Steve Vetter: It’s not about doing something, it’s about doing the right thing

Legislators are in a unique position to solve the problem, and we have addressed this situation with policies that are saving lives rather than just “doing something.”

Steve Vetter
Rep. Steve Vetter, R-Grand Forks.
North Dakota Legislative Council
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I recently have been hearing my left-leaning friends saying we need to “do something” about mass killings. But to me it’s not about doing something. It’s about preventing innocent people from being murdered by a violent killer.

So, when they say we need to “do something,” I have some questions to ask. The first and most important question to ask is: Will this reduce the number of people being murdered?

The answer is no.

Just because we may decrease legal access to firearms doesn’t reduce the number of people murdered. Why? Do criminals, killers and the mentally ill follow the law? No. Would new laws stop criminals from getting guns or just law-abiding citizens?

If this is an effective strategy, then why aren’t Chicago and New York the safest places to live, as they have the strictest gun laws? Even if guns were completely illegal, if cartels can get fentanyl, illegal drugs and thousands of people across the border, don’t you think they could get guns to criminals too? So, who would these gun control laws stop from getting a gun?


In an effort to “do something,” age restrictions seem to be a popular remedy. Would the law alone stop an 18-year-old who is willing to kill children from stealing a firearm? Does a 19-year-old single mother have the right to protect her children? Does a wounded 20-year-old veteran have the right of self- defense? How about an 18-year-old person with a disability? Or do they all lose that right because of unrelated criminals that kill people with guns and because we should just “do something” regardless of if it is effective or not?

Red flag laws are an effort to combat mental illness which create their own questions. Can judges tell the future? Should they be able to take away someone’s rights without due process on a hunch because they might commit a crime in the future?

The answers to these questions are obvious. Chicago and New York aren’t safe because illicit dealers will always find a way around the law. And the buyers don’t care if they are breaking the law. A murderer isn’t deterred by an additional two-year sentence for owning an illegal gun when they are already going to jail for murdering multiple people.

When it comes to age-based restrictions, we are taking vulnerable inexperienced people who are already more likely to be a victim of crimes and compounding their weakness by not allowing them to defend themselves. A gun allows a young person to defend themself regardless of their physical condition.

Regarding red flag laws, our judges don’t have a crystal ball and they shouldn’t be expected to tell the future. What we do know is that red flag laws, wherever enacted, disproportionately affect veterans, especially combat veterans, because sometimes their behaviors are not the social norm.

Legislators are in a unique position to solve the problem, and we have addressed this situation with policies that are saving lives rather than just “doing something.” In the last legislative session with SB 2096 and HB 1463, the 67th Assembly made the armed First Responder in Schools Program the law.

This program allows for an extensively trained and armed person to respond or confront a shooter before or upon entering the school. This first responder has several training requirements, must be approved by the school board, must have a class 1 firearm license and may not be directly responsible for the supervision of children while serving as a first responder. However, the program is not mandatory and can be rejected by the local school board.

If you do not have a first responder at your local school, it is because the local school or school board does not want to participate in the program. You might want to join me in asking hard questions of your school board to find out why. If there is only one way into a school and there is an armed first responder guarding the entrance, doesn’t that solve the problem of school shooters?


Rep. Steve Vetter, a Republican from Grand Forks, has represented District 18 in the North Dakota Legislature since 2016. He sits on the House Judiciary and the Government & Veterans Affairs Committees.

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