Saturday, December 22, 2012
The NRA Response and "Plan" for Armed Guards in Schools is Naive and Foolish
The psychological aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedy was worsened on the one-week anniversary of the shooting, when the National Rifle Association (NRA - the gun owners' lobby) broke its silence with a statement by NRA president Wayne LaPierre that ignored all gun control and mental health discussions and instead asserted that the solution to the issue of mass school shootings was to put an armed guard in every school. In a meandering speech that blamed violence on media which glorifies violent shootings, but ignored blaming the guns in those films and video games, LaPierre did not move the discussion of America's gun violence forward. In fact, he may have set it back decades - back before the Brady Bill and the shooting of President Reagan. Lest we - and he - forget that John Hinckley managed to shoot several people by walking right up to the Secret Service and opening fire with a handgun. Imagine if he had walked up with an assault rifle.
Alas, it shouldn't be surprising that the lobby for the gun industry argued that the solution to decreasing gun violence is more guns. The sad reality is that no one is going to prevent mass shootings by psychotic individuals when they live in a world where they can access high capacity weapons and find areas where people congregate. In regards to schools, it's worth noting that America has 100,000 public schools, and that doesn't even include private schools and day care facilities. Arming them won't stop the carnage because it's simply infeasible. My school has four buildings covering nearly ninety acres with no less than twenty-five entrances. There is simply no way an armed guard will provide any guarantee of protection.
Granted, many of these schools already have armed guards in their schools as part of what is called the School Resource Officer program. However, as Mary Elizabeth Williams reminds us Columbine High School had an SRO who engaged one of the shooters. Beyond that, gun supporters seem to forget that a shooter at a military installation - Ft. Hood - managed to shoot dozens before being engaged by military police. As far as armed citizens goes, does anyone remember George Zimmerman? Armed citizens have not prevented mass shootings, and could seriously make the situation worse. At both the Gabby Giffords shooting and the Oregon mall shooting, armed citizens did not take down the shooter, and they worried more about accidentally killing innocent bystanders, as happened when police took on a shooter outside the Empire State Building. The worse aspect of the NRA's response is that it creates a false sense of security that is far more likely to cause harm than guarantee protection.
In looking at the cost-benefit analysis, it's worth considering all the reasons "The NRA's Plan Won't Work." I fully support the SRO programs we have in place, and I have no problem supporting them. But extending them into all schools won't prevent tragedy, and it is a wasteful and naive allocation of resources. To simply equip all schools (not including private schools and day cares and churches and malls and community centers) with a full-time police officer would cost a minimum of $50 million a year, and they would be occupying schools year-round on the one in a million chance that a shooter would appear with no guarantee that the officer would provide any greater protection than police simply responding to calls as they did in Connecticut in under ten minutes. The reality is that "the odds of any one school being attacked" are very, very small. And the money spent on arming them could be used in countless other beneficial ways, not the least of which is on "counselors [and psychologists] to work with and engage young people years before they become angry loners."
I am not a supporter of knee jerk, black and white "answers" that offer only a false sense of security.