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Posted by on Feb 19, 2018 in Blog, Essays, Politics, Rants and Raves, What's Left | 9 comments

The Worst Idea in Response to School Shootings

 

 

Ten Solid Reasons Why the Proposal to “Put More Guns in Schools” is a Really Bad Idea

Many suggestions are floating around about the ways we might stop mass shootings and reduce gun violence in our schools.

Some of these ideas are rational and resourceful.  Most are well-intended.  However, a few suggestions currently spreading across social media are so dangerous that they must be resisted and flat-out rejected.

Unquestionably, the very worst idea of all is to put more guns into schools.  This is ludicrous.

Two specific proposals are now gaining traction with many gun advocates.  One proposal is to arm classroom teachers.  The other is to hire and train more security personnel, a force presumably to be comprised of former and retired military personnel and law enforcement.

A narrow examination of gun violence in schools may give a false impression that arming those who can best be trusted to handle the responsibility is a logical defense.  If only some teacher had a handgun, he/she might have been able to kill the deadly student intruder who murdered 17 students in Parkland, Florida.  The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun — the popular saying goes.

Trouble is, the issue of gun violence in schools isn’t so simple.  In fact, preventing any of the 465 deadly shootings that have occurred in American schools requires far more than just additional firepower.  Moreover, putting more guns into the hands of civilians would inevitably lead to far more gun accidents, deadly acts of escalating violence, and a multitude of other unforeseeable consequences.  Either proposal would also cost taxpayers a fortune at a time when many municipalities and school districts are going broke and we can’t find enough money to pay teachers a livable wage.

In short, the notion that introducing more guns to solve the gun and mental health problem in schools is preposterous.  Here are ten reasons why:

[1]  It’s not a deterrent:  Proponents of arming school teachers and/or hiring more security personnel incorrectly assume emotionally-disturbed mass murderers are deterred by a show of force.  However, based on virtually every school shooting and mass killing in modern American history, this has proven to be demonstrably false.  Most crazed shooters had a death wish.  Even during the planning stages, most knew they were going to die in the final blaze of gunfire.  It’s one reason why many killers wore bullet-proof vests.  Would-be mass murderers with complicated mental problems do not think, nor act logically.  Increasing the number of armed people at schools will not deter a madman.

[2]  Most schools are too big to patrol efficiently:  Proponents overstate the chances armed security would successfully catch and confront a suspect before the shooting starts.  Most schools, especially high schools where recent massacres have taken place, are large multi-story buildings with lots of space to patrol.  They have numerous classrooms and corridors, with multiple entrances and exits.  Unless we station a National Guard unit inside every school in America, the vast majority of campuses are vulnerable and cannot be protected against a deranged gunman who is determined to kill.

[3]  It’s impossible to defend against the element of surprise:  Proponents mistakenly assume that teachers and security personnel would be able to maintain a perpetual “ready” status against an attack.  More likely, over time, most schools would become complacent about security details, which is only natural.  After all, children attend school to learn and socialize, not be fearful and remain in a constant state of alert against being murdered.  Millions of guns in the hands of math teachers is no defense against the element of surprise.  Even the most powerful armies in the world with the best-trained soldiers have frequently been caught off guard and attacked.  Schools, with hundreds of students, constantly coming and going and moving about are not places where armed protection is practical or feasible.

[4]  Accidents will happen:  There are approximately 3.4 million school teachers in America.  Arming a sizable number of them would inevitably result in an incalculable number of accidents.  Many teachers are unfamiliar with guns.  They know little about gun safety.  Even with proper training, mistakes will happen.  After all, everyone passes a driving test, but there are still thousands of bad, unsafe drivers on the road and traffic accidents happen every day.  Hence, training provides no guarantees.  Loaded guns will occasionally get lost, stolen, or commandeered.  People are imperfect.  They’re forgetful.  Adding millions of loaded guns into schools is a recipe for disaster.

