Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

A way to stop school shootings: Taser drones?

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Jun 07, 2022

Once again, the United States has experienced horrific “school shootings”, that is, the massacre of innocent children, usually with assault rifles, by men who are either mentally unstable or, quite possibly, possessed by the devil. I’d be willing to bet that if Catholicism could be renewed, conversions increased, families strengthened through lifelong commitments between spouses and an abiding love of children, the incidence of mass shootings and many other random acts of violence would diminish rapidly.

Now don’t get me wrong. Grave evils occur in every human society, including some committed by deranged people who bear no moral blame. Christianity does not promise protection against bad things happening in this world; Christianity rather promises protection against despair and damnation. But there can be no question that the familial and community relationships fostered by Jesus Christ through His Church add a huge complement of stability, contentment and joy while forming societies which build up rather than tear down not only our relationship with God but all human relationships as well. Sin is not eliminated, but the worst sins are dramatically reduced; human deficiencies are not eliminated, but they are ameliorated by grace. And those who have been well-formed by Christ instinctively turn in every distress to their Father in Heaven.

Don’t tell me that this does not matter. Don’t tell me that the kind of rampaging expressions of evil represented by school shootings (and other mass shootings or terrorist bombings) do not increase as societies fall away from an acknowledgement and worship of the true God. And don’t tell me that it is not safer to live in a society where peace of soul is more common and, owing to the sacramental life, diabolic manifestations far more rare. But if you want to tell me that we must still work on natural solutions to the problem, that is not unreasonable. Even in a spiritually dissolving culture, we must do what we can both supernaturally and naturally.

Firepower, less and more

I’m not swayed by the argument that making guns harder to get is a reasonable solution to the problem. Potent weapons will always be fairly readily available, even if only illegally. Nor does the presence of trained security guards necessarily solve the problem. It is difficult to keep track of everything all the time. Worse still, in one recent case, security people heard shots but refrained from closing in on the scene until, after the shots had ceased for a time, they thought it safe…for themselves.

Neither do I have much confidence in the Second Amendment rights of Americans, either for personal liberty in the face of the overwhelming firepower of government, or for protection in schools. The principal problem presented by mass shootings in schools or other public places is significantly different from the problem faced when protecting one’s family from criminal intruders at home. For example, it would be dangerous to have guns readily available in schools even with the best of motives. The whole structure of mass education militates against the wisdom of arming a portion of the usual school population.

This raises the usual alternative today, which is to resort to technology. A company named Axon, which supplies tactical hardware to police forces, recently announced that it would develop a drone that would be capable of operating in schools and neutralizing a “shooter”—an air-based “bot” equipped with a taser. Unfortunately, Axon’s CEO decided to bypass the company’s own Artificial Intelligence Ethics Board, despite pleas by some board members to scuttle the project. The Ethics Board had already voted against the original idea a few weeks earlier, and when the company announced it was all-in for this new project, nine members of the Board resigned.

Yes, people are concerned about the creation of a machine-driven surveillance state, which many believe has already gone too far. And as the once liberty-loving West drifts swiftly into the mindset of freedom only for those whose ideas are socially dominant, such concerns ought also to be shared by serious Christians because of the ease with which technology can invade privacy and report back to Big Brother. So even a company like Axon is having to rethink the idea that there is a technological solution to everything. It isn’t enough to control every situation through firepower and fear. What is required for healthy societies is personal and social conversion to truth—that is, a grateful acknowledgement of reality which will keep far more people engraced, well-balanced, and connected with supportive family and friends.

Quiet: Ineffectuality at work

Which brings me back to the original problem: Is it a category mistake to plead for spiritual sanity and to promote genuine conversion when what we appear to need is a more effective way to protect people in public spaces? No it is not, because the problem of protection against physical harm will only increase as moral and spiritual chaos increases. That problem has afflicted every technocracy and every totalitarianism that has ever been tried. To continue to develop techniques to make dangerous behavior less effective is a part of being human; but to think significant progress can be made in a society which constantly injures its members psychologically and morally is nothing more than wishful thinking.

The uncoupling of faith and morals from the question of personal and social health is one more example of that flight from reality which lies at the root of the whole problem. Yet this deliberate uncoupling is practiced daily precisely in the spaces most vulnerable to assault, that is, the schools run by a secular, bureaucratic, and technocratic state. This deliberate uncoupling is especially evident in the constant ideological indoctrination of the young, which also encourages far too many parents to make their lives all about themselves, secure in the misplaced trust that the social network of the nation will do their children proud.

I am, of course, mostly thinking out loud here. The solution to the problem is approximately the same as the solution to all our problems: Christian families and communities which nurture and take care of their own, far better than any State or regime can possibly do. If we do not keep praying and working toward that, we deceive ourselves. This does not mean that we should not work on other specific, ad hoc solutions as well. It just means that we should not be fooled into thinking they will ever be enough.

Look, it starts with the family. If my kids were attending a school that had to be policed by taser drones—and please take that as a symbol of a far more pervasive problem—I’d raise them and educate them some other way. Expand that to our entire social order, offering genuine mutual support as needed, and we would suddenly be taking the first hesitant step along the right path.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: winnie - Jun. 08, 2022 12:29 PM ET USA

    Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.

  • Posted by: tenriverbend2769 - Jun. 07, 2022 7:52 PM ET USA

    Thumbs up, good sir!

  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - Jun. 07, 2022 5:45 PM ET USA

    This is not a "technical" detail. At least in the Uvalde massacre down the road from us, no "assault weapon" was used. The "AR" in AR-15 stands for a model of semi-automatic rifle. Still lethal and if people had been awake to the dropout's situation, he never would have had it. An assault weapon must be fully automatic. But it's true--no law can stop these incidents. Only a return to families with Christian formation, or at least ethical.