mechanisms allowing their operators to switch to and from full- and semi-automatic modes. Machine guns are typically heavy, tripod-mounted, fully-automatic rifles. Handheld versions are called submachine guns.
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AR-15s are semi-automatic, only requiring a pull of the trigger for each round fired — similar in operation to rifles owned by Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, both lifetime National Rifle Association members.
Florida Sen. Bill Nelson said after the Parkland mass shooting that “an AR-15 is not for hunting; it’s for killing.” Of course that rifle is designed to kill, just like weapons of past and present, including slingshots, bows and arrows, daggers, swords, muskets, tomahawks, shotguns and so forth.
Were men angels, lethal weapons would be unnecessary. But referring to “gun violence” instead of “criminal violence,” and attacking the NRA instead of the actual killers, demonstrates an unwillingness to address the real problem.
The Constitution recognizes rights. It doesn’t grant them. They are God-given, and among them is life. Because they are inalienable, they are off limits to a majority vote by one’s neighbors or any act of government.
The means to assure every person’s inherent right to life are expressed through the Second Amendment. It has nothing to do with hunting. It’s an individual right that may be exercised in protection of self, family, community or nation, and it requires the private ownership of contemporary arms, as explained by Alexander Hamilton in Federalist Papers 28 and 29.
America’s 40-year experiment with progressive ideas, moral relativism, rejection of Judeo-Christian standards of right and wrong, the death culture of abortion and euthanasia, unstable families and liberal attitudes toward drug use and sexual promiscuity has created a toxic culture that generates nihilistic, spiritually empty, bitter and violent youth. Therapeutic drugging and school bean-bag rooms have done nothing to address this.
There’s a reason mass shootings occur in “gun-free” zones. No one shoots back.
Whether the shooters are terrorists in Beslan, Russia, or killer teens in the U.S., they are not deterred by “gun-free” placards, because they have little fear of meeting resistance.
Training teachers to hide in classrooms while waiting to be saved or shot, securing doors with shoestrings, arming students with staplers and books to throw at attackers, advising people to grab a gun barrel while being shot at (as in the teacher coaching I received), or banning rifles that are never misued by their owners in the vast majority of cases — these are not solutions.
Until our culture changes, identifying potentially violent youth and equipping individuals in schools to end attacks immediately — as they do in Israel — will remain necessary solutions.
Larry “Lorenzo” Swickard is a retired police officer and teacher who serves on the board of directors for the Western Missouri Shooters Alliance.