National suggestions for improving school security following the horrific December 14th shootings at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. reached a downright ludicrous range during the holidays.
Among the more farfetched, knee-jerk reactions was a rush on bulletproof backpacks for young students and an idea proposed by the NRA and others of having at least one armed guard on every school campus in America along with the idea of arming teachers.
No one is opposed to the broad idea of keeping kids safe. Yes, all that rhetoric about the youth being our greatest treasure is true (even if that extends to some teenagers who might better be described as treasures in the rough).
But throwing budgets and common sense to the wind and creating a police state on every campus in America with metal detectors and armed guards doesn’t guarantee the students safety and will almost certainly hamper any school activities that rely on community support.
The attack by a 20-year-old psychopath on an elementary school leaving 20 children and six adults dead has left a shocked public demanding answers and action.
And understandably so.
While we want our schools to be as safe as possible, the public has to recognize that only so much can be done.
Consider the armed guards that have been widely proposed: Campuses are big and sprawling. You’d need half-dozen people to keep constant surveillance on a campus like Pickens Middle and it’s relatively self contained. You might need more than ten people to keep the entrances to all the buildings at Jasper Elementary covered. And based on what happened in Newtown, just one person at an entrance might not be enough. Quickly you end with more law enforcement officers on campus than on the road.
As a practical point, consider there was an armed school resource officer at Columbine High School when that shooting occurred in 1999. The SRO did exchange gunfire with the student killers but ultimately didn’t stop the massacre.
The idea of armed teachers is similarly unfeasible. Let’s face it, few teachers have the training nor should they be asked to take the responsibility of acting as the armed security force on a campus. The idea of securing the firearms while they try to instruct is laughable. Some people go into teaching and some into law enforcement but few do both.
At Newtown, the gunman shot the first person he encountered and if this person had been an armed teacher, chances are they would have never got their gun out as they would be expecting to offer lessons on math, not repel a homicidal madman.
The idea “good guys with guns can stop bad guys with guns” put forward by some is a noble idea and theoretically possible, but outside of westerns, very rarely happens.
In fact, it’s unclear whether a citizen has ever pulled out their own gun to stop any mass shooting. In Arizona at a shooting during a congressional visit, the gunman was subdued by unarmed citizens when he had to reload.
In New York, police officers did shoot a shooter in August, but they also hit nine bystanders. So the idea that having more guns on a campus will make a safer school is not likely.
Similarly, the idea that bans on certain types of weapons will make us safer is shortsighted. There is no reason to believe that those intent on mass shootings won’t find other firearms that will get the job done as well as the assault rifles -- albeit with more reloading and less speed.
In evaluating the risk, it’s important to balance the horrible images of what happened in Newtown, with the fact that in Pickens County (and as far as we know across north Georgia), there’s never been a school killing of students of any age or under any circumstances – and that’s never - not once. While horrific, shocking and any other word you want to use, these are exceedingly rare occurrences.
What we want to see is a reasoned and feasible plan to secure our campuses without jumping on a bunch of poorly thought-out reactive measures or turning elementary schools into something resembling a middle eastern road checkpoint.
One reason we have concerns about drafting a bunch of new measures is the massive over-reaction to courthouse security all because of one incident in one courthouse in Atlanta.
It was tragic; innocent people lost their lives, but resulting security measures have gone too far compared to the risk that is out there in places like Pickens County. Is it really necessary that average people have to have every bag screened and remove their belts before going through a metal detector on a normal day at a courthouse in Jasper? Now try to imagine a similar scenario with entering a school campus for a PTO function?
Let’s think about campus security, listen to those in law enforcement and come to a suitable and workable decision.