Should we harden our schools to protect our children?
by Lance Simmens
The recent mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, is simply unacceptable from a humanitarian standpoint, and the long-term impacts it will have on our society, particularly children who are hypersensitive to the perceived risks they take by going into school classrooms everywhere, are literally incalculable. Enough! Enough! Enough! is the mantra of a President who, without question, is both familiar with tragedy and carries empathy to new heights.
The tragic specter of mass shootings in schools screams for solutions that are effective and immediate. Yet there is a lack of resolve on the part of a split political and ideological leadership that seemingly prevents bipartisan agreement on a solution. This at a crucial time when collective mourning of a nation begs for resolution of the mind-numbing act of senseless violence that has taken 21 souls, 19 children under the age of 11, from our midst.
It is long overdue for political leaders of both parties to resolutely address this uniquely American problem. And while there is not a lack of ideas to deal with this problem, the nature of our representative democracy and the infectious influence of the National Rifle Association (NRA) work against the most effective remedies.
Remedies include but are not limited to restoring a ban on military assault weapons, red flag legislation that has been adopted in a number of states, comprehensive background checks, raising the age for purchase of guns from 18 to 21, addressing mental health issues, securing guns in homes, gun licensing, bans on large-capacity magazines, training of law enforcement in an active shooter situation, improving school security, and school hardening proposals such as arming teachers with guns and turning schools into essentially armed camps. Yet we still find effective resolution trapped in the filibuster mentality of a Senate where 60 votes requires a bipartisan agreement that is seemingly determined to water down whatever is proposed lest it finds disfavor with the NRA. We must do better.
No one remedy will suffice. We must act to synthesize a comprehensive set of proposals based on a developing evidentiary history. But effective public policy requires utilizing whatever exists based upon common sense. Those who maintain a simple solution are merely toying with your intellect.
For instance, according to an analysis by the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, “The US is not the only country with mental illness, domestic violence, or hate-fueled ideologies, but our gun homicide rate is 26 times higher than other high-income countries. The difference is easy access to guns. This connection is not just theoretical. US states with weaker gun laws and higher gun ownership rates have higher rates of mass shootings.”
Four key characteristics identified in a 12-year study also identified the following trends: mass shootings are often:
- perpetrated by someone who was legally prohibited from possessing a firearm;
- perpetrated by someone who displayed prior warning signs;
- intermingled with acts of domestic violence; and
- far deadlier when they involve assault weapons and high-capacity magazines
The study concludes, “only through the true nature of mass shootings can we begin to seek evidence-based solutions. Lawmakers should pass legislation requiring background checks on all firearm sales, temporarily removing firearms through Extreme Risk laws, keeping firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers, and restricting the purchase, possession, and manufacture of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.”
While compromises will most certainly need to be made, the common sense nature of these proposals renders their dismissal incomprehensible and an insult to the memories of those who have either perished or who will, till their dying day, live with the heartrending sorrow of lives taken way too early. The problem is there are too many guns available to too many individuals who can kill too many too quickly.
The conspiracy theorists and those who misconstrue the Second Amendment to seemingly guarantee the rights of anyone to own a gun and in many instances to own a weapon of war such as an AR-15 or AK-47 will have a collective heart attack fueled by the nonsense perpetrated by the NRA that the government is coming after your guns. But the inability to set reasonable guidelines given the available evidence on who should be qualified to own killing machines that can ruin so many lives in a heartbeat is a gross injustice to our children and their loved ones.
Turning schools essentially into armed camps is not the answer. Making it more difficult for certain individuals to obtain weapons of mass destruction addresses the core issue at hand. There may never be an ideal solution to the problem, but it is absolutely imperative that our political leaders strive to reach as far as possible to see effective remediation of this deadly phenomenon. Settling for perceived politically safe cover is like hitting one’s head against the wall and expecting a different result.