12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to School Shootings

Two things were lodged in the trending corner of my Twitter feed all day yesterday. One was Jordan B Peterson, author of the best-selling book Twelve Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. 

Peterson’s book has sold over a million copies. He talks to sold out auditoriums and draws millions to his Youtube page by delivering a message of personal responsibility and telling young men to clean their rooms and grow up.

Yesterday, the Peterson profile piece that I was sure was eventually going to come out, in one way or another, hit the NY Times. In it, Peterson is quoted at length about feminine and masculine roles and said a pile of other things, in detailed, hard to take out of context quotes that are sure to make him less friends in the 21st century western world.

The title and lead line of the profile was Jordan Peterson: Custodian of the Patrimony. He says there’s a crisis in masculinity. Why won’t women — all these wives and witches — just behave?

So, the Twitter storm loomed over him for a few hours until it shifted to another tragic school shooting. 10 children were killed in Santa Fe High School in Texas. It was another disillusioned teenage boy with access to a weapon and the ability to bring it into his school.

I’m not sure I can say much more than I have already on the morality of gun violence. So, I’ll just cut to the chase. While American men everywhere are turning to a Canadian psychology professor to tell them their manly thoughts, we seem to have forgotten one of our most important manly thought responsibilities; keeping our children safe.

When it comes to school shootings, the standard should be zero. And unless we’ve got a non political, non bullshit answer for how we ought to stop it, we should put down the lobster psychology books and get to work.

Here’s mine.

Twelve things—why not—that will reduce school shootings in America to an irreversible minimum. An Irreversible minimum was the term we used for our goal when I was leading a team responsible for stopping violence in Iraq. I’m not advocating that we do all these things. Whether we choose to do them is another discussion. In fact, several of these ideas are plainly bad ones we won’t or shouldn’t do. But saying them out loud to figure out where the line is, is better than what we’re getting from our civic leaders who can’t seem to get beyond either thoughts and prayers or banning all guns.

So here goes.

1-Stopping school shootings is someone’s job. Not a part of their job where they do other things like teaching children or keeping things quiet before retiring as sheriff or leading the rest of the country. Some organization or agency needs to be responsible for the goal of school safety with one result being ZERO American school shootings. Someone needs to stand up after every shooting and stare into the camera and tell the world they failed at their only purpose.

If you want something to happen, make it someone’s job.

2-If your child uses your gun in a shooting, you are going to prison as if you pulled the trigger.

3-75% reduction in high powered assault rifles on the street in 1 year. Tomorrow every high-powered assault rifle has a value of $20K for exchange to the U.S. government. You can keep them if you want to. But they’re worth at least $20K to you. It would cost America about $40 billion; half what we spent bailing out the banks; a few months of what the war in Iraq cost us.

Expand that to a risk adjusted price for all other fire arms.

There are more guns than adults in America. Perhaps this matters.

4-It’s as hard to use my gun if you’re not me as it is to use my cell phone if you’re not me. That technology exists. If we cared enough, we’d use it.

5-Free, modern gun safes for every household in America. Whether you have guns or not. It’s a building code.

6- Overwhelming, trained, professional, armed law enforcement in every school that have no other job but to keep our children safe.

7-Rapid, sweeping upgrades in school facilities that include armored doors, automatic locks and other physical security measures.

8-TSA like security at entries outside of the learning area of schools to create a security boundary and stand-off zone. If we can keep a Starbucks in an airport running under those conditions, we can do it with a school.

9-Firearm tracking technology. Again, what can be true of my phone can be true of my gun.

10. Stop having societal discussions about the solutions. The causes may be societal, the solution is not. We solved 9/11 style plane hijackings with a lock on the door to the cockpit, not by peace in the Middle East.

11-A special interest group that protects the Second Amendment by advocating for measures that reduce gun violence not by advocating for measures that reduce gun legislation.

12-No gun ownership. This is the one I don’t want. But the reality is, the government won’t need to take it from my cold dead hands. They’ll just need to stop giving me everything they do now if I’ve got one and refuse to turn it in. No police will respond to my residence. No fire department will either. No first responders. No social security check. No subsidized power bill. No drivers license. No school for my kids…you get the point. We have guns at the leisure of the government. Pretending that’s not the case helps us minimize the dire need for us to care about gun violence.

