On March 14th, thousands of students all over the country walked out of class for 17 minutes to protest gun violence in schools. It's certainly easy to empathize with this particular movement. They've had enough. We've all had enough. Everyone wants gun violence in schools eradicated. At the very least, everyone, including both sides of the isle, can get on this train.
Is it possible that no one is talking about the elephant in the room? Nearly every major issue has an elephant in the room, so what is it this time? Be patient with me, and I'll explain exactly what the elephant in the room is. And unfortunately, it's not even in the room yet.
CNN talked to students that participated in the school walk out, and they have reported this summary for what these kids want:
1. Ban assault rifles
2. Require universal background checks on gun purchases
3. Pass a gun violence restraining order law that would allow courts to disarm people who display warning signs of violent behavior.
Now, I realize as soon as you read an itemized list like that you are simultaneously deciding if you are personally okay or agree with each solution listed. Let me take that burden off your shoulders. Don't do that. Whether you agree with those 3 solutions or not doesn't matter. Why? Because if we're talking about gun violence in schools, and I think we are, those 3 solutions don't matter.
Possibly from a lack of clear leadership, this whole movement has grasped onto goals that would have zero impact on the real problem. Why? Because this movement is not addressing the elephant that's not in the room yet.
Here's the elephant: Secure the Venue.
Here's what we know. There are just over 300 million firearms in America. Loosely speaking, just over a third of those are handguns, just over a third are rifles (of all kinds), and just under a third are shotguns. We suffer about 11,000 homicides by firearms each year. Around 360 of those happen by a rifle (of any kind). So while 3% of those gun deaths happen by a rifle of any kind, some smaller piece of that number would be the "assault rifle" deaths. It's tough to really define "assault rifle" since congress judges that based on what the gun looks like rather than the gun's capabilities. I realize that doesn't make any logical sense whatsoever, but we are talking about government here.
The only real numbers you need to remember are 300 million, and 11,000. That's 300 million guns, and 11,000 homicidal gun deaths each year. What impact would the 3 aforementioned solutions have on that 300 million number? The answer is zero impact. Those 3 solutions are a misguided attempt to unpeel an onion that has 300 million layers. You cannot unpeel that onion. It's way too big. It's literally impossible and it's critically important to be realistic here. Even if no more guns are sold ever again, the guns are out there, and they aren't going anywhere. And 11,000 times a year they are used for evil and harm. Understand, the 11,000 number is one we can change; the 300 million number is one we can't.
Gun Laws passed will not solve this problem. The elephant not in the room yet is Secure the Venue. We honestly have way too many people passionately speaking on solutions that will not make even the smallest measurable positive impact. The conversation MUST change from fill in the blank gun law, to "Secure the Venue".
Now, even with misguided goals, the school walkout wasn't totally in vein. But that's over. They're not going to walk out every day, or every week. The event is over, just like this past weekend's march for life in DC, and the conversation will fade to silence. They should print T-Shirts that say "Secure My School" and wear them until they fall apart. T-Shirt business should print those by the thousands and use that money for real solutions for the schools in their area. This is an EASY way to keep the right conversation going.
Secure the Venue
Let me explain why this is so important. We can't change the 300 million guns number. But we can secure the schools. And we don't even need congress to sign a law for that to happen. When 9/11 happened, the airline industry got turned completely upside down. Almost overnight, we secured the venue. We secured the cockpits, we secured the airports, we put armed air marshals on flights, and gave flight attendants new training to help deal with potential deadly situations. That was ONE event, and we, America, turned a ba-zillion dollar industry on its head to fix it, regardless of cost. I wonder where we'd be if we put real solutions in place after Columbine nearly TWENTY years ago.
Secure the Venue
Somewhere along the lines, stadiums got a clue as well. You know what you're not taking into an NFL football stadium? A gun. They've secured the venue, but not just with metal detectors. There are police and security guards everywhere. As a pilot, I can't even fly over a stadium or anywhere near it during a game. It's a security risk. The venue and even the airspace above it has been secured. They decided long ago that crazy isn't going to happen here. Not during a game. Not when there's a whole bunch of people in the same place.
You're not getting into a NBA basketball game with guns either. They've secured that venue too. Even when the basketball arena is being used for concerts or other events, they've secured it. We're emptying out our pockets, walking through metal detectors while bags, keys, watches, and phones are scrutinized. And after you're in, there are security personnel everywhere. They decided long ago they can't change the 300 million guns number, but they sure can...
Secure the Venue
I can't even go to city hall and pay my parking ticket without emptying my pockets, turning my bags over for inspection and walking through a metal detector. It's as if our own government, the slowest acting institution in the holy world decided, "you know, we sure don't want anything crazy playing out here in OUR buildings, or in OUR courts, we should SECURE THE VENUE." Don't miss that. With your money, our government has secured the buildings they work in, the buildings they spend all their time in, but not the building your child goes to school in.
Folks, my church even has plain clothes (and uniformed) officers looking for suspicious bags or activity. They've taken appropriate measures to secure the venue. How is it that we secure so many places, but our schools have been left ignored? My suburban grocery store has more security measures than our schools. Are the people that work at Kroger, or in property records at city hall, more important than our kids in school? Why are our schools not on the list of venues to be secured? And don't tell me it's money. Money is a matter of priority. I've seen schools with multi-million dollar football stadiums. Meanwhile, you could prance right in the front door with a grenade launcher and go completely undetected. Beautiful facility. Completely unsafe.
So why all this talk about banning guns, or even just specific guns? It won't solve anything. Crystal Meth is banned. Meth is totally against the law across the board. It's 100% banned. And it's a good thing too, because banning meth and classifying it as an illegal controlled substance has really curbed its usage. What's that? It hasn't? It's growing in popularity? But how can that be? It's illegal and it's been banned? By the way, 1 in 20 high school students have tried crystal meth, and it's banned. So yes, it's banned, and it's in our high schools every day. Think about that.
Let me be crystal clear. I would sure hate for someone to read all this only to be left in a state of confusion over "what next." This could not be more simple: 1) Less access points. 2) Secure those access points. Yes, entering school may take longer with less access points and secured access points. Just get to school a little earlier. And Yes, it's going to cost money. But let me ask you - what's a student's life worth? What are 17 student's lives worth? What are 130 school lives worth? That's the current number people. At the time of this writing, 130 people have died in school shootings, with hundreds more injured. School districts must find the money to make this happen. Can you get by with less iPads or a smaller stadium? Those are just two examples of many more possibilities. Are more iPads or a bigger stadium more valuable than student's lives? I doubt it.
Secure the Venue people. Stop whining about gun control and laws that will never pass or matter if they did. You want your schools to be safe? Then focus on the actual school and make it safe. We cannot change the reality of 300 million guns. But we sure can change where those guns gain entry. We've done exactly that nearly everywhere else.