It's the people, not the guns

The Florida grade-school massacre, and the Connecticut one, and the one that happens next, are not a deviation from the basic design of our grade-schools, but a natural consequence.

Whether or not your nation protects citizen gun ownership, as mine is supposed to, yet another gun law will have no influence on those who have chosen to live outside the law, and creating a “gun-free zone” will govern the students and employees but assure any shooter that no one will be shooting back. Gun-free zones attract murderers, ever since the days when the jokes began about “going postal,” as Post Offices were the first notorious gun-free zones. They need not be government offices; the 2012 Colorado shooter drove past a couple movie theaters to shoot up one that declared itself gun-free. There is a reason why no anti-gun gadfly has a yard sign declaring his own residence a gun-free zone (apart from the fact that several famous ones pack heat anyway). But even this is just a symptom.

The starting point is that government schools are first and foremost coercive. Everything from student attendance to teacher salaries is backed by the implied threat of state force. It is no different in the Northeast, where funding decisions are famously made in a meeting where any resident can vote; these meetings are structured to prevent bold decisions such as zero-funding the schools, selling them off, and issuing vouchers to let parents choose competing schools. Attendees either benefit from, receive, or massage funds coerced from homeowners; schoolmarms hiss at dissidents and residents spend hours virtue-signalling.

Next, government schools are political; and everything in a political system is a resource to be used for any political goal. (Washington’s block grants to the states became contingent on the state enacting laws on everything from driving age to speed limits, Washington implicitly conceding that it cannot legislate on those topics, but doing so anyway through its role as paymaster.) Having custody of the kids, the school can propagandize them, feed them during and before classes, use them as pawns to elicit higher funding, have them design posters to advocate a theme that they did not choose and do not know enough to have chosen, and occasionally use them as spies to discover conditions at home.

The essential lesson (apart from the fact that the teacher can order your parent to do things!) is that it is not sufficient to learn to do things well. The youngster sat at one of a row of desks must have a plan to Make A Difference In Society – to get everyone else to do things, presumably things they don’t want to do, and to know that it was you who mandated it.

The resulting policies are designed to showcase the persons making it, and not necessarily to work well. To show we are serious, we need a Zero Tolerance Policy. Many school systems have a Zero Tolerance Policy against guns – which, since the goal is virtue-signaling, covers guns, drawings of guns, essays about guns, fingers pointed like guns, and in one case, a piece of toast bitten into the shape of a gun. A century ago, students intending to hunt after school brought firearms to the classroom; now, although some schools teach marksmanship and have Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, in the rest of the building, students are taught to fear the gun.

The rulemakers proliferate. The Anti-Bullying Manual now stretches beyond ridicule based on skin color or effeminacy and tries to legislate all conduct between school-kids, compelling them to act like miniature adults – because someone said so who outranks them. This has never been reality, and a new Manual will not make it so. Parents will have to skip work for unpleasant deliberations with school authorities – notably, parents who speak out against funding increases.

The policies and rules are written with no grounding in principle. A not-yet-man who wants to pretend he is a woman is no longer seen as mistaken but as part of a victim class, and the Manual prohibits the ridicule that in past generations slapped some sense into the kid, not that he is wrong about his “gender” but foolishly wrong. The school plays along, he is granted access to the girls’ toilet, counseling to correct the underlying issues is increasingly illegal, and citing the classic prayer for God to “grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change” would get someone fired. Special education, a ruinous new entitlement that now extends to children who are merely spoiled, wordsmiths an Individualized Education Plan to teach the kid, despite his misconduct, with no serious attempt to correct it.

Surely few school administrators would play along if a different pupil claimed his rendition of reality required him to kill all his classmates. But with what sudden concept of right-and-wrong would they convince him he must change his plans?

Government schools are virtually all unionized, so there is a fully staffed agency to get the word out that any vote against funding is a vote against children, and broadcast the usual union line that the way we all stay paid is to learn and repeat the same set of lies. State Education Associations are decidedly Marxist (though a repopulated Supreme Court seems set to rule that their funding must be voluntary). Students who cannot benefit from classroom education, and disrupt the education of the others, must remain in the classroom, to defend the institution and keep the loot flowing.

And the teaching profession is licensed, a perverse system in which all persons are guilty-until-licensed-innocent and licenses can be cancelled with no due process at all. Licenses are contingent on attending a Teachers’ College. Thomas Sowell has written longest and best about these wastelands. Colleges of Education do not teach the skills of making a subject interesting and motivating individuals, but teach the latest fads and union talking points.

The policing that might have prevented the school shooting, or ended it with less loss of life, is of course also political, unionized, and devoid of principle. President Obama was concerned about black pupils being carried by a “pipeline” from school to arrest to prison, and his Department of Justice always evaluated black arrests according to the national percentage of black people and not by the ratio of arrests to misconduct. The Obama Administration wrote a memo, eagerly embraced by the Broward County sheriff, threatening school districts with federal “civil rights” lawsuits and effectively granting nonwhite pupils an entitlement to misbehave. The Florida shooter was the subject of three dozen complaints, to agencies up to the FBI, including one plea that he was preparing to shoot up the school that he shot up, none of which were acted upon. It is not that a 19-year-old could buy a gun, it is that a kid who should by now be a felon was able to do so, when good-faith enforcement of existing law would have prevented it. You cannot send police toward a school in time to avoid the first dozen murders, but putting armed defense inside the school building, even into trained and willing hands, is opposed by the same Zero Tolerance zealots.