[5]  Many schools are already violent; adding guns will make things worse:   Last year, about 200,000 teachers were physically attacked by students.  Now, imagine if each of those teachers was carrying a loaded handgun.  What would happen in some cases when an older, possibly fragile teacher gets assaulted by an angry teen with an emotional disorder or behavioral problem?  Out of the 200,000 actual attacks last year, some percentage of violent teens would likely have wrestled a gun from the teacher if he/she was armed.  Then, what might have happened?  In a rage, some students would kill teachers and other students.  This kind of nightmare scenario would become commonplace if guns were placed inside classrooms.

[6]  Armed security personnel would also be prone to more gun accidents:  Proponents presume that armed patrols at schools, largely made up of people with strong military and law enforcement backgrounds, would be responsible with guns.  They’re right.  Most would be responsible.  However, some would not.  Statistics show that in incidents when police officers were shot, about 8 percent were hit by their own gun.  When physical confrontations occur, sometimes the bad guys get control of a weapon and fire in the heat of the moment.  Schools tend to have more physical altercations than the rest of society.  Arming security guards isn’t a solution to reducing violence.  It would likely increase the number of accidents.

[7]  Inexperienced people with guns are more likely to create collateral damage:  Many teachers and security guards would attempt to do the right thing and be brave in case of an attack.  Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority lack the training and skill set to make a quick life-or-death decision in the midst of a crisis.  Imagine the number of incidents where teachers and security perceive a threat that isn’t really there?  How might a teacher react to a student swinging a knife, for instance?  What to do?  Then, what about the rare occasion when a shot is justifiable as an act of self-defense?  Is putting a gun into the hands of a 59-year-old English teacher in a crowded classroom filled with screaming children really a solution to a maniac blasting with a loaded AR-15?  Chances are, guns will be pulled out and shot by people lacking the skills to use them, likely killing more innocents.

[8]  The human breakage factor:  Sadly, most people have personal troubles.  We all carry emotional problems to work.  We all have family problems occasionally.  Like everyone else from truck drivers to postal workers, teachers and security personnel are just as vulnerable to emotional breakdowns, sometimes even more prone to stressful environments.  They go through painful divorces.  They suffer from depression.  They have drug and alcohol issues.  Some people can’t take it and simply break.  Putting millions of guns into the hands of any segment of society is a bad idea, but particularly dangerous when around many children.  The number of opioid abuses in this country numbers in the millions.  The number of veterans suffering from some form of PTSD is perhaps incalculable and a national embarrassment.  Some of those who would prospectively be hired would also suffer from these problems.  Arming more people will not reduce deaths.  It will create far worse tragedy.

[9]  The cost would be staggering:  The cost of buying and maintaining guns, ammunition, secure safes, and other necessary equipment would be high.  However, the cost of hiring perhaps a million security officers to staff and patrol more than a quarter-million schools in America would be outrageous.  Then, there’s the expense of training employees, oversight, and management —  not to mention the astronomical premium for insurance coverage (every school in the United States would have to carry insurance against gun accidents).  The budget for these proposals would most certainly bankrupt most school districts, providing no appreciable benefits.  Already, we’re having a hard time paying teachers and getting school supplies.  Burdening taxpayers with such a wasteful expense with so many other priorities would be grotesque negligence.

[10]  Schools are educational institutions, not military camps:  Schools are for education.  They aren’t military bases.  Moreover, we need to stop constructing our schools to look like prisons because when we do, students will behave like inmates.  Check out the exteriors of schools in most inner cities.  They look like fortresses.  Then, take a look at urban schools in Europe and other countries where education and social welfare are integrated into daily life — where student acts of violence are practically non-existent.  Armed teachers and security forces patrolling hallways with loaded weapons sends a disturbing message to young people.  It creates a false impression that guns are necessary in order to truly feel secure.  Sure, armed protection is necessary at some places, such as banks and airports.  Guns are the antithesis of an atmosphere for education.

So, arming teachers and hiring armed security patrols produces no deterrent to crazed shooters plotting an attack.  It inevitably creates more gun accidents during down times.  It fails to protect children in cases when actual shootings occur.  It costs a ridiculous amount of money we don’t have.  It sends a terrible message to our children.

