Marching for Change, Screaming for Help, Living in Fear
By Joseph Pangaro, CPM

The Parkland High School shooting on February 14th has changed the equation again. Since that terrible day, we have seen the emergence of a very vocal movement demanding change to the nation’s gun laws. This movement is being led by young people; some of them students who attended the Parkland High School.

These students are articulate, composed and passionate about their message. They are speaking for their fellow Parkland students and young people around the country, and by the unavoidable news coverage; their message seems to be resonating with many people beyond the student population.

At its essence, these kids are saying, “We don’t want to get shot and killed at school and we don’t feel safe”.

I don’t know anyone who could have anything negative to say about this feeling and their sentiments. In fact, the equally vocal group of citizens who see their movement as an attack on the Second Amendment and their gun rights would agree that they don’t want to see kids being shot and killed in their schools either.

Unfortunately, this is where the conversation has come to an end.

The fact that the conversation ends here is symbolic of our national inability to debate the important issues of our day. We cannot have differing opinions without being called a growing list of negative names; many are accused of harboring “secret” hateful beliefs, others are called ignorant or uninformed, and everyone has evil intent and is owned by other nefarious organizations.
Lost in all of this is a review of facts. What used to be seen as the proper way to investigate any issue was to use “Critical Thinking Skills,” and then compare the data and make an appropriate decision.

Critical thinking requires us to ask the obvious and deeper questions, to question motive based on fact, not on innuendo, personal belief, or the need to back up our own agenda. Critical thinking requires all of us to look at our own arguments with the same microscope. It is a search for the truth.

There was a time in America when our media would look at an issue and examine both sides in an attempt to get to the truth. Now it seems clear that they simply seek out people who hold the same opinion they do and report their opinion as fact and describe anyone who disagrees as doing so for personal gain, hatred, or some other hidden reason. There is no critical review of information, it is all opinion.

The kids from Parkland are scared. I think many of us are scared of random violence striking us or our loved ones, especially in our schools. They are demanding we, the adults, do something to keep them safe, and they are right to demand that. It is our responsibility to protect our kids. The problem we have as a society is finding a way to do that without trampling on the rights of millions of Americans who are not violent.

The kids are demanding stricter gun laws and restrictions on gun ownership. It seems obvious that if there were no semi-automatic rifles like the ones used in the most prominent school shootings that many of those killed would not have been. Granted, the use of an AR-15 type rifle does afford a shooter a powerful weapon that can fire a large amount of rounds very quickly; there’s no denying that, to do so would be intellectually dishonest.

But, is that a valid reason to ban a weapon that hundreds of thousands of honest law-abiding people want to own and have a right to own? This is where the argument strays into opinion and emotion; which is not intellectually honest if we apply critical thinking skills to the question. It is a surface argument.

That is not easy to say because of the emotional aspect of the argument itself, which goes like this, “Saving even one kid is worth it to get rid of these guns.” Who is going to argue the other side of that statement and say that keeping the guns available is worth the death of one child?

Whose child should be sacrificed so we can keep the AR-15 type rifle legal and available? Would anyone on either side of the argument stand up and raise their hand and say, “I’m OK with it even if it’s my kid, the right to own an AR-15 is more important”- of course no one would say that. And that is not the truth of the argument, that is the emotional side of the debate and it’s hard to get past the emotion, which leads to name calling and attribution of negative motives.

Let’s see if we can focus the argument for better perspective. To do so requires us to look at something most of us hate, and those who are ruled completely by emotion cannot often tolerate. We must look at statistics to determine the real threat and gain perspective so we can make rational decisions.

AR-15-type rifles are used in very few homicides, and yes, even one is too many. But the gun is also used in many more self-defense actions, which saves people’s lives; we just don’t hear about these incidents because they don’t fit the agenda of those people who control the news.

In fact, teenagers die by the hundreds each year from car accidents. Many times more than in gun incidents; do we stop driving cars?

I do not mean to trivialize the deaths of our kids killed by guns, but if we want to save kid’s lives, don’t we want to save all kid’s lives or just those killed by guns?

The logical answer is that cars should be banned as they are responsible for thousands more deaths than guns, it’s a fact. Why then don’t we ban cars?