The aftermath of the gunplay is a stampede to enact yet more laws, to react to lawbreaking by assembling some of the ingredients of the current incident and legislating against an exact recurrence, or if you are in Congress, author a giant crackdown on the innocent, or at least on those who would never vote for your party. Higher age limits, waiting periods that will also lack good-faith enforcement, additional grounds for police to seize guns, or permission for Washington regulators to shear individuals of rights by placing them on a list that it will take years of lawyers’ fees to correct. Or the even more dangerous “mental health” push, in which a fortified army of social workers armed with artificial “intelligence” tries to predict future crimes and initiates new coercion in the complete absence of a current problem. None of these proposals will be effective, but the same school students know that their status as a “survivor” of the massacre (on Valentine’s Day, no less!) gives them a temporary stage to tug at everyone’s heartstrings until they get – whatever they want – to finally Make A Difference In The Community.

Everyone, in fact, has their favorite One More Law to “address” the school shooting. And I have heard no one who would rectify any of the root causes listed above. If your concern is avoiding a revolving door to prison, the first step would be to make schools less prison-like.

Support Continental Telegraph Donate


  1. Guns yeah yeah yeah.

    This is what really matters.

    The US is at near full employment now. Inflation is already rising. Interest rates are following, slowly. This is not the moment then when anyone would suggest that the US is in need of a major financial stimulus. But that is what it is going to get. The Trump tax cuts and planned massive increases in Federal spending on defence and (because the Democrats will demand a quid-pro-quo) non-defence items will means that, as the FT notes there will be an exceptional budget deficit in 2019 in the USA.

    This will almost invariably have knock on effects.

    First there will be inflation.

    Second, that will spread: commodity price rises will deliver that.

    Third, interest rates will rise as a result.

    Fourth, those too will spread.

    Fifth, bond prices will fall, maybe heavily.

    Sixth, although it’s not rational to suggest that share prices will fall as a result, I think they will because they cannot deliver yield at current prices if there are interest rate rises and inflation.

    Sixth, housing demand will fall with rising rates.

    Seventh, a weak housing market will be fed with those unable to pay debts seeking to sell before things get really bad.

    Eighth, things will get really bad.

    Ninth, the US always leads the world into these things.

    So, tenth, things will get bad here.

    You want to know where a crash comes from? That’s where a crash comes from. Trumps economic edifice will fall soon. And it will be ugly when it does precisely because the US will then think it has literally nothing left in its arsenal to deal with the consequence, whether that is right or wrong (and it will be wrong, as usual).

  2. Good write up, Spike. Lot’s of good insight.

    I take one exception:

    ‘It is not that a 19-year-old could buy a gun, it is that a kid who should by now be a felon was able to do so, when good-faith enforcement of existing law would have prevented it.’

    In a nation with 150,000,000 guns (300,000,000 by some accounts), you cannot keep an adult who is not locked up from getting a gun. As with most all ‘gun control,’ the concept is juvenile. Putting Cruz on NICS list would not have stopped him.

    The answer is adequate defenders within the school. ‘Armed defense inside the school building,’ as you say. The ‘Zero Tolerance zealots’ are simply decadent, not connected with the realities of the world.

    • I agree entirely. In fact we cannot keep an adult who IS locked up from getting a gun! I am not in favor of government “prevention” nor control of the marketplace as anti-crime strategies, which fails spectacularly from D.C. to Chicago. However, enforcing existing law and making Cruz a felon on account of his several felonies might have done other good things, such as kept him in a cage until he matured a bit more. Thanks for your compliment!

  3. Nice to have a write-up from somebody in the States.

    Something I’ve pondered is if anybody has collated any correlations between characteristics of schools and school shootings. Though I have a feeling that the events are actually so rare, compared to the total selection set, that there’s not a big enough data set to analyse.

    In particular, the US has a long tradition of military schools, where – from what I’ve read about them – the entire place is gunned up. How many school shootings happen there?

    • I have never heard of one, least of all a student setting out to kill everyone in the room. Gun owners tend to be much less rash and impulsive than non-gun-owners think gun owners are, or think they themselves would be if armed.

      Regarding the rarity, we now have Obama (primping for a Netflix series to keep himself relevant) repeating the lie that there have been “18 school shootings so far this year” though Mayor Bloomberg’s “Everytown for Gun Safety” states that there are now 27. (If you read the editorial below, follow the link to the earlier editorial to see the type of crap they are counting.) Again, no one gets into politics to “study” anything, but to come up with effective sales pitches. Personally, I believe Cruz’s murders say more about Cruz and his serial broken homes than the characteristics of the high school, except that the school system clearly bought into the national campaign to downplay student violence in favor of pretty statistics.

  4. If you want to claim America has a higher than normal rate of school attacks by students, you really need some evidence for that claim. There’s a lot of publicity about them, but not a notably high rate.

    This list is obviously skewed towards English-speaking countries, and even so it’s obvious the US is far from the only country which has school attacks/shootings:

    And this shows that it’s not only the US, or a modern thing, in one example:

  5. Dave, I never claimed that “America has a higher than normal rate of school attacks by students”. I would not know what normal is for schoolhouse murders, except that even under a nationwide gun ban, normal would not be zero. America does have occasional school attacks by students, and each major one produces a batch of proposed remedies, including some offered by people of bad faith. My thesis here was simply that none of the remedies do anything to address any of the root causes, either violence as a first resort, the belief that one can murder successfully, or the need to demonstrate one’s grievances by coercively changing (or ending!) the lives of others.