That’s the list of 12 things.

If you don’t like it, come up with your own and lets start moving this conversation from the political and abstract into the material application. If many of these seem too big and hard to do, I’ll remind you we’re actively planning construction for a two thousand mile wall along the border with Mexico. If that seems realistic but an automated locking door on every class room or a gun buy back program doesn’t, then you appear to be more afraid of the people with bad intentions outside the country than the people with bad intentions inside the country.

And there’s really only one conclusion to be drawn from that.

Problems have solutions. Not liking them and doing them anyway is part of the deal.

6 replies »

  1. wow those are some interesting ideas, many I have not ever heard before. i would add changing culture so guns are not “cool” just like smoking is not “cool” any more. Ditto w drunk driving. Liability for having your weapon used is so simple, and fair it seems on the surface. It really seems like it might make a difference. Gun owners required to have insurance? Where would the buyback guns go? Would they be sold to perpetrate more violence in other countries? I am guessing this would more or less kill the gun industry, which I think a lot of people forget is who really runs the NRA. So can it be fought at the business level too? Can the weapons be highly taxed to pay for other things? Just some thoughts….

  2. Best line of this piece: When it comes to school shootings, the standard should be zero.
    My least favorite ideas are #6 and 7. That reality would traumatize too many children, take funds away from more worthy educational pursuits, and make schools more like prisons. I appreciate the impulse toward action rather than words. I hope the midterm elections make a difference.

  3. Ever feel like your yelling into the abyss? Politics needs more considered thinkers who can straddle the divide. It’s an ugly game but I am sure you are strong enough to handle it. There is no substitute for real power.

  4. Hardening our schools is a good start. We have a lot of soft targets in the US … targets that could be “hardened” without giving up our civil liberties. Much like our federal facilities have intrusion barries, why don’t the entrances to our schools and shopping malls have concrete balustrades to prevent a truck bomb from crashing the doors?

    I whole heartedly agree with your push for personal responsibility. As a responsible owner of a firearm, one should take responsibility for that item.

