As a parent of four beautiful children, I feel the pain of every school shooting. It isn’t hard to imagine getting that phone call that one of my children was the victim of one of these senseless acts. There is literally nothing that I can think of that is more terrifying or painful.
What do we do to prevent these tragedies?
Is the best solution to make a minor sacrifice of our freedom in exchange for protecting our most precious citizens?
I think that many liberty-minded people who love children and feel the agony of the parents every time a new school shooting gets reported can see how many good people would accept this narrative.
To answer these questions, I propose a thought experiment.
Imagine for a minute that education was not funded or controlled in any way by the government. Every school was a private school and every parent had the choice to provide their child with whatever education they felt would serve them best.
What would the response to Columbine or Newtown or Parkland be?
Every school would be clamoring to prove to the world that they have the best solution to keep their students safe. Imagine the press releases. Imagine the new security measures that would be taken.
I honestly don’t know what solutions we would see. But I, as a parent, would like to have a choice between options to keep my children safe.
One school might install metal detectors. One school might train and arm their teachers. Another might start an effective bullying prevention program. Another might perform psychological screenings of their students. The possibilities are endless. Most schools would almost certainly include several strategies.
Why would schools respond this way? Because no parent in their right mind would send their children to an unsafe school when they have other options.
You might feel uncomfortable with the idea of sending your child to a school with trained, well-armed teachers. I do not, but you might. You could easily take your child to a school that opts for metal detectors instead.
Some of the solutions schools try might not be effective. Once we find that out they can rapidly make changes by seeing what did work well for other schools and incorporating that into their own program. In the end, these solutions would almost certainly be very effective.
Now contrast that response to what we see today. I understand the desperation to do something, anything, to feel like we are protecting vulnerable students, but that is all that the solutions I see proposed will do. Make us feel good. Make us feel like we took action. Even if there is no chance whatsoever that these “common sense gun control measures” would ever prevent a determined shooter.
It’s easy to go into the mind of the parents, teachers, and (most importantly) students affected by these tragedies. But let’s take a minute to think about the shooters.
Can you imagine living in a world where you are bullied to the point where you honestly believe that your best option is to end your life and take as many members of your student body with you?
We need to look at the options we are giving these students. Because these shooters are, many times, victims, too. They are victims of a lack of choice. What if they had the realistic option of moving to a different school – moving away from their tormentors instead of bringing a gun to school? What if school administrators actually listened to parent demands to deal effectively with bullying?
As is always the case, when we see a real problem in society (and school shootings are as real as it gets), the solution isn’t to take away freedom – it is to add freedom!
You may not be ready to completely eliminate the government from education. But there are solutions we can all get behind.
Make it easier for public and charter schools to respond to parent demands instead of bureaucratic demands. Make it possible for low-income families to choose private schools.
Let parents choose what school they send their students to. Let them have an active say in how their student’s school protects them. Let schools respond to the demands of parents to keep their students safe. There is no doubt that this will be far more effective than any gun control measure ever could be.