I. The President and other “conservatives” are advocating arming teachers to make schools safer. We could talk about whether this is a good idea, but I am struck by how this indicates a shift in “conservative” thinking about teachers. The President maintains that we can expect teachers to be heroes because they “love” the children. Public school teachers over the last generation, however, have been repeatedly denounced by “conservatives” and others. Think Scott Walker in Wisconsin less than a decade ago. A large component of his attacks on public unions was really an attack on public school teachers. The teachers get paid too much and have cushy jobs. They are concerned about an easy job, not educating their students. And so on. The image that has been fostered is that teachers are leeches, almost the equivalent of cheating welfare recipients, and the teachers are incompetent to boot. Apparently “conservatives” now think that even though teachers can’t teach, they can shoot. (Take a guess what Florida teachers get paid. According to the Florida Department of Education, the average annual salary for a Florida certified teacher is $45,723. This is not the starting salary. That average teacher has over twelve years of experience.)
II. Much has been said about the “warning signs” missed by the FBI and local law enforcement concerning the Parkland, Florida, shooter. But as the spouse said to me, if they had properly paid attention to this information, what could they have done? Nikolas Cruz legally owned the murder weapon and his other guns. The police could not have taken them away, and if they had tried, surely the NRA would have screamed about the violation of Second Amendment rights. What could law enforcement have done before the shootings?
In considering the “warning signs” about Cruz, there is a hindsight bias. We know that Cruz in fact slaughtered many people, and that makes the missed warning signs seem especially egregious. But we need to evaluate “warning signs” before the violence, not after. Are there signs that are good predicters of future gun violence? How often are the signs accurate? How often do they produce false positives? What are the responses that lessen the possibility of the future violence? How often are such warning signs reported to law enforcement or other agencies? What resources does it take to respond? Where do the resources come from? What responses will politicians legally authorize? How can we answer these questions without gun-related research . . . that has been banned by the Dickey Amendment, but more on that later.
III. When we talk about victims of gun violence, let’s always include the police officers who have been gunned down.
IV. A discussion of gun violence should recognize that there is a constitutional right “to keep and bear arms.” Those who wish to control guns better to lessen gun violence need to acknowledge that they recognize the Second Amendment and that they are only seeking to make it more likely guns will be used safely.
V. We have only limited knowledge of the extent of the Second Amendment right. We might say that also about other constitutional provisions. Every year the Supreme Court renders decisions about the First Amendment rights of free speech and the free exercise of religion or the Sixth Amendment right of counsel, so our understanding of these provisions continues to evolve. However, these rights have been interpreted frequently by the Supreme Court and even more by the lower courts for upwards of a hundred years. We may continue to learn about the contours of free speech, but we do know a lot about that First Amendment right. In contrast, the Second Amendment has been interpreted by the Supreme Court only a handful of times, and we know much less about its content than we do about other constitutional rights. We do know, however, that while the Supreme Court has not interpreted the Second Amendment often, the Court has indicated the Constitution allows for reasonable regulation of firearms. Just as liberals should recognize that there is a constitutional right to keep and bear arms, NRA-types need to recognize that the Supreme Court has allowed for the reasonable regulation of those arms. Both sides need to better understand the Constitution. (Continued on March 7.)