Thursday, March 15, 2018

Post Parkland - what is the goal?

Tens of thousands of students yesterday commemorated the deaths of their fellow students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.  The students expressed a range of emotion and opinion.   Some expressed in signs and words their sympathy for Parkland, while others said simply, “I don’t feel safe.”  Some called generally for action.  Some called for specific action such as banning “assault rifles.”  Others said they planned to focus on what they can do within their control by making their own student bodies more welcoming.

Watching videos of students making statements at protests one feels that adults have let these children down in any number of ways.  Six-year-old children are participating in active shooter drills in their schools.  Think about that.  Many, if not most, of the children participating in yesterday’s protests have practiced those drills their entire childhood.
Children should be allowed innocence.   Adults have failed them.

The students’ actions yesterday may raise media attention briefly.  But students (children) are not going to make necessary changes.  Adults should not be relying on children to do what adults should do.

The sorrow and anger that follows events like Parkland is often seen as a catalyst for change.  But that strong emotion subsides for those not directly impacted.  The nation’s attention span is short.  The media has moved on to team coverage of winter storms, Hollywood giving itself yet another award, porn star recollections, and March Madness.

We tend to be a nation that seeks fast and simple solutions.  We seek the silver bullet answer.  We eat prepared and fast food.  We want a drug or surgery to take care of our ailments when we know discipline and hard work offer a cure.   We can approve a $45 million school capital project with the snap of a finger, but God forbid we approve an additional custodian to maintain that school in the operational budget.

We tend to call out for legislation, particularly federal legislation, when something goes wrong.  When we are outraged that a federal employee paid $600 for a toilet seat we do not demand accountability within the federal workforce. Instead, we pass a federal law that puts $1 billion dollars of bureaucracy in place to prevent anyone from buying a $600 toilet again. 
The slog; the long term continuing process; the heavy lifting - we don’t like it and we are not good at it.   But that is what is necessary if the probability of more mass public shootings in schools is to be lowered.

Since Parkland’s mass public shooting there were several instances of threats against schools.  In the most disturbing of these two students had the real potential of executing another Parkland:

A thirteen-year-old boy committed suicide in a school bathroom in Ohio with a rifle.  Police found on his phone that he admired the Columbine murderers and he wrote a detailed attack plan for his school.  Why he changed his mind at the last minute and took only his own life may never be known.  What if he had carried out the plan?

In Vermont, an 18-year-old former student of a Rutland high school planned for two years to attack the school.  He bought a shotgun and four boxes of ammunition.  His mistake was to tell a young woman of his plan.  She called police.   He too praised the Columbine attack and thought he might carry out the attack on the anniversary of Columbine (April 20). 
[Aside:  Ask your children’s school if they have plans for heightened awareness on April 20.]

There is clearly a real and enduring danger of further mass public shootings at schools.
On February 18, my Liberty Takes Effort blog called for specific action – passage of an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) law in Florida and passage of federal law to assist all states in implementing ERPO.   Blog readers were given specific contact information to lobby legislators.
Florida enacted the "Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act."   In a short three weeks the state came together to act in response to the horrendous mass public shooting against innocent people.   The families, legislators, and the Governor are to be applauded.  The federal government is moving toward legislation to support states implementing similar laws.

Great! But … legislation is not a silver bullet.  Passage of a single piece of legislation is not going to solve the problem.  The problem is complex and multifaceted.   Legislation is not the goal. It is only a means to an end.  It will take a lot of hard work to implement the legislation effectively and the nation’s track record in this regard is left wanting.  There are also additional actions that can be taken that might have further positive effect.

Much of the reaction to Parkland and the commentary over the past month revealed a lack of understanding about the complexity of the issue.  Without a common stated goal and common accepted facts it will be difficult to bring about further effective change.
The Liberty Takes Effort Blog will in the coming weeks offer four or five posts intended to create greater understanding to underpin concerted action that is both effective and achievable.

Required first is a stated and accepted common GOAL to focus research and action.

To be effective, one must focus like a laser beam on a specific goal and not be distracted.   A well defined and achievable goal is:



  1. Your heart and your citizenship shine through in this post. I admire your active participation in the world. You don't close the newspaper or shut down your computer after reading; you do something. Thank you for inspiring me.

    The students have been so compassionate and impressive in their sympathy and reaction to the loss of their fellow classmates and friends.

    You are right, though, in that it is our responsibility as adults to take the lead.

    Nelson Mandela once sent out a message that reflects yours...
    "Safety and security don't just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear."


  2. Thank-you Dan for keeping this important subject in the public eye and sharing your insight. Like other critical issues facing society today, there is no silver bullet to fix this. It is a complex multi faceted issue - not to mention polarizing.

    But no action should be considered totally unacceptable by any responsible adult.

    I like your clear and obtainable goal. Efficient action starts with a well defined end point. I believe you have articulated it well.

    Thanks again and I look forward to your future thoughts and recommended actions.


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