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Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens (photo: Wiki­media Commons)

Nineteen-year-old Nikolas Cruz entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with the evil purpose to murder the innocent. His killing spree pre­ma­turely ended the futures of sev­enteen Amer­icans, forever changed the lives of their fam­ilies, and deprived our world of bright young men and women. The pro­gressive response to this tragedy peaked in a New York Times op-ed by retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, which demands, in addition to gun control mea­sures, a repeal of the Second Amendment.

Describing gun control activists, Stevens wrote of their shared mission to “min­imize the risk of mass killings of school­children and others in our society.” To this end, he advo­cated banning civilian own­ership of semi-auto­matic weapons, raising the pur­chasing age from 18 to 21, and estab­lishing com­pre­hensive back­grounds checks. While safe schools is a noble intention, and one shared by most Amer­icans, Stevens’ pre­scrip­tions fail to advance it.

A semi-auto­matic weapons ban would punish law-abiding American cit­izens and not the crim­inals who threaten them. Its advo­cates mis­un­der­stand crim­inals who, through under­ground trading, invariably acquire means to ter­rorize others, with or without firearms. The claim that a ban on semi-auto­matics would reduce criminal access to guns is therefore ques­tionable.

However, even if true, it does not justify the cost of placing lawful cit­izens at a dis­ad­vantage when con­fronted with an active shooter. Firearms are only as dan­gerous as their oper­ators. Stevens’ pro­posal renders Amer­icans more vul­nerable by depriving them of the best tech­nology for their pro­tection. Cit­izens should always have a clear tac­tical advantage over their assailants, never vice versa.

With his pro­posal to raise the legal age to pur­chase a firearm, Stevens stereo­typed all 18- to 20-year-olds into a for­saken group. Yet, most 18- to 20-year olds are not would-be crim­inals.

Rather than sur­render their potential, America should invest in its youth through edu­cation and training. This approach has been adopted by Aegis Academy, a self-defense program founded by vet­erans of America’s Special Forces, in southern Cal­i­fornia. The Academy has developed a course for intro­ducing young people to firearms for pur­poses of self-defense.

A similar program, Faculty and Admin­is­trator Safety Training & Emer­gency Response, offers free firearm safety training to com­petent school offi­cials; FASTER empowers honest faculty to protect them­selves and their stu­dents. With the avail­ability of such pro­grams, law-abiding cit­izens should not be afraid of guns — crim­inals should be.

Stevens’ case for gun control cul­mi­nates in a radical call for the Second Amendment’s repeal. Stevens framed his argument in oppo­sition to D.C. v. Heller, the 2008 case that recer­tified the individual’s con­sti­tu­tional right to keep firearms in the home for pur­poses of self-defense.

Notwith­standing the Supreme Court’s vin­di­cation of the Second Amendment in Heller, Stevens’ pro­posal would jeop­ardize the safety of everyday Amer­icans. The right to keep and bear arms is crit­i­cally important for cit­izens who find them­selves in life or death sit­u­a­tions that require imme­diate action before law enforcement arrives.

If gun control not only fails to mit­igate, but often exac­er­bates, threats, what are the solu­tions?

First, the FBI should follow up on red flags. On January 5th, 2018 the New York Times reported that a woman from Stoneman Douglas High School called the FBI tip line to report the sus­pi­cious behavior of Nikolas Cruz and her fear that he “was going to explode.” Calls like hers should never be ignored.

Sec­ondly, serious efforts should be made to secure American schools. In addition to a pre­emptive response by law enforcement, Steven Bucci, a retired Army Green Beret, pro­poses limited points of entry for public schools and the for­ti­fi­cation of class­rooms.

Thirdly, the gov­ernment should require the presence of two armed security guards for every public school, like in most gov­ernment buildings, and iden­ti­fi­cation of all vis­itors upon entry. Finally, as advo­cated by The Her­itage Foun­dation, our country should “ensure that a con­cealed-carry permit granted by any state is given full faith and credit by all other states and by the federal gov­ernment in national parks and other national lands.”

Justice Stevens’ gun control agenda, though well-inten­tioned, would fail to create safer schools and com­mu­nities. Firearms are as much designed to deter as they are to kill. They are tools that, when handled respon­sibly by good people, can save lives.

Razi Lane is a senior studying pol­itics.