I thought about going with the normal post in response to your Sunday column, but decided against it because all too often the thread just degenerates into the typical partisan shouting match where each side puts far more effort into proving the other wrong, or making ideas contrary to their own seem senseless.
Too many points are dismissed without actual consideration based on who is making the statement rather than what is actually said. Similarly, if the poster is commonly known to lean toward a given end of the political spectrum, there ideas are considered biased, invalid or a cover for an ulterior motive and not actually considered.
Instead, “the other side” just counters with the traditional talking points used to refute their political adversaries. For those reasons I decided to send an e-mail directly to you in hopes that you might actually read it in consider what I am saying at face value instead of having a thread post get lost in the jumble, be dismissed from the outset by posters who assume they know what I am going to say based on politics or be taken as cover for some ulterior motive.
This is a subject that is vitally important and should truly be beyond partisan politics. It is from that perspective that I offer these thoughts.
First, I am not against reasonable, effective gun control. I am wholeheartedly against using tragedies such as this to inspire the fear-driven furtherance of a tangentially related political agenda. Personally, I don’t think the average citizen needs military-style weapons. Limits on this type of weapon don’t offend me in the least. I am bothered by the current mass media and political drive to implement gun control as the sole solution to this problem. The solution needs to be more comprehensive in nature. It needs to address all aspects of violent assault. When you break acts of violence down into their component parts, we typically consider three necessary elements of violence:
- The motive/intent to commit a violent act;
- the physical capability/opportunity to commit the violent act; and
- A delivery system to facilitate the act.
When I say the solution to mass casualty active shooter violence needs to be comprehensive, I mean we need to try to prevent these acts by going after all three of the components listed above. Focusing exclusively on guns only attacks the delivery system, but it does nothing to address the other two.
Like it or not, just as you argue that armed guards are no guarantee that a school massacre won’t take place anyway, neither does gun control. There are already too many guns already in circulation. New laws might make it harder to obtain the weapons to be used. New laws might make it more expensive to obtain the weapons. New laws might make it hard, if not impossible to obtain the weapons legally, but just as you note about armed guards/police in schools, new gun control laws will not prevent a determined attacker from committing violence.
Nor will a new law prevent the determined attacker from obtaining weapons illegally, for if a person is willing to commit mass murder, he will have little reservation about breaking one more gun law. To use your example, it is true that there was an SRO at Columbine and the attack still occurred. It is also true that the attack occurred right in the middle of the first assault weapon ban. That legislation did very little to stop two teenagers from attacking their fellow students with semi-automatic weapons and explosives.
Instead of focusing exclusively on the delivery system, we need a comprehensive approach that also focuses on the motive/intent component, which in this case is the mental health/societal influence factors and the capability/opportunity component, which in this case would be physical access to the building and security measures.
I agree that no security guard, SRO or even a whole squad of elite military troops can guarantee that a school shooting won’t happen. However, to dismiss the role of armed security entirely because it cannot guarantee 100% efficacy is short-sighted at best and disingenuous at it’s worst. The logic is faulty.
Birth control is also not guaranteed to be 100% effective. Does that mean you would dismiss it as unnecessary? Furthermore, the analysis is too shallow. People trained in security recognize a fundamental truth of tactical strategy. One guard is not likely to prevent a crime. Nor is he likely to fight off a determined surprise attack. His primary purpose is to deter the spontaneous acts and to fight a holding action to disrupt the plan of the premeditated determined attacker in order to give first-responders the time to get there.
The reason some people are so whole-heartedly against armed security in this case has nothing to do with the effectiveness of armed security. Instead it is because the partisans among us see it as working in competition with gun control instead of in cooperation with it. At this point, no one, yourself included, has offered any answer to the question of why, if armed security is so ineffectual, is it still used to protect most anything of value? It has been stated by the people arguing most loudly for gun control that locked doors and school procedures didn’t stop the Newton shooter. Even if the guard would have lost the fight, wouldn’t it have been nice to have someone willing to stand between the madmen and the helpless children, even if he only succeeded in slowing him down for a moment or two.