Instead, a far better solution to gun violence is doing what we can to reduce the number of guns in our society and ending the pathological fascination with guns in our culture, once and for all.  The solution is to renounce destructive organizations like the National Rifle Association (NRA), which time and time again squash all proposed measures of reasonable gun safety when they’re proposed.  The solution is to get politically active right now and vote for candidates who favor some restrictions on gun purchases and the rights of ownership.  The mentally-disturbed kid who murdered 17 teens purchased five guns within the past year — all legally.

That’s outrageous!

This is a tall task ahead of us.  It starts with a movement like we’re seeing from high school students in Parkland, who now say, “enough is enough.”

Gun violence in schools will not be reduced by arming our teachers nor by hiring ex-law enforcement to patrol the hallways.  More guns isn’t the solution any more than a blaze is extinguished by adding more fire.

 

ADDENDUM 1:  There’s actually another good reason, #11 (as noted by reader Stephen Blackstock)…..”Armed teachers make the job of first responders way more difficult and dangerous….first responders like SWAT teams do not know the scope of the threat.  Having an armed person in every classroom that has to be methodically cleared would be a nightmare.”

ADDENDUM 2:  There’s a #12.  Assuming proponents are correct, and armed school staff reduces gun violence, evidence points to mass murderers transferring their rage to attractive targets elsewhere — such as movie theaters. Armed schools won’t stop gun violence.  But it could make other public places more vulnerable.

9 Comments

  1. The one topic you are either missing or avoiding is that if I were an armed teacher during an active shooting, I could move my students into the safest place in my classroom, lock the door, and wait. But rather than waiting for the execution of my students and myself, I would be waiting to shoot the killer if he broke down my door and tried to murder us. A handgun would be far more effective in this regard than pepper spray, a club, or almost any other alternative (other than a rifle).

  2. I agree that the “arm teachers” is terrible, but as to the “hire armed guards”
    idea, I’m just wondering…why do these same reasons not apply to having armed security guards in, say, banks and casinos? Is there something fundamentally different about guarding money and guarding children?

    • Yes, actually there is. The money is in the cage, a well defined space. The armed guards are in a casino to protect that and actually aren’t much of a deterrent for a maniac intent upon killing a lot of people—as we saw all too graphically and horribly.

    • Nolan Replies:

      Fair question, Lee. By my estimation, there are perhaps 1,000 or so casinos (really more like 100 big ones) spread around the country. Staffing security makes sense and isn’t cost-prohibitive. Applying the similar coverage to 290,000 public and private schools, however, would cost a fortune, and likely result in far more accidents, simply applied as a law of large numbers. In short, it’s fairly easy to defend 50 Las Vegas casinos against being attacked. It’s far more problematic to do so multiplied by 290. 1,000 casinos / 290,000 schools = 290 times more guns and people.

      — ND

      • I think we should put bomb/gunpowder detectors on all school doors. When detected doors should auto lock and hold person detected till law enforcement arrives. Only they can reset doors. Thank-You

    • This is a fair question, IMHO, but I don’t think the details bear up under strict scrutiny. First of all, while I don’t go into a lot of bank branches these days, in the maybe 20 or so times I have been in one in the past decade I don’t recall seeing an armed security guard at all. I’d be surprised if there were any security personnel in my local branch of my local bank, as it’s pretty small and I can’t imagine where they’d be hidden. They certainly are not out in the open, at least not during the times I have visited it. However, I know there are still some guards in some branches, and I know some of them will be armed, or there may be armed security personnel in back rooms that I can’t see. Also, note that banks have much more restricted access and much less floor space to cover with a lot fewer people to keep track of than schools (or casinos), making defending them an easier proposition.

      As far as casinos go, the vast majority of security personnel I have encountered in them were not armed, with one notable exception which, I think, was not necessarily an exemplar of good judgment. While I don’t know this to be a fact, I fully expect many casinos might have an armed response on the premises, but one that is hidden from the public. Note that such a thing would be only marginally useful at best against a casino spree killer. So, in my experience, there aren’t a lot of armed security guards that I’ve seen in banks and casinos, certainly they aren’t commonly roaming around the floors, and if schools adopted such a policy, at best they’d be marginally helpful, and there aren’t a lot of school buildings that have the facilities to house such a contingent, not to mention its cost.

