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.