The Corner

Politics & Policy

A Response to School Shootings That Has a Chance to Help

Police tape near the site of the shooting at the Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, May 20, 2018. (Jonathan Bachman/Reuters)

Last week, in the hours immediately following the horrific massacre at Santa Fe High School in Texas, I wrote a short post that struck a note of profound pessimism. Malcolm Gladwell’s thought-provoking 2015 essay in The New Yorker argued that we are in the midst of a slow-motion “riot” of mass shootings, with the Columbine shooting in many ways the key triggering event. The threshold for mass murder was lowering, and that not even the “strictest gun control in the world that we would end this particular kind of behavior.”

But to say that we have face an immense challenge is not the same thing as saying that we should throw our hands up in despair, and this weekend I read a document that gave me a measure of hope. It was perhaps the most intelligent policy response to school shootings (and, honestly, mass shootings more generally) that I’ve ever read. It comes from Arizona governor Doug Ducey, and it’s worth your time. Drafted after the Parkland shootings (and after meetings with multiple relevant stakeholders), it seeks to counter the school-shooting threat through an increased focus on mental health, gun-violence restraining orders (here called a Severe Threat Order of Protection), increased spending on school security, a specific task force designed to respond to relevant tips, and an improved background-check system.

Most helpfully, the report walks through the five deadliest school shootings of the last 20 years and notes where each proposal could have made a difference. In that respect alone it presents a refreshing contrast to the gun-control proposals floated after virtually every mass shooting — often without regards to the facts of the actual cases or their relevance to anticipated future threats. How much longer will we ponder proposals that even Washington Post fact-checkers acknowledged wouldn’t have stopped a single recent mass shooting?

Governor Ducey deserves credit for his thoughtful approach, and his proposals merit serious consideration . . . in Arizona, and beyond.

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