It’s never been about “gun control.” It is all about shooter control.
Disclosure: I have owned and kept at least one firearm for more than 40 years. So far, I haven’t shot anything with two feet other than a bird. It’s time to get real. Except for the firearm phobic subset who dream the impossible dream of a world free from weapons, the goal of disarming the civilian population is a fool’s errand.
Over my career in criminal justice, I spent more time with crooks than most parents have spent with their kids. In Oakland, my field investigators (mostly former law enforcement) would explain why a gun almost never turned up at a crime scene – “It never even hit the ground before some other crook ran off with it.”
No one under the protection of the U.S. Constitution can legally be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process. If you are convicted of a felony, you can forfeit the right to own or carry a firearm, but you were given due process. When a predator attacks you, that is a threat to take your life, liberty, property or all three without due process.
Every U.S. citizen has the right to self-defense. And it follows as night follows the day, that we have the right to access reasonable technologies for self-defense. If you and I did not enjoy the right to own a firearm, we would still be entitled to a workable substitute for our protection.
Firearms are effective for self-defense, and we don’t need a substitute. A dispute about whether keeping and bearing arms is an individual right instead of limited to “well regulated militias” was settled by the U.S. Supreme Court: “The Second Amendment right is exercised individually and belongs to all Americans.” District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570.
But nothing in the Constitution prohibits reasonably necessary measures to keep track of firearms in the community, barring certain convicts from using them, and from enforcing necessary firearms zoning measures. Cities can ban heavy-duty military armaments – a no-brainer. And states like California can try to prohibit “possessing … a firearm within 1,000 feet of public or private school grounds.” Of course that law is impossible to enforce… Another no-brainer.
So, what steps can and should be realistically implemented to keep shooters out of schools and other public spaces?
First: Know that the Constitution does not prohibit keeping track of potentially dangerous people so long as the surveillance is not intrusive. And that the authorities can stop and question suspicious characters so long as they are not unduly detained. I should know — I’ve taught criminal procedure and the relevant constitutional law at a major San Francisco Law School.
Second: Technology can help. We now have the ability to keep and update lists of people like the kid who murdered 17 victims at a Florida High School. And we have facial recognition technology. Let’s not get bogged down in the gun rights vs. gun control argument. Let’s focus on securing our vulnerable areas. Let’s start by creating safer spaces where large numbers of people are most vulnerable, especially our schools. This isn’t rocket science. Secure the perimeters. Lock the doors. Install surveillance cameras. Set up a workable alert system — not fire alarms. Intelligently vet those admitted to our safe spaces.
What are we waiting for?
Jay Gaskill is a recovering lawyer who spent most of his legal career in the criminal justice arena in urban California, before returning to Idaho Falls, his former hometown.