Conservatives have it in their heads that armed teachers or armed guards are going to stop school shootings. Let us be clear: they won’t. Handguns are not a suitable solution to heavily armed shooters with assault rifles and high capacity magazines, and there is not enough money to pay for such a system when the real solution is to sharply limit access to high powered weapons. Not only that, but many shooters commit suicide or are looking for death by cop, so it’s not going to be a deterrent. Shootings will still happen, but with bullets flying multiple directions.
Now, Donald Trump has not only come out in favor of “hardening” schools, and arming teachers, but has actually gone as far as to say that active shooter drills are a bad thing.
‘”We have to harden those schools, not soften them. A gun-free zone, to a killer, or somebody that wants to be a killer, that’s like going in for the ice cream. That’s like saying, ‘Here I am, take me,’ ” Trump said at the White House.
‘”They see that as such a beautiful target,” Trump said. “They live for gun-free zones.”
‘He also disparaged school shooting drills, saying they were tough on the kids.
‘”Active shooter drills is a very negative thing, I’ll be honest with you,” he said. “I think that’s a very negative thing to be talking about. I don’t like it. I don’t want to tell my son ‘you’re going to have to participate in an active shooter drill. I’d much rather have a hardened school.”‘
In other news, schools will now be halting all fire drills and requiring teachers to carry lighters to school. Nothing stops a bad arsonist but a good arsonist, after all! These fire-free zones are what’s really to blame.
It gets tiring repeatedly explaining the same things to people who have no interest in listening, but gun-free zones are not the issue. Many other countries have gun-free zones, but don’t have mass shootings. Why? Because they don’t allow just anybody to easily acquire high-powered assault weapons, large capacity magazines, and unlimited ammo. Guns are the difference. Schools do drills