A deranged young man has killed more children at a school. Once again we begin the process of analyzing the reasons behind such heinous acts, and listen to pie-in-the-sky liberals who call for dramatic and unrealistic reductions in gun ownership in the US.
Americans will not give up their weapons. The protests by children and survivors of the children that have been slaughtered are not enough to overcome the Second Amendment (and the N.R.A.).
Yet government officials seem to be taking protests by families that have been devastated by shooting violence more seriously this time around. President Trump is listening to the pleas of this group and preliminarily supported some of their suggestions.
Americans are rightly concerned about the safety of their children while they are at school. The following statistics should confirm that the safety of children in the classroom is a gargantuan ongoing project that will require a lot of government and parental support and money.
- In 2017 there were 50.7 million students attending public elementary and secondary schools in the US.
- 6 million children are attending prekindergarten through 8th grade.
- 1 million children are attending grades 9-12.
- 2 million children attended private elementary and secondary schools.
- 6 million teachers were educating our children in 2007-2008.
- The US spends $19,050 per full time student annually. Multiplying this number times 50 million students results in nearly $100 billion of expenditures.
The enormity of the educational system makes it difficult to affect changes rapidly. The number of diverse school locations is also daunting (urban, suburban and rural). Each school has distinct issues and challenges (including budget constraints and physical layouts) that must be considered before implementing new general policies.
The situation is further complicated by the relationship between local, state and federal educational agencies. Each one of these groups is competing for more money and influence.
Back to safety. The principle issue is crime committed with rifles and handguns at schools by two distinct groups (1) children attending the school and (2) others who are not students at the school. The latter could be parents of children or complete strangers. There are many safety issues, but let’s stay focused on the Parkland type massacre.
One way to prevent a person from bringing a deadly weapon into school is to have screening machines that are manned by armed and highly trained security personnel. Some schools, private and others in urban centers, already have screening facilities. It’s an effective tool to fight gun violence.
Most schools in the country don’t have tight security, nor could they afford it. Transportation Security Administration-like protection has proven to be effective stopping terrorism in the air. Unfortunately the cost of such systems at schools would be astronomical (for the installation of equipment) and perpetual (for salaries of security manpower and maintenance).
An alternative to screening, which could repel violent students and non-students, is arming teachers. This method is much more risky for obvious reasons. For one thing weapons could still be transported into classrooms. The deterrent would be trained armed teachers who would be authorized to gun down any person threatening to use a weapon at the school. Philosophically, does it make sense to stop gun violence in schools by bringing more weapons into play?
The focus of most mass protest is the number of weapons in America. The theory is that fewer weapons would result in less violence. Given the prevalence of weapons and illegal availability of guns across the country, it is doubtful that an attempt to limit guns will be effective in the short term.
Exacerbating the situation is the Second Amendment which in its entirety states: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” That’s it. The amendment affords Americans an open-ended right to own weapons without any restrictions.
Technically it would be unconstitutional to prevent any persons from owning arms. Laws at the state and local levels have created some restrictions including age limits. Additionally, over the years, some states have enacted laws requiring background checks, which are used to prevent “undesirables” from owning a weapon.
The N.R.A. has hidden behind the skirt of the Constitution for many years to defend the right to bear arms. A strict interpretation of the few words of the Second Amendment gives their position great strength. It’s too bad our forefathers didn’t provide any leeway (in writing) to modulate the sale of weapons. They were exclusively concerned that armed citizens be prepared to repel external challenges that would attempt to steal our liberties. It would have been beneficial if the forefathers had assumed that times would change and reasonable restrictions would be necessary to keep the peace and ensure every citizen’s security.
With this in mind the heartbreak of all those who were related to or knew victims will likely be muted by the technicalities of constitutional law.
The application of any common sense laws and restrictions will be a real battle prospectively. It is true that lawmakers have instituted some bans over time, as bazookas and hand grenades are regulated. This concept logically could be expanded to include automatic and semi automatic weapons. It could include large capacity magazines and bump stocks that effectively convert semi automatic weapons to automatic. It could restrict the number of bullets anyone can possess (this is an Israeli tactic). It could tighten up background checks and extend waiting periods. And the federal government could spend more money on security and education.
Most important, every citizen should be on the lookout for individuals that are on the edge of sanity. Depressed and angry persons are the ones most likely to fire an automatic weapon into a crowd of innocent people.
The issue of child safety is a large one that will require compromise between our government and the N.R.A. I’m not optimistic that very much can be done to eliminate risks for our young ones at school in the near term.