Here we go again. Another school shooting and another set of predictable responses from all quarters. After these incidents I usually get emails asking why I’m not writing something about it. The reason is that I’m not sure what to add. These school incidents are at once rare statistically, but also too common. And they’re basically societal problems that manifest at schools rather than education-specific problems. Meanwhile, much of the commentary from the education side is either well-intentioned but not appropriate or simply grotesque.
One common theme I do see with school shootings, however, is firearms storage and access. That seems like one worth discussing. This country does have gun rights, the Supreme Court has made that clear, and from where I sit that’s an important part of our sporting traditions. But, like all rights, its not an absolute one. The court has been clear about that as well. And while it’s more of a civic issue than a legal one, gun owners should engage with the basic idea that with rights come responsibilities, too. Specifically, safe storage of firearms. The guns used in these school shootings are usually legally obtained for legitimate reasons so this isn’t an issue of background checks, limits on purchases, and so forth. Safe storage laws are not popular and have some limitations. After most tragedies the utility of going after a grieving parent is debatable. And gun owners understandably object to mechanisms that distort the handling characteristics of firearms. Yet it hardly seems unreasonable to ask those who want to keep guns to keep them responsibly and securely – and be accountable for that. A trigger lock or gun safe is not the first step on the road to tyranny. It’s common sense.
More generally, my belief is that until there is a moderate voice for gun owners that champions a wide-range of issues – notably gun rights and gun safety as well as open space and habitat issues affecting hunters we will see little progress on this issue despite all the money and effort being thrown into it. That’s probably a decade long effort, not something that happens on the timeline of media campaigns. When the Senate took up gun safety legislation earlier this year more senators voted to expand conceal carry laws than voted to expand background checks for firearm purchases. That tells you pretty much all you need to know about the state of play today and, as we’ve seen, despite these horrendous episodes that won’t change overnight. It does need to change. Guns should be part of our sporting life, not our civic life as they are too much today.