      Also, note that in situations where armed people have invaded casinos, at least in Las Vegas in recent years, policy has generally been for security to not engage them. The reasons for that are obvious, the cost for a casino in losing a few chips pales in comparison to what they’d lose (in real money and goodwill) if one or more patrons were killed in a firefight between the robbers and casino employees. I suppose things would be different if we had seen a rash of spree killings in casinos over the years.

      As for bank robberies, an article I found in USA Today says there were about 5500 bank robberies in 2009, down 20% from the year before. That seems like a lot, way more than an order of magnitude more than school shootings, even using the most generous counting of gun incidents at schools.

      How many of these robberies have been thwarted by armed guards? I remember one from last year from somewhere in Illinois, or something, but I can’t remember a second example in many years. I did a quick look, and couldn’t find a lot of information on this, but in any case, even though a lot of people rob banks, there seem to be very few shootouts between bank robbers and bank security guards. It’s worth thinking about why that is, but it seems to me it would have to be some combination of (a) a non-engagement policy by the banks who don’t think armed confrontation is cost effective and (b) it’s not as easy to provide effective armed deterrence as it sounds.

      In any case, even though there aren’t a lot of spree shootings in casinos and banks, these are places where there have been a fair amount of criminal activity be armed people. The security that’s there hasn’t been terribly effective at eliminating crime at those places (although it doubtless reduces it), and based on policies in those types of businesses there are real reasons to doubt their efficacy at preventing someone whose sole goal was to inflict multiple deaths at any cost to himself.

      I am in complete agreement with Nolan here. This would be a costly and dangerous idea that would almost certainly cause more problems than it would solve. Also, this would just move the problem out of schools and into shopping malls, theaters, parks, and other public gatherings. No, this is just a flimsy justification for not approaching the most obvious and demonstrably most effective way of reducing the unnecessary body count in this country. Every other developed nation has a more effective way to reduce unnecessary firearms deaths without turning those nations into virtual prisons.

      We don’t have to go all the way to Japan-like gun control to see real benefits. IMHO, eliminating devices such as bump stocks, eliminating high capacity magazines especially on long guns, doing background checks better, restricting the number of guns one can own, disallowing strictly military weaponry, requiring periodic gun license renewal (as we do with drivers licenses) and increasing waiting periods would all reduce the number of unnecessary gun deaths in this country without significantly impacting hunters or decreasing one’s ability to provide home defense. I have yet to hear a cogent argument against these sorts of measures.

  3. OK Nolan, you presented your arguments well. Much of it I disagree with, but My comment is not a suggestion to debate it.
    Rather I’m curious what your proposed solution would be?

    • Nolan Replies:

      Thank you, Barton for the comment and the civility. That’s appreciated.

      I’m afraid time and space do not allow me to answer this question here. Perhaps I shall post something in greater detail when tie permits. I’ve written on this topic before, but never crafted a list before.

      The very short answer is — there is an IDEALOGICAL response versus a PRACTICAL reponsse:

      IDEALOGICAL ANSWER — I favor a comprehensive ban on all guns, unless gun owner has proper training, licensing, and a permit….similar to how Japan addresses this by law. I would give some exemptions, to bona fide collectors for instance.

      PRACTICAL ANSWER — I favor a gradual implementation of (federal, state, and local) laws to make reduce the number of guns in society and make killings, when they occur, less lethal. Age restrictions, waiting periods, bans clip maximums, re-imposing the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, and a few other steps.

      Obviously, the more practical “solutions” are compromises made out of practicality. Even one step could save a few lives.
      There will never be a complete eradication of violence from society. I don’t expect the USA to adopt Japan’s gun policy anytime soon. 🙂

      — ND

  4. The worst/best idea to come out of this is when people were buying bulletproof backpacks for their kids. There is so much wrong with that that I won’t even start. It ranks right up there with an episode of idiocy from a number of years ago when people asked if the Uconn women’s team could beat the New Jersey Nets. The other was the question of whether Ronda Rousey could beat Floyd Mayweather. The point is that the idea is so absurd, that it makes you question reality.

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