Stopping Violence With...Signs?

The massacre of children in Newtown, CT has led a variety of people to say a variety of things. Naturally, the federal government has said something has to be done. It’s quite understandable; this was a horrific crime. But if you think about, I mean really think about it, what more can the federal government actually do? There’s talk about reinstituting the expired federal assault weapons ban; yet, it really never defined what an actual assault weapon is, it didn’t do anything to prevent the Columbine massacre back in the 1990s, nor would the weapons used in Newtown be classified as assault weapons under the expired ban. Truly automatic weapons are already heavily regulated by the federal government (and state governments) and have been for nearly 80 years. Plus, we’re talking real civil liberties here; gun banners and gun grabbers have been trying to get the courts to “rewrite” the 2nd Amendment for years to have it say something other than what it does. There’s talk about doing something about those people who are mentally ill and could be violent. Yet, what constitutes mental illness has been expanded over the years so that the vast majority of people who live with some kind of problem deal with them to live normal lives. And those who are truly mentally ill, like every other American, has certain unalienable rights and can’t just be picked up off the street and thrown into a facility just because the government says so; we don’t live in the world depicted in Minority Report.

So what’s left? Well, there are the gun-free school zone laws at the federal and state level. But if you actually look at the gun-free school zone laws actually on the books in the U.S. Code (Subsection (q) of 18 USC § 922) and in the Connecticut General Statutes, they were as (in)effective as the expired assault weapons ban. But the Connecticut law needn’t have been.

The original federal Gun-Free School Zones Act law, as part of the Crime Control Act of 1990, was struck down by the Supreme Court in the Lopez decision. It was rewritten shortly thereafter and implemented in a 1997 omnibus spending bill. But everything about the original 1990 law was still in effect. The Congressional Research Service added their two cents about the Gun-Free School Zones Act [emphasis mine]:

Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 – Amends the Federal criminal code to impose criminal penalties for the possession or discharge of a firearm in a school zone, with specified exceptions including the possession or discharge by an individual as part of a school program or by a law enforcement officer acting in an official capacity.

Encourages Federal, State, and local authorities to post signs around school zones warning of a prohibition of the possession of firearms in a school zone.

There were no appropriations for doing any more, nor should there have been. In fact, this isn’t even a federal issue. Even after Lopez, Congress went ahead and made enough of a modification to supposedly have it pass muster under the Constitution. But it sure didn’t do a thing to prevent the kinds of crimes that have occurred since its passage, has it? The only way to prevent crimes under this law would be massive appropriations of federal tax dollars to be given to the states expressly for the purpose of putting armed security of some kind in place. It didn’t happen in 1990, it didn’t happen in 1997 when the law was redone, and it won’t be done now with the federal government in hock for what it’s paying for now. Again, this isn’t a federal issue. But I’m guessin’ it made those involved with getting these passed “feel better” about doing something, even if it was nothing. As I had stated above, it’s understandable to want to do something; just make sure something is actually done, which wasn’t the case with either the federal Gun-Free School Zone Act or the ban on “assault weapons”.

So that leaves us with Connecticut and its law. From this conservative’s point of view, a state law is much more appropriate since a state is more directly involved with law enforcement and crime prevention. But as with the federal law, all the Connecticut law does is make it unlawful to bring a gun in or near a school. How did that stop the massacre at Newtown? When the law was originally passed in 1992, on the heels of the 1990 federal law, the bill analysis had this to say [emphasis mine]:

The Federal Gun Free School Zones Act

The Gun-Free School Zones Act (18 USC Sec.922 (q)) prohibits the possession or discharge of a firearm on or within 1,000 feet of private, parochial, or public school grounds. Violation is punishable by imprisonment for up to five years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both. Imprisonment is in addition to and must run consecutively to any other jail term.

The act exempts the following, among others, from prosecution: people who possess firearms properly stored (unloaded and locked in gun racks) in motor vehicles or on private property that is not part of school grounds and law enforcement officers acting in their official capacities. The act also exempts people who use the firearms in school-approved programs.

The act states that federal, state, and local authorities should encourage the posting of signs around school zones warning that firearm possession in a school zone is prohibited.

How on God’s green earth are signs supposed to stop someone bound and determined to murder students at a school? Of course we already know the answer to this question.

The potential for violence at schools, as with anywhere else, is always going to be a problem. With the number of firearms out in circulation in the United States, gutting the 2nd Amendment, passing meaningless weapons bans, or figuring out how to get legal owners to turn these weapons in isn’t going to happen. Nor should it be encouraged, especially by the federal government. It also doesn’t help when the guy occupying the White House insults we the people by claiming we the people need to change because somehow we the people find the massacres of innocent children acceptable, then gets thoroughly disgusting by trying to exploit this horrific crime to raise the tax rates of “the rich”.

Gun-free school zones haven’t done anything either. The current federal law should be scrapped altogether since it is truly pointless. The only way to prevent these kinds of massacres is with someone who also has a gun. Urban schools already know this which is why there are local laws in place to better secure those facilities. Unfortunately, there are more places like Newtown, CT where such violence isn’t nearly as commonplace as it is in the cities and some suburbs.

In many of these areas, school districts probably have the money or could raise revenue at the local level to have some form of armed security available in these schools, either with the local police force or a security firm. But there are so many more where these kinds of dollars aren’t available. I wasn’t too keen on the idea when I first heard it; but as I thought about it, I don’t see too many other options. There have been many elected state officials talking about arming some school employees (teachers, usually) to prevent what happened in Newtown, for self-defense along with prevention. It makes the most sense. Whether the states will allow a teacher to bring their own gun in or appropriate money to arm or supply can be worked out when legislation is crafted. But all in all, it seems to be the best option available.

Cross-posted at Scipio the Metalcon.