The echoes of gunshots had barely fallen silent at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida yesterday when the gun control and NRA crowds had dutifully taken up their entrenched positions for yet another public relations battle in America's unfolding civil war over firearms.
Even sports reporters chimed in, with Peter King tweeting that those who don't join his call for more gun control need to, "Get lost. Get off my feed. You are not part of the America we need to strive for." This is the same Peter King who took aim at "thoughts and prayers" after a different school shooting suggesting Americans don't have the "guts" to take this problem on. That's disingenuous and extraordinarily unhelpful right now.
There's not a person I know on either side of this debate that doesn't want to do something, anything, right now, to make sure this kind of mass murder doesn't happen again. Or at least ensure that it starts happening with far less regularity.
The problem isn't that either faction in this debate lacks guts.
On one side you have activists like King and lawmakers like Elizabeth Warren who have the guts to enact gun confiscation laws tomorrow if they thought they could get away with it. On the other side you have 2nd Amendment defenders like the NRA's Dana Loesch who has the guts to ensure you will only confiscate her gun if you pry it from her cold, dead hand. The problem is that we have a fundamental disagreement over how to achieve an end that everyone wants.
Though I doubt the efficacy and effectiveness of their ideas, I believe that liberal progressives favor new gun control laws because they think their enactment will result in fewer innocent deaths. I don't care if my fellow conservatives think I am being naïve or too generous to them. Liberal progressives I know are angry about the mass murders and want them stopped; that is why they do what they do.
Conversely, there exist the concerned voices I am inclined to agree with – those who suggest that more laws to "control" guns will be counterproductive. The lawless, who are intent on committing acts of mass murder, will not be undone or thwarted by a mandatory background check at a gun show, as much as we wish it were the case. They favor eliminating gun free zones and arming responsible citizens as the best way to ensure less dead innocents. Liberals who suggest these conservatives harbor some morbid desire to engender more violence are irresponsible and unreasonable.
So let's be brutally honest. With such well-entrenched and convicted advocates on either side of this debate, it is unlikely we will see anything accomplished legislatively to truly protect people. And merely recognizing the good intentions of both sides won't get us anywhere either.
That is why lawmakers must ignore the perpetual gun debate for now and move immediately to enact defensive legislation designed to protect our children in public schools and universities. As a high school teacher, I have a particular interest in the safety and security of school buildings – and this isn't about gun control or the 2nd Amendment. It's about common sense.
First, spend tax money to hire and pay more uniformed security personnel at every public school in the state. There are plenty of unemployed veterans and off-duty police officers who would be perfect candidates if the state made a serious investment in this regard.
Second, mandate and fund the training of a handful of willing staff members at every school, giving us access and authority to use deadly force to protect children and young adults in our charge.
Third, mandate and fund the installation of lockdown doors and entrances, limiting access to all school buildings to one main entrance, controlled by surveillance-equipped office personnel.
Do these steps turn our schools into armed forts? I don't really care. If it means tragedies averted and lives saved, so be it. It's money well spent while we haggle over safety locks and waiting periods.
When I walk into my local courthouse I am funneled through the one entrance accessible to the public, and immediately see uniformed, armed security present and visible. On any given day, there are plenty of defense-trained personnel walking through those halls. Why? Because we believe our civil servants are worthy of protection from violent threat.
Aren't our children worthy of the same?
Peter Heck is a speaker, author and teacher. Follow him @peterheck, email email@example.com or visit www.peterheck.com.