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Pointless Virtue Signaling In St. Louis Park

There are two kinds of policy proposals: those that are actually intended to do something about a problem, and those that everyone knows won’t do any good, but are intended to show that their supporters are the “right” kind of people. These days, there are more of the latter–commonly referred to as virtue signaling–than the former.

For a textbook example, check out this Star Tribune story: “St. Louis Park seeks to strengthen firearm regulations upon request from students.”

St. Louis Park officials are developing policies to restrict the sale of firearms in the city and regulate how police get rid of outdated weapons.

The move is the result of discussions held this year between city officials and St. Louis Park students who pleaded for stricter gun control following a spate of school shootings across the nation.

It is generally a bad idea to take policy prescriptions from children. It is always a bad idea to adopt such prescriptions because they are children.

“These are absolutely reasonable restrictions,” Mayor Jake Spano said. “How many children’s lives and people’s lives are we going to have to accept losing before we decide that there are some minimal things that we can do?”

Typical virtue signaling: we must do something, even if the thing we do is completely useless. These are the measures the City Council has asked staff to develop:

* Prohibiting the rental of city facilities for gun shows.

If you keep reading, you learn that city facilities never have been rented out for gun shows. Moreover, no mass killer (in a school or elsewhere) has ever obtained his firearm at a gun show.

* Disallowing licensed firearm dealers from selling inside their homes.

However, “[l]icensed firearm dealers who already are allowed to sell in their homes could still do so.” Not exactly a major change. And, anyway, is there some reason to think a federally licensed dealer selling a firearm out of his home is more dangerous than the same dealer selling out of a store front?

* Destroying police firearms no longer in use and firearms seized in criminal investigations, with some exceptions.

What do they do with them now? Hand them out to gang members? I think not. If there is anyone we can trust to safely transfer a used handgun, it is the St. Louis Park police department. If they want to destroy them, fine. But any suggestion that this will somehow prevent school shootings is ludicrous.

Proposals like these aren’t expected to make any difference. The whole point is to show that city authorities are “doing something” and, perhaps more important, are listening to those moral arbiters, the city’s high school students.

School shootings are extremely rare, and the likelihood of one occurring in St. Louis Park is infinitesimal. But if the city really wants to reduce the chance of a mass shooting at a public school, effective steps could be taken to secure school buildings: regulate traffic in and out of each building so that visitors and students pass through a metal detector; limit public access to one entry point, and provide armed security at that location; have a backup armed guard at each school; and allow properly licensed teachers to carry firearms on school property.

Those measures would reduce the possibility of a school shooting incident in St. Louis Park to essentially zero. The downside is that they would cost money. A few diversity counselors and other administrators would probably have to go. It is cheaper, and easier all the way around, to adopt a few meaningless, virtue signaling policies and let it go at that.

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