What I Think I Know: School Shootings…

Dan Duffy
6 min readMay 25, 2022

This is a pipe dream. It’s unrealistic. And in my opinion, it has to be done.

To the people on one side, thoughts and prayers aren’t a solution. I believe in miracles, but prayer without action is just fluffy words. To the people on another side, banning guns is not a solution, either. They are engrained in our culture, and there’s simply too much money that’s going to keep their eradication from happening.

But… it can be tackled if we actually get together on this.

I’m no expert, but I am a fan of logic. As I see it, though I’m probably wrong, I think there’s four components to this, and all of them are necessary.

Number 1: There should be a background check for every first-time gun owner, no matter the type of gun, and not simply running a name and seeing if you get a hit. The check is a week-long, and it covers everything from mental history (looking for violent tendencies — not standard anxiety or A.D.D.), to criminal history, to scouring social media looking for clues.

Because almost always, “There were clues.”

On that background check, you must list two references, and they must be interviewed before the process is concluded. The first-time background check costs a one-time fee of $100 to pay for the manpower it will take to contact the references.

You might think, “They’ll just have someone lie for them.” For that reason, the checks should include a perjury provision. I don’t know a single person who is going to go out on a limb for something so serious unless it’s an iron-clad, “Yes, this person poses no danger whatsoever to the best of my knowledge.” Because if you did think they’d pose a threat and you lied, someone is going to rat you out in the aftermath of your friend’s rampage.

A background-check review must automatically kick in every five years.

Number 2: There needs to be a low-cost and accessible gun-safety class and legal certificate obtained before anyone is allowed to become a first-time gun owner, and it must include an interview with law enforcement.

Getting a gun should NOT be easy. Maybe, just maybe, if there are so many hoops to jump through, one of these perpetrators will opt out for it not being worth the hassle.

Number 3: All guns need to be treated equally under federal law. In New York State for example, handguns are harder to register than, say, shotguns and A/R style rifles… which are not considered assault weapons (military grade).

My provisions: any gun must be registered (after the above approved background check for first-timers) and re-registered every three years. Hell, if I need to renew my drone license every two years by getting retested, this shouldn’t be too difficult.

I would allow a registered gun owner to re-register all firearms at the same time, regardless of when the firearm was purchased.

And number 4: here’s where things get impossible… and I don’t care that they’re impossible; they need to be done. There must be not only a zero-tolerance policy for bullying, but also education provided on how to de-escalate. And it needs to start in 3rd grade.

You read that right. 3rd Grade.

In my experience, 3rd grade was the year when pecking orders started coming into play and exclusion started. By 4th grade, things could get out of hand quickly. And as grades go higher without some sort of early intervention, the situation can spiral into some awfully dark places. Plus, our kids listen to us less and less the older they are, so we have to get to them early.

And it’s on us as parents and teachers to help them figure this out… not the kids, themselves. Often, they have absolutely no idea what they’re saying or doing, and once they go into a mean or dark place, they have no idea how to climb out of it. We may teach kids to say they’re sorry when they’re young, but often (and I’m guilty of it) we teach it to be reactionary without actually helping them to understand why it’s important to not purposely inflict pain in the first place.

And the infliction is very real. I know of multiple kids from multiple schools who have been told, “You’d be better off killing yourself.”

Seriously… who says this? I’ll tell you: kids do because they know no better. It is up to teachers to alert parents at the signs of bullying or ganging up affecting a targeted kid, and it’s up to us as parents not to punish these kids, but to figure out why they’re acting that way in the first place so that we can teach them actual conflict resolution. It works. They’re doing this right now with street gangs, and it’s having some positive results.

And just as importantly, we have to make them realize how that infliction makes someone being bullied feel. We absolutely must encourage and nurture the empathy gene. If that means having a school psychologist on staff to intervene, and also having parents get educated on it at a school evening assembly with discussion, that is something I would GLADLY pay for.

And for us to say as parents “I had no idea,” that is not good enough anymore. We have to monitor our kids’ phones. I mean, scour them. I cannot begin to tell you how many parents in my FB feed have said, “Y’all, I can’t believe what I found on my kid’s phone.” I won’t begin to tell you what I’ve seen on my boys’ phones.

This all boils down to the common denominator: with virtually every school shooting, what is the one thing the perpetrators have in common? They were bullied. Hard. I understand if some of you may think that this is a copout, but when is the last time you heard of an un-bullied kid do this?

Which brings us back to owning a firearm. Some of you think that having a gun is a right, and under the constitution it is. But to my knowledge, there is nothing in the constitution that says that getting one should be in any way easy.

There’s a lot of give and take on this, and I’ll be honest when I say that what you’re reading now is probably the 14th draft that I’ve written.

There were a lot of expletives in the first few.

But what I think I know is that this horror affects all sides, and if we really want to fix it, a lot needs to be worked on at the same time. And for those of you who say that this is impossible to pull off, you might be right. But imagine the impossibility of going on living unaffected after your kid is murdered.

Then we’ll see which of these is more possible to achieve.

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Dan Duffy

Hi, I’m Dan. I’m a husband, dad, cancer survivor, video producer, author, accidental activist, and fan of all things lovely.