Following Parkland Tragedy, It’s Time for Our Lawmakers to Exercise Leadership

Article originally published in the American City Business Journals on February 20, 2018

There has not been a more important time for our president, legislators and governors to exercise leadership and address the deadly military-style assault weapons carnage that has infected our society. Effective leaders in all organizations proactively develop and implement solutions to issues. To date, our political leaders have not done so for this critical issue.

CEOs who do not exercise leadership and address issues are removed from their positions by their company board of directors. Legislators in many states can expect the same to occur if they don’t exercise leadership and do something. Social, print and TV media on the Parkland shootings have the power to sway public opinion. Citizens are angry. Parkland may well be the tipping point for action.

The eighth most deadly mass shooting event in modern U.S. history took place on Feb. 14, when 17 students and teachers were brutally murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, by a shooter using a military-style assault rifle who was said to have pulled the fire alarm so that the maximum number of people would be easy targets as they fled the building. Nikolas Cruz, a former student who had been expelled from the school, has been charged in connection with the killings.

Gun ownership is firmly entrenched within the culture of the United States, and that will not change. The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states, “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The Second Amendment was written at a time when military-style assault weapons were unknown — nor was it contemplated how these weapons could be accessible to mentally ill or unstable individuals who might use them at schools to murder teachers and students.

Had military-style assault weapons carnage occurred with any frequency before the Second Amendment was adopted, it would make sense that most citizens and lawmakers of the time would have wanted the amendment to specify that those types of weapons could only be possessed by well-regulated militias, not individuals.

Stronger procedures are needed to ensure that people with a mental illness are barred from possessing a firearm. President Donald Trump and Congress are going in the opposite direction.

An NBC News article dated Feb. 28, 2017 is headlined, “Trump signs bill revoking Obama-era gun checks for people with mental illnesses.” The Obama legislation was written as a result of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting in Newton, Connecticut, in which 26 people were killed, including 20 first-graders. The revocation of this legislation by the House and Senate didn’t make any sense. It needs to be reinstated.

A Washington Post article dated June 12, 2017, is headlined, “Assault rifles are becoming mass shooters’ weapon of choice.” The article states that an individual can go to a gun show and purchase an assault weapon without a background check. This loophole needs to be closed.

Is the new normal to accept that numerous times a year we can expect an individual with mental issues to use a military-style assault weapon to kill students at a school, or to open fire on people at other venues? I don’t think this is what the citizens of our country want or what the framers of the Second Amendment would have tolerated.

To our political leaders: By developing and implementing an effective solution to military-style assault weapons, you will be saving lives, many of them children. What does your conscience tell you to do? Doing nothing and ignoring the issue is not an option. Show some leadership. That is what you were elected to do.

Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership. He is a speaker, advisor and nationally syndicated writer on leadership, entrepreneurship and corporate governance. Silverman earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering and an MBA degree from Drexel University. He is also an alumnus of the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School. He can be reached at

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