With the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day, we once again find ourselves in the middle of a heated national debate over gun violence. On one side, there is strong demand for a national policy that makes owning military-style rifles more difficult, particularly for those citizens with a history of mental illness or criminal records. Another side is calling for hardening our schools into fortresses, with armed teachers, metal detectors, and controlled entry points. The views people already hold about gun ownership and the 2nd Amendment principally inform their opinions about solutions to gun violence in schools, and America is deeply divided on this issue. As a result, whatever policies are implemented at the national level, we can expect at least half of Americans will be extremely upset; and if the solution is like many national policies, it is possible a supermajority of Americans are going to be dissatisfied, leaving more Americans agitated than placated.
In the age of social media activism, we find ourselves in the nasty habit of demanding federal solutions for many of our local community problems. Gun violence is a local issue, just like texting and driving ordinances and leash laws for dogs. What is ironic is the same people who celebrate diversity are often the same people arguing to inflict one-size-fits-all solutions onto thousands of dramatically different communities. In the case of school safety, it is ridiculous to expect bureaucrats in Washington D.C. to have the information necessary to concoct a workable solution that will prevent more problems than it creates. What a national solution for gun violence in local schools will certainly do is create higher taxes, higher costs, more paperwork, increased regulatory complexity, and distractions away from the chief aim of education, which is to teach children.
The people in Washington D.C. are no more intelligent or virtuous than local leaders. In fact, history has proven out of state politicians to be less capable and more harmful when they attempt to solve local problems, like gun violence. As citizens, we need to stop expecting federal politicians and bureaucrats to solve our local problems, and we need to start rolling up our sleeves and doing the hard work of finding solutions for ourselves. Any school safety policy imposed upon us from outside our own communities can be expected to hurt more people than it protects.