Criminalising cowardice: the ethics of school shootings

My latest article on MercatorNet is about Scot Peterson, the former deputy and School Resource Officer who seemingly failed to respond appropriately during the 2018 Parkland school shooting in Florida.

Peterson was arrested this month and charged with child neglect, facing as much as 97 years in jail if convicted.

It’s an emotional topic, with professional standards, scapegoating, and questions of cowardice and heroism adding to the weight of these unprecedented charges.

The Active-shooter Training demands outright heroism from police officers. It would take great courage to run towards the gunfire instead of away from it, and in line with the training and our ideals for the police force there is an element of self-sacrifice required.

Whether the charges and eventual punishment are warranted in this case, it will play into the narrative that the gun problem in America can be solved through personal acts of heroism and ad hoc responses to threats, without addressing the availability of powerful weapons in the first place.


Are more guns the answer?

If gun control is really impossible in America, then surely the onus is on “good guys with guns” to take responsibility for ensuring public safety? In my latest article at MercatorNet I give an Aussie perspective on gun control, take a quick look at the historical and political origins of America’s unique gun culture, and play out the logical conclusions of a society that can’t or won’t limit access to semi-automatic weapons:

if a good guy with a gun really is the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun, then in light of this knowledge, the good guys clearly aren’t doing enough to uphold their responsibility for public safety.

If we really believe that, then we shouldn’t celebrate the fact that a Good Samaritan with a gun happened to be nearby; we should question why there weren’t two or three or four of them.

“Good Samaritan” implies happenstance and luck, but if responsibility for stopping the bad guys lies with gun owners, then happenstance is actually negligence.

In other aspects of life we have designated first aid officers, fire wardens and emergency evacuation plans. We don’t just hope that a random person in our office or at a public event will know first aid, or take the initiative and lead people in a crisis.