Almost 25 years ago, my almost nine-year tenure as a state lobbyist with the National Rifle Association came to an end. After fighting with every ounce of my being to stop encroachments on the right to keep and bear arms, I was done, vowing that I would spend my energy on other worthwhile political pursuits.
While, over time, I have occasionally written an article or made a statement related to firearms, most notably releasing a report demonstrating how Florida's concealed carry law has saved hundreds upon hundreds of lives, my goal to avoid talking about semi-auto firearms in the future was pretty much kept intact.
Until last week's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), where I was scheduled for more than 15 guest appearances on radio and TV stations across the nation hitting more than 500 markets. And suddenly, I was in a time warp talking about the Second Amendment once again. Here is what I learned.
Rifles still are almost never used in homicides, never were and still aren't.
The arguments remain virtually the same. The only differences are that those who wish to ban guns are slightly more honest in their talking points, and they have virtually abandoned the idea that the mere possession of a gun ratchets up the likelihood of violence, as state after state has passed handgun carry laws and the predicted flood of violence has not only not happened, but homicide rates have gone down.
Finally, the "we have to do something" argument remains the worse possible reason to ban guns, yet it remains the only argument for the left to cling to. The media selected student spokespersons coming out of the Florida murders basically offer this argument and little more with an emotional tinge. Of course, because they have not thought deeply about the subject, the simplistic "something" is to ban certain firearms.
Rather than infringe on everyone's rights, perhaps they should try to come together around some things that could be done.
Every state across the nation could provide educators a choice of whether to carry a gun on campus with the requirements set by the state. Those who choose to carry concealed on campus could receive additional compensation to cover their costs for on-going training, ammunition and even their handgun and holster to avoid out of pocket costs if the school district was so inclined. After all, coaches and other teachers involved in extracurricular activities receive stipends for their trouble, certainly those teachers who volunteer to protect the children in the event of what amounts to a terrorist attack should be treated similarly.
For those school districts who worry about the additional costs to them for providing the same type of stipend that sports or extracurricular activity teachers receive, the choice seems simple. If it comes down to whether you will have a tennis team or a safer campus, cut the tennis team. If you need bigger savings, then eliminate high school football and use the savings to fund this and other district wide school safety measures. Obviously, no school will do this, and the resources will be found from the metaphorical couch cushions of the district budget, but the priority should be clear.
Another element to this idea would be to provide a veteran's preference for school hiring. The obvious advantage would be that veterans have combat training and would be able to provide a panoply of skill sets that hopefully would never need to be used. What's more, they would be much more likely to run toward gunfire rather than cowering behind vehicles outside the building.
And finally, it seems reasonable that a child's juvenile record be included in the background check database when considering whether, as an 18-year old, they are allowed to purchase a long gun. If they have a violent juvenile record, they should be denied, at least until they turn 21 years old, when their actions as adults becomes the only consideration on purchasing.
Of course, the last suggestion would not have had any impact on the situation in Broward County, Florida, due to the county's decision to bury all violent juvenile crime in a stream of warnings reportedly to improve the standing of the school district in various quality ratings.
In Broward County, no matter the reason, there was a choice made to ignore glaring, flashing warning signs with three dozen real reports that the same child was in trouble. It was these decisions that failed everyone this past Valentine's Day. If only Broward County had been more concerned with Nikolas Cruz's mental health from day one, he likely would either have chosen a different path or would have been removed from society and Stoneman Douglas High School would have remained in relative anonymity.
Mental health issues are extremely difficult, and they should be. Mental health professionals worry about the stigmatism attached to seeking help and rightfully do not want seeking psychiatric services criminalized. And civil libertarians are rightfully concerned that simple acts like calling a suicide hotline as a teen could be used as a permanent block for future exercise of constitutional rights.
A middle ground pathway needs to be found which protects the rights of the individual against being falsely accused or permanently stained by an accusation, while allowing for the enforcement of the federal Gun Control Act of 1968 which denies those adjudicated mentally incompetent the ability to purchase a firearm.
These are the discussions and dialogue that is worth having. But as long as the left is stuck on demanding the elimination of the individual right to keep and bear arms as the something that must be done, nothing will be.
The NRA is already at the table with suggestions that most people should be able to embrace, but unfortunately, working toward honest solutions is not nearly as sexy for those who fund the gun confiscation movement as is their default impulse to never let a good crisis go to waste. And so long as this is true, real dialogue and action on honest solutions will tragically fall by the wayside.
Rick Manning is the president of Americans for Limited Government.