Parkland’s horrific school shooting has served as only the latest spark in the long-running debate in America on gun legislation.
Moral depravity of such magnitude can shake a nation. It is perfectly understandable that Americans, whether Democrat or Republican, would have an emotional response to this sort of act. With left-leaning individuals, we tend to see this manifested as an immediate cry to do something, to fix this, because how could we allow such a problem to happen? It’s easy for many individuals, who tend to lean right, to take a bit more of a clinical approach when this sort of tragedy happens. They are sad, of course, with often the same depth of feeling and sincerity. However, they know that their emotional response should be channeled in quiet waiting and thought, not in immediate calls for drastic legislation!
The reaction of those on the right is generally to look first to what laws already exist and to determine whether or not those laws would have been effective at preventing such a tragedy. In this case, we know that the FBI had information about the shooter beforehand, and that government incompetence led to a lack of follow-through. Our existing legislation did not fail these students and teachers and their families, human error and government incompetence did.
After this realization, we can find a way forward. There are areas that we can improve on, but I would posit to some of us on the right that even this reaction to gun violence, which is far more logical than the typical reaction of the left, is still missing something.
When I see a problem, everything within me is tuned to solving it. I think this is actually a good way to look at life. However, when it comes to matters of law, this tendency can wreak havoc on our logical thinking if we are not cognizant of it. America as a nation, and particularly my generation, has lost an understanding of civics. What is law? Where does law come from? What is the purpose of law?
These questions and their answers are absolutely foundational to understanding any piece of American law. The Founders grappled with them, drawing from men who had grappled with the same questions for thousands of years before them. Their resulting understanding through pondering and discussing these ideas became the first principles upon which the American project was built.
Examination of these questions leads me to think about how many of us are missing this context when we see a tragedy and seek to find solutions to prevent it from happening again. Lawmaking is not a reactionary act. Law in America exists to codify the protection of Constitutional rights. When we see a tragedy, and seek to react, to “fix it,” it is very easy to lose sight of this reality.
We can’t fix school shootings. We can only enact good legislation, or bad legislation. We can only protect Constitutional Rights, or erode their protection.