Critical thinking, not emotional thinking, demands we ask the question and answer it honestly. If we banned cars we would save many thousands of lives taken senselessly every year, and that’s a fact.

I’m sure many people are answering that cars are part of our lives and we need them for our society to function, but we don’t need guns. Which means we are willing to accept car-related deaths; those deaths are acceptable because we need cars. Is it acceptable then for your child to die in a car wreck because we want the convenience of driving?

Critical thinking is not easy, it strips bare our emotional shell. Facts are cruel and we don’t like them, as they force us to look inward and face ourselves.

The next part of our examination then states, “We are willing to accept car deaths, but not gun deaths, since we don’t really need guns.” OK, then, let’s ask the obvious; “Do we need guns?”

In 2018, we have food stores where we can get meat, even deer meat if you like it, so we don’t really need to hunt. We have police departments all around us, even the rural communities to protect us, so we really don’t need guns for protection. Some people like to shoot for recreation. We have virtual reality and video games for shooting so we really don’t need actual guns anymore.

These arguments can be made rationally. We might not agree with them, but they can be made rationally. But what about those people who like to hunt, and those people who don’t feel the police can respond quick enough to protect them and their families, or the men or women who like to shoot for sport or recreation?

In the name of safety, should we disregard their opinions and preferences for the greater good? We already do that in other areas, don’t we? People like to use cocaine and heroin, but as a society we have said “No.” Even if you want to do it, and it is your body, for the greater good we say cocaine and heroin are illegal and you can’t do it. Should guns be treated the same way?

Well there is the Constitution to consider. Drugs and driving are not mentioned in the Constitution, but guns are. In fact, guns, gun rights, and gun ownership is very prominent in this world-changing document. So important to the concepts of a free state and the freedom of people that the founders placed this right in the Constitution as a cornerstone of freedom; is it?

Once again the divide in our country reveals itself here in the answer to this question. In fact, we see huge numbers of our fellow citizens who see much of the Constitution as outdated and out of touch, not worthy of our adherence, respect or support; created by men who hated others, were selfish and wanted power and prosperity for themselves only. Many of our fellow citizens see the Constitution as a thing of the past, something to be re-written to fit modern sensibilities and beliefs.

Others do not. Many people see the Constitution as the single thing that separates us from the default position of humanity- which is tyranny. Without the Constitution, it is believed by many that we would fall back into an existence where the state makes all the decisions and holds the power, determines who is right and wrong and who should be punished and controls freedom.

There was a time that we all agreed on the basics of what America and the Constitution was and meant to all of us, we just disagreed on how to get things done within that framework.

Today, it seems we are two different peoples.

So the children march and call out for our help and we argue over the merits of their call to action. Is it valid? Is it being used by others to implement their own agenda? Is it a ploy by one side or the other to get the change they seek? Or are the kids just scared of getting shot and killed in their schools?

As the adults we must look at all of this and ask the pertinent questions. Is there a danger to the kids? The answer is “Yes.” Therefore, we must take actions to make them safer; armed guards in the schools, better training for staff members, more psychological counseling for troubled kids, better background checks for gun purchases, stiffer penalties for those who use guns in a crime, and ensuring that persons suffering from mental problems do not get guns.

Taking away the rights of the law-abiding individuals will not make the kids safer, it is an illusion of safety; an emotional response. Are there bigger agendas afoot? I think so! I’m not a conspiracy guy, but I am a critical thinker, I can see facts for facts. I want to protect all the kids in the right way, and anyone who would use our kids as pawns to move their agenda forward should be called out, but we must keep the kids safe.

Let me know what you think.

Lt. Joseph Pangaro retired after serving 27 years at a police department in Monmouth County, NJ, having served as the Lead Training Officer. Pangaro is a graduate of Fairleigh Dickenson University’s Certified Public Managers Program (CPM). He’s a newspaper columnist who writes about the rigors and joys in law enforcement. Joseph Pangaro is the CEO and President of Pangaro Training and Management, and Pangaro Global Training, an online training company. Email Lt. Pangaro @ JPangaro194@yahoo. com or Twitter: @Pangarotraining