Gun control advocates have rightly castigated the disturbingly tone-deaf and more than slightly unhinged statement on the Sandy Hook massacre from Wayne LaPierre, Executive Director of the National Rifle Association. I found curious, however, the reflexive criticism of his proposal to have armed security at every school, particularly the assertion that such a measure wouldn't work because such efforts failed to prevent other massacres - Columbine being the obvious example. I believe that by advancing such an argument, gun control proponents perhaps unwittingly stoop to the level of their pro-gun political adversaries.
There is no measure that is guaranteed to stop all murderers. There is no gun policy construct that is guaranteed to stop all killings with guns - particularly in a nation where the right to own a gun has been established as sacrosanct. Thus, the argument that we shouldn't have armed guards - or that we shouldn't ban assault or military-style weapons, or that we shouldn't close the gun show loophole - because such a measure wouldn't stop one situation or another is intellectually flaccid if not wholly dishonest. While the results are all tragic, the circumstances for each incident are different and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to events that are, by definition, situational. Clearly, multiple policies must be considered to cover as many situations as possible, but advocates on one side of the debate or the other advance positions that - whether they acknowledge it or not - are arguments for doing nothing.
Doing nothing is not an option.
The reality is that armed security is present at many schools across the country, particularly in our cities. I've had to pass through a metal detector while entering some high schools. I pass a squad car sitting outside the high school in my neighborhood every school day. Private schools educating the scions of wealth and privilege invest a great deal in on-site security. Colleges and universities have dedicated, armed security forces. Indeed, there was armed security at Columbine. It was ineffective because the murderers were students who were already inside when the shooting began. Truly foolish is the argument that an armed guard at Sandy Hook would not have been able to save lives - even at the cost of his own life - at the time that a crazed Adam Lanza shot his way into the building or perhaps before he made it to the door. The idea of security anywhere is - at least in part - to keep undesirable people from getting in and non-lethal security measures are effective when someone isn't trying to shoot their way in. The real question is one of feasibility. One of my criticisms with LaPierre includes the fact that one of his board members - Grover Norquist - has committed his life to making sure that there are no tax revenues available to pay for that which the NRA is now advocating.
The standard argument against [pick a policy suggestion] is that it wouldn't have stopped [pick a shooting incident]. But that is an argument not only against any and all efforts to get guns out of the hands of criminals, morons and psychopaths, but it is also an argument against any law whatsoever. There isn't a law on the books that stops criminals from doing anything they have a mind to do, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't have laws. Policy action around guns is no different. So I say we should take Mr. LaPierre up on his suggestion and put armed security in or around schools to protect our children from someone trying to kill them using a product that the NRA fights to put in everyone's hands. At the very least, it confirms once again that republican blather about shrinking government down to a size where we can drown it in a bathtub and get it out of our lives is exactly that - blather. But contrary to LaPierre's attempted deflection, we also don't abandon other areas of gun safety reform - renewal of the assault weapons ban, closing of gun show loophole, high-capacity magazine ban, etc. Nor do we shy away from a more aggressive enforcement of existing law, with the funding necessary to do it correctly, paid for with taxes on guns and ammunition. The NRA says that government must do more and I agree. But its high time that the gun industry, it's customers and it's sycophants accept the responsibilities that come along with the right to proliferate weapons designed to kill people.
In the meantime, gun safety reform advocates do themselves a disservice by embracing the same nonsensical, nihilistic and intellectually bankrupt arguments regularly offered by gun enthusiasts.