The Radical Libertarianís Answer to School Violence

Last week, Kipland Kinkel, age 15, murdered his parents in his home. He then went to school where he shot up the cafeteria, killing two students and injuring many more. When he was taken to the police station, he attacked an officer with a knife that he had taped to his leg but was subdued with pepper spray. A search of his home revealed twenty or more bombs, some of them filled with explosives and ready to go. The Kipperís elfin, freckled face concealed some very violent thoughts.

Kinkelís murder spree was the fourth such tragedy this year. Since it happened, experts and pundits of various kinds have spent hours on TV analyzing the causes and suggesting various "answers" to the problem of school violence. Iíve heard at least 4 different points of view.

1. Gun control. For some people, gun control is the answer to most of societyís ills. Thereís a problem with this analysis. At present there is more gun control than at any time in this countryís history. Using pure ad hoc reasoning, we would conclude that gun control is more likely the cause of the problem than its cure.

2. The psychologists and psychiatrists have enjoyed a spurt in employment with these shootings. They appear on all the talk shows. Their suggestions include talking to your kids, prohibiting child gun use, identifying potential killers, and limiting child internet access. They are all agreed that whatever the answer is, it will require more tax money for the schools in general and psychological professionals in particular. The problem with this idea is that Kip was processed through the psychological mill. He had taken Ritalin at one time and Prozac at another. He even attended anger management classes. It may be that being pumped full of drugs and subjected to reeducation made him angrier. It wouldnít do much for my disposition.

3. Moralists decry the destruction of the family and point to the acceptance of abortion as contributing to the devaluation of human life. Rush Limbaugh managed to put some of the blame on ecologists. His reasoning goes like this: If you tell a kid that a dog or a tree is as important as a person, it destroys his ability to feel reverence for human life. This analysis may not be true in Kipís case. His own family history shows that his parents were very aware of his problems and did the best they could to find him help. They were both high school teachers. I have heard no reports on whether or not they had an undue attachment to trees or other flora.

4. Many people have pointed out that these acts are copy cat crimes and suggested that the news media bears some responsibility because of its dwelling on the sensational. I believe that if it werenít for the first massacre, the others may not have taken place. Itís interesting what a good learner Kip was. He took a lively interest in guns. The 20 or so bombs they found in his house were so sophisticated that some people doubt that they were the work of a 15 year old. I do not. Itís amazing how much and how fast a person can learn if heís truly interested in his subject. Even his shooting spree shows that he was a quick learner. He analyzed the other shootings and saw in them something he wanted. He is just the sort of student that every school wants.

Some people call libertarians hard-hearted and impractical. Iíd like to show everyone that we can be as compassionate and practical as the most sensitive liberal. First I reject any solution involving changing the morals of the countryís citizens because that would be too idealistic. Itís just not practical. I donít think that the psychological solutions show much promise because the rise in applied psychology has been followed by an unprecedented rise in violence.

My solution is twofold: First, prohibit all guns. Merely making them illegal for children is certainly not enough. Unfortunately, gun control will take years or even decades to implement. In the meantime and probably afterward, we need to control a runaway press. We need to control all the outlets, TV, radio, papers, books, the internet, etc. Any story that might provoke some copy cat to commit a similar crime must be kept away from the people. The psychological community can be useful here. I donít think they can identify and rehabilitate potential violators, but they have a pretty good idea of the sorts of stories that might provoke imitators. All news will be filtered through competent and licensed professionals before it can go out to the general public. This is really only a slight modification of the right to free speech, and besides, the people own the airways, etc., and ought to be protected from violence in their own homes and schools. My solution is expensive and it calls for the slight modification of some rights; but if it saves the life of just one child, I think itís worth the cost.

My last paragraph was sarcasm. I point this out because what I said was so much in line with current thinking, you may have missed it.