6/2 MinnPost Community Voices Response
The following was submitted to MinnPost in response to an article written by a student from my law school. I could have written pages, but am limited by word count. Hopefully they will publish.
In response to the recent piece penned by my fellow Mitchell Hamline School of Law classmate, Marley Jones, I feel compelled to present an alternative perspective. While Marley and I share the common goal of wanting to create a safer environment for children in schools, our views and analysis on how to achieve this goal diverge.
In law, consensus is rare. Without a diversity of opinions, ongoing controversies, and rigorous debate, Marley and I would face a challenging job market after graduation. In that spirit, I respectfully present an alternative perspective to enhance the dialogue initiated by my esteemed classmate.
Marley’s assertion that “Ensuring that you can back up your argument for gun safety reform is essential to prevent spreading misinformation and will help your argument” resonated with me. However, while Marley cites some sources, the overall tone and content of the article are heavily influenced by the author’s personal beliefs and jurisprudential interpretations. Issues such as the types of firearms safeguarded by the Second Amendment and the debate between textual and dynamic interpretations of the Constitution presently form the core of enduring legal disputes and scholarly debates. These matters are far from resolved legal doctrines.
The data cited in the commentary lacks some pivotal contextual elements, which could lead to a distorted understanding of the issues being discussed. In both legal study and public discourse on critical issues such as gun control, the necessity of objective information and precise definitions is paramount.
Claim: In 2022, there were 303 incidents of a gun being fired or brandished on school property.This figure is significantly inflated by incidents that occurred outside school hours, in proximity to (but not directly on) school premises or buses, and those involving self-harm. According to the data source cited by the author, over two-thirds of these “incidents” resulted in no injuries or deaths.
Claim: In 2023, there has been an average of more than one mass shooting each day.
It must be noted that to reach the stated figure, one must deviate from the long-standing FBI definition of a mass shooting, defined as “an incident in which at least four people are murdered with a firearm.” The definition utilized by the Gun Violence Archive includes incidents resulting in no fatalities and is disproportionately skewed by private disputes as well as instances of gang and group violence.
Claim: Firearms are the leading cause of death for children ages 1-19 years old.
It’s crucial to note that 18 and 19-year-olds are adults, not children. Excluding this age group from the data set alters the outcome significantly, establishing motor vehicle incidents as the leading cause of death for individuals aged 1-17. The incidence of firearm-related fatalities remains remarkably low across all ages until the teenage years, coinciding with a sharp rise in group and gang violence. CDC data indicates these victims are five times more likely to be Black or Latino, and reside in marginalized communities.
Perhaps the most disconcerting aspect of these statistics is the way they conflate suicides and homicides as a homogeneous cause of death. The underlying causes and appropriate strategies for addressing suicides significantly differ from those of homicides, necessitating a more nuanced approach to understanding and addressing these issues.
As a father to school-aged children and a part-time substitute teacher, the issue of school safety is deeply personal to me. I strongly believe that equipping teachers with firearms is not a prudent solution. The duties involved in securely carrying a firearm are fundamentally incompatible with the vigilant attention required when entrusted with the care of students in a classroom. However, according to data from the FBI and the Secret Service, the most effective way to halt a school shooting is to swiftly contain the attacker and respond with competent counterforce. Enhanced security protocol, including the presence of trained individuals within the school premises who are capable of responding promptly can expedite the resolution of such incidents.
There are a plethora of discrete, passive security measures, particularly those harnessing modern technology, that can be implemented in schools to protect our children from a wide spectrum of threats, extending beyond the isolated risk of shootings. Measures such as school security audits, threat assessment teams, research grants to The Violence Project, the expansion of the Minnesota School Safety Center, and significant investments in school-linked mental health resources have gained widespread bipartisan support and have been favorably welcomed by the Minnesota legislature.
As lawyers and leaders, we have a responsibility to examine, comprehend, and discuss complex matters with an understanding that accurately reflects their complexities. The sobering reality is the majority of school mass shootings are carried out with legally obtained, common firearms, most often handguns, by individuals who have cleared background checks. Instead of focusing on contentious measures that are likely to provoke political gridlock and strenuous legal battles, efforts should be consistently directed towards professionally endorsed measures and widely acknowledged best practices that can significantly enhance the safety of our schools. Doing so would allow us to rise above partisan conflicts and collectively prioritize our ultimate goal: safeguarding our children.