  5. Hello Mr. Hughes. I listened to you on the cleared hot podcast today and you Andy discussed this list. I know I’m late to the party as far as comments here but I hope to add to the conversation.
    #1 This exists. It’s the community this school services that is to guide themselves on this issue. I know we want sweeping federal changes for everyone but that isn’t how our country works and I don’t believe it should. A large scale agency will create more cost than benefit as with most bureaucratic endeavors. My fiancé teaches for a charter school. Their leadership must find a way to fix their campuses. Now can we create mandates and then fund those mandates and then have a regulatory agency ensure that campuses and communities have complied? That would be a lower cost solution and still honors states rights and the system of the republic.
    #2 I agree with accountability for gun owners to ensure their firearms are possessed responsibily. But I ask this. A friend I graduated high school with was killed in the line of duty by a kid that had just robbed his parents house and taken guns. Should his parents who tried to secure their weapons and called the police in an attempt to stop the theft be held accountable for their son murdering a police officer?
    #3 I will pay off my house and still have rifles left. I build ARs for fun and to try different configurations, then sell and trade the ones I don’t like (to people with CCWs in my state or fellow firefighters and law enforcement, I’m not a lunatic). I guess my point is that you will reduce the amount of rifles and is that good? Everyone of them in my safe are not going to hurt anyone as much the ones I would keep. My morality and security over my rifles keeps them from committing harm.
    #4 As far as the physical controls on firearms, I would ask you this. Can you guarantee that any technological lock on a weapon could be fail safe for when I needed it for defense? You used your phone as an example and I know I had to grab mine twice to open it to write this. There have been attempts to develop RFID locks in the past and other such devices as well. I don’t think that should be a mandate but can be an option for gun owners willing to buy those extra securities. Let them drive the demand and if the technology is sound and the systems prove themselves, the market will adjust accordingly.
    #5 I will gladly take another gun safe. I think all gun owners should have them. I have 4 in my home. One for the collection and three in areas where if I need access to one quickly.
    #6 Couldn’t agree more. You see officers working off duty jobs all over town. Funding should be made available to pay them off duty to work at schools. This will prevent a situation where an older or less competent officer is just assigned to the school duty. How many dudes that you served with that were low performers were shipped to the less crap assignments? You know this happens and local LEO is no different.
    #7 Yes. These are good immediate action items.
    #8 You mentioned on the podcast that you went to a school with officers on campus and that inner city schools have lower cases of incidents as a result of their elevated security. We install checkpoints at schools with problems, we should do so at all schools. It doesn’t have to be a shake down. Teachers and security can welcome the kids to school and keep spirits high. The TSA image sucks. The thought of your kids being welcomed on to campus everyday by caring educators and staff is very different.
    #9 It a little too 1984 for me. Does my great grand dad’s double barrel and all the family histoyand sentiment it holds for me have to get the iGun 7 tracker installed? I’m being tongue in cheek but, what about a M1 Garard with matching serial numbers that is a piece of history? Now all newer or semiautomatic rifles built after 2006? I don’t know. What if I forget to charge it?
    #10 This is why I wanted to write this lengthy post (perhaps I need my own blog?). I wonder if you are falling to your training? The military is notorious for punishing the while for the actions of the few. Some E-3 in a shop you don’t even talk to at your squadron got a DUI… safety stand down. I sat through many during my enlistment. I don’t drink… because my favorite uncle died in a drunk driving accident… these things were so painful. My point is, we sat everyone down and yelled at them for things they had nothing to do with. We set up programs for Marines to get taxis and all kinds of other layers to make sure they were successful. 4 months later…. a new check in does the same stuff and the cycle repeated. We have to try and find out why the horse keeps escaping. If it’s simply the barn door, then yes fix it. If we beat the horse and reinforce the barn door, the problem will evolve and the action will go somewhere else. Maybe he’s hungry, maybe he needs to be run twice a day… I have used up this old metaphor I believe, but you can see my point.
    #11 I have wished the NRA would solve their own problem for years, but they won’t. And we can’t have leaders who say they support the second amendment but really want to limit gun rights come up with the solution. One wants complete freedom and the other too much control. A new group, dedicated to defending our rights but also wanting to perfect the systems where we exercise gun commerce…. maybe if we funded programs where as a private seller, a dealer was given a credit for brokering the transaction. See, if I sell a gun through a gun shop, it costs me $25 or so. What if I arrange the deal, take it to a gun shop and he gets a tax credit of $30-50 to run the new buyer through the system? I know this is a little off topic, but this is the kind of thinking a special interest group needs to embrace.
    #12 You said it so I won’t repeat it. I will say this though, you and Andy discussed the fact that firearms ownership is not synonymous with freedom under our current model. I would argue that firearm ownership is less an real world deterrent than a philosophical one. An all volunteer military and an all volunteer policing force are representative of the society they are drawn from. This means that the government may decide to change this arrangement, but those to enforce their will have to agree. We must always remember that all the night of our nation comes from us. And if we value individual rights and believe the 2nd amendment gives us the ability to overthrow tyranny as public servants… we will never be the tools of tyrants. The book Ordinary Men always jumps into my head during this discussion. When the new norm is a disarmed populace. What’s the next new norm? We have iPhones now, but the human psyche is ancient and capable of terrible things under pressure and when their core beliefs are changed or erased. A side not too. You discussed a utopian idea that law enforcement can keep hold of all their weapons. There is a federally issued MP5 that was lost after a raid in a small town that I know of. It was left on a trunk and they drove away and it is out there, they know it’s out there because it ‘pops up’ occasionally. Just saying, professional doesn’t mean perfection.

    I say all these things as a veteran, current first responder, student, father, jr high coach, neighbor and countryman. It’s not to oppose you, just to open more discussion. It will take lots of talks to figure this out. To think that one group of well intending thinkers can figure this out for us is to refuse history (the Wiz Kids in Vietnam and so many more). Thank you for your service and your voice. Have a great day. Semper Fi Shipmate