Editor’s note: We sought out the views of young Americans, especially recent high school graduates, whose first instinct in making schools safer is not to call for stricter gun controls. Here are responses from six of them on the weekend of the March for Our Lives. As usual, write us at [email protected]—Ken McIntyre
1. Charlee Bonczkowski, 20
After the murder of 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Americans are searching for solutions to prevent school shootings from happening.
Some believe that adding restrictions to buying a gun for everyone is the solution, but that would be infringing on an American’s right to bear arms. Instead, we should be focusing on ways to help prevent school shootings that don’t involve infringing on that right.
Before we start adding restrictions to buying a gun or banning certain guns, we should look at the problems with our current system of background checks. One problem is that some of the most infamous shooters were approved to buy a gun because previous felonies had not been reported to gun shop owners.
The media reported that the FBI received a tip on the confessed shooter, Nikolas Cruz, before he committed the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. If FBI agents had acted correctly when they received the tip, as they should have, they possibly could have stopped the shooter.
If we would focus on enforcing background checks more and fixing such problems, we would see fewer of these tragedies.
Another way to help prevent school shootings is to allow teachers and staff to be trained and armed with a gun if they choose to be. This way, there would be someone with a gun in the classroom who could stop the situation immediately. Otherwise, individuals would not be able to defend themselves against the shooter.
Also, at least two school resource officers should be in each school. This way, sworn law enforcement officers would be there to provide security and crime prevention services.
Strict security measures in each school are important too, such as security checks, metal detectors, and student bag searches. Providing schools with such resources to defend themselves is the best way to prevent school shootings and keep everyone safe.
Another solution is removing windows in classroom doors. Matthew Walker, a student in a classroom during the Parkland shooting, said Cruz was firing through the glass in the door. The door was locked so Cruz couldn’t get in, but he managed to shoot at students through that window.
Depending on the type of window and door, a shooter also could break the glass and reach through the opening to unlock the door. If we took out windows in classroom doors, the chance of these situations occurring would decrease.
Overall, we should be focusing on such solutions before infringing on the right to bear arms.
Charlee Bonczkowski, from Topeka, Kansas, is a junior majoring in political science at Washburn University. Twitter: @bonczcha97
2. Alex DeGarmo, 20
The events that transpired at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were horrible, and we need to find a realistic solution to stop extreme cases of violence at schools.
I firmly believe that infringing upon the rights of law-abiding citizens is not the solution to securing schools. I see two ways to almost eliminate school violence at all levels of education and preserve the liberty of U.S. citizens.
The first of those routes would be to allow educators at the elementary, middle school, and high school levels to carry concealed firearms while on the job.
By going through proper “concealed carry” training plus a specialized close-quarters course relating to their situations, educators who want to pursue this option would be well trained and able to stop any threat. This training would be completely voluntary, and no one would be forced to participate.
The second route would be to allocate more funding for armed school resource officers, such as the deputy sheriff who confronted the shooter March 19 at a Maryland high school.
These officers would serve to protect schools in more ways than just by stopping a possible threat. Students could approach them about concerning illicit activity in and outside school, which would improve the culture of education.
While these policies would secure schools, we also need to analyze the root cause of many of these events—and that is mental health. We as Americans need to get back to knowing our neighbor and looking out for each other.
I challenge all of you to walk up to someone and be a kind human being, sit with that individual who always seems alone, ask someone how he or she is doing.
I challenge all of you to mentor, volunteer, and just lend a hand to someone in need, no matter how small you may think the act is.
Alex DeGarmo is a junior majoring in political science, with a minor in national security, at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Twitter: @Dennygarm
3. Genesis Sanchez, 19
Seventeen people at a high school in Parkland, Florida, lost their lives Feb. 14, a holiday dedicated to love, because of one crazy individual.
As NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch said the following week at the Conservative Political Action Conference, “The left loves mass shootings.”
I believe strongly in Loesch’s comment because I know the left has an agenda it pushes. That agenda is “Gun control! Gun control!”
You look at Twitter and everyone is posting about how much (or little) gun knowledge they have. “An AR15 stands for Assault Rifle, don’t you know.”
It’s disgusting how much they show dishonesty and tell blatant lies, and how easily people believe them.
With every unfortunate mass shooting, we hear the left call for gun control. The fact is, more gun control is unnecessary.
Look at states such as California and Illinois, and cities such as Chicago, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. They have some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation, but still have the most gun-related deaths. Why is this?
To take guns away from law-abiding citizens would be both unethical and illegal. The real problem is the lack of effective background checks and mental health screenings.
If such strategies had been used effectively, the Parkland shooting would not have occurred. Screaming “gun control” will solve nothing. Real change comes from dialogue, listening and learning from each other.
This will not happen if the left keeps trying to dismantle the Constitution and take away our God-given right.
Genesis Sanchez is a student at Tallahassee (Florida) Community College. Twitter: @GenASanchez98
4. Victoria Snitsar, 21
No topic dominates the news today more than firearms and the ongoing debate over gun control, especially following the recent tragedies in Texas, Florida, and Maryland, where innocent civilians were callously murdered.
Such shootings have served only to confirm that more must be done to protect our schools. I believe that the best way to do this is to allow guns on campus.
The left will passionately demand more gun control and echo the same rhetoric over and over again: Guns are bad, people do not need guns, the NRA endorses murder.
The extent of this anti-gun sentiment was measured in Kansas by the Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University, which in 2015 and 2016 gauged the attitudes of students and staff toward the campus “concealed carry” policy (then set to be implemented in July 2017).
The results of the studies pegged my school, the University of Kansas, as the most anti-gun campus of all the state’s public colleges and universities, called Board of Regents Institutions.
The 2015 study of students at public colleges and universities concluded that the University of Kansas and Kansas University Medical Center “were generally the most against guns on campus … with only 20 percent of KU students saying they support campus concealed carry.”
In a similar 2016 study of faculty and other staff, 65 percent of University of Kansas faculty said guns would negatively affect how they teach, and 64 percent said guns would limit academic freedom.
Despite such pushback from the schools, the Legislature did not repeal the campus concealed carry law and the policy went into effect last July 1.
After implementation, the University of Kansas saw a significant drop in criminal activity on campus, with 100 fewer crimes reported in 2017 than in 2016.
Also, there have been no “criminal weapons violations” since the July implementation at all public colleges and universities in Kansas.
According to the Lawrence Journal-World, the overall number of assaults at the University of Kansas also decreased, dropping from 30 to 14 in one year.
Here is where I must note that correlation doesn’t necessarily equal causation. However, it’s hard to argue that these numbers are a mere coincidence.
It’s up to young activists such as myself to keep talking about the issue of guns on our respective campuses. Even in a state as conservative as Kansas, nothing is guaranteed.
Less than two weeks ago, in a speech to the KU Young Democrats, Kansas Senate Minority Leader Jim Ward, who also is running for governor, expressed his intent to repeal campus concealed carry.
“If you want to make campus safe,” Ward said, “then get guns off of campus.”
Conservatives in America, and gun owners in particular, have an important task: They must continue to prove that proximity to firearms does not correlate with proximity to danger.
As long as those who are mentally ill are able to slip through society’s safety nets, “gun-free zones” will remain the most dangerous places in America.
Victoria Snitsar of Lawrence, Kansas, is a junior majoring in political science at the University of Kansas. Twitter: @VSnitsarUSA
5. Stefan Strek, 27
Our right to keep and bear arms is what makes America the greatest nation on Earth and it defends our entire Constitution. We need federal penalties for anyone who infringes on Second Amendment rights.
Many people have the misconception that gun control works in countries such as Australia, Great Britain, and various European nations. This is not the case.
Guns don’t kill people; gun control kills people by leaving law-abiding citizens defenseless against violent criminals. Firearms are the best equalizer between women, the elderly, or the disabled and able-bodied criminals who seek to do them harm.
Gun control legislation is promoted by corrupt private interest groups that operate mainly out of California and New York, places with high levels of gun violence because of strict gun control laws. Those laws encourage victimization of innocent people, since criminals know the majority of the populace is unarmed and thus defenseless.
Most nations in Central America, South America, Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia have strict gun control. Despite that, they often have mass shootings, widespread government atrocities, government-sanctioned massacres, and victimization of women, children, the elderly, and the disabled.
Our best option to reduce gun violence is to reintroduce firearms education in the public school systems.
When America had firearms training in schools, we had no school shootings and almost no public shootings at all. As education on guns has been eliminated by the limousine liberals who maintain a death grip on our education system, we have seen an increase in violent crime, victimization, and school shootings.
Stefan G. Strek of Eugene, Oregon, is a fine arts major at the University of Oregon and one of five Republican candidates for Congress in the 4th Congressional District. Twitter: @realStefanStrek
6. Joel Valdez, 19
It is always horrible when American lives are lost, especially those of innocent children.
But in the wake of mass shootings, it is easy to lose sight of the facts when we are bombarded by our own emotions. It is even easier to lose track of logic when the mainstream media and politicians force and craft emotions.
It seems as though mass shootings occur every so often, and that the cause of these tragedies is the guns. But it is not the guns at fault, it is our government. The laws aren’t necessarily at fault, either, but the procedures to prevent such crimes.
Instead of focusing only on reforming our gun laws, let’s examine how the Federal Bureau of Investigations handles the warning signs. The FBI had been warned twice about the shooter in Parkland, Florida, long before the Feb. 14 massacre, and did nothing.
In 2010, deputies of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office were called 39 times to the home of the shooter.
An armed officer was at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School while the shooter was active, and did nothing.
Our government at the federal and local levels missed these warning signs. But if one followed only coverage by the mainstream media, one could be fooled into believing our Constitution was at fault.
What the mainstream media won’t tell you is that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 500,000 to 3 million lives are saved every year because of law-abiding, armed citizens who intervene with their firearms.
The solution to mass shootings and gun-related crimes is not to disarm the people, but to hold the government accountable for doing its jobs competently.
Joel Valdez, from Chicago, is a freshman at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Twitter: @realJoelValdez