After all, and bear in mind I’m not talking about media analysts and the so-called TV experts, professionals who have reviewed all that is known about this shooting to date have concluded that Lanza shot himself when he heard law enforcement personnel arriving. Cho did the same at Tech. It is possible that a guard could have stopped him, or if not successful in stopping him, at least slowed him down allowing responders to end the rampage sooner.
The money argument has been made and is no doubt an obstacle to putting full-time security in every school. However, many of the arguments used to support the money issue are also not logically sound. Instead they just try to hit political hot-buttons to convince people that the idea of armed security in schools is unrealistic or is just a slightly unhinged notion from the far-right that would serve to endanger more students than it would protect.
The argument has been made that the the idea of paying guards is wrong because we have old school buildings that need to be replaced and we have teachers who need raises and we have outdated tech in schools. The argument is that until we fix that and up the quality of our education system, we can’t afford to spend money on guards. The logical fallacies in that should be glaring.
Rather than enumerate them, I will simply point out that it does not matter if you have the highest paid teacher, the newest building and the most cutting edge technology if you don’t have as safe of a learning environment as possible. In an era when a new school costs fifty or sixty million dollars, why can’t we incorporate security measures into the building? Why do we think locking the doors, installing security cameras and requiring visitors to pass through security is an unreasonable intrusion of personal freedom?
We have school systems who would rather stick their proverbial heads in the sand and justify why it is too inconvenient to lock the doors during the day or to post a staff member at the door to check people in, or to require anyone entering the building to pass through a metal detector. Why on earth would we not take every step possible to restrict a shooters access to the building, to limit his ability to limit his ability to inflict mass carnage with ease?
Next, we certainly should look to the intent/motive component of this type pf violence. We need to look at how identify, treat and, when necessary, house the mentally ill. We need to take a realistic look at whether or not community-based treatment has been effective at dealing with the potentially violent, mentally ill person. It is time to look at this from a non-political, non-politically correct perspective. It is certainly not optimal to see people institutionalized. It guarantees them a life that will be restrictive and, in all likelihood, unpleasant.
But if the reality of it is choosing between an unpleasant life in an institution for the violently mentally ill or the death by gunfire of multiple kindergartners so we can feel more enlightened about ourselves, I’m gonna pick the former every time. We need to take a realistic look at all the societal factors that have now bred two generations of active shooters. Instead of dismissing out of hand the influence of violence in the media, we should instead study it realistically and try to avoid the trap you so often accuse the pro-gun lobby of falling into.
We should consider the effect of violent video games on the most susceptible to their influence rather than from the position that millions of kids play games and don’t turn violent. We should acknowledge that we live in a society that is at times too tolerant of bad behavior rather than dismissing this because “statistics show that violent crime is on the decline.”
It’s too late to make this brief, but to sum up, there is no one easy solution to this problem. Like it or not, gun control alone won’t fix it. Instead we need to go forward with every possible step to prevent, discourage and delay events like this. That means gun control. That means armed security. That means realistic mental health reform. That means accepting security measures in public schools without resorting to hot-button talking points like “turning our schools into prisons.”
Lastly, if this offends you, I apologize, but the media and folks such as yourself are not helping the cause by zoning in exclusively on guns as the root of this evil to the exclusion of all other factors. By engaging other ideas with disdain and sarcasm, all you do is direct the uninformed away from taking meaningful steps that might help, and, in my opinion, the media does so in furtherance of a clear political agenda rather than an actual desire to prevent future violence.
I’ll leave you with two questions. First, given the number of school and workplace shootings that took place during the previous assault weapons ban, do you really think that gun control alone is the solution to this problem? Second, given the number of weapons that are already out there in civilian hands, do you think gun control is even a realistic option, let alone the most important part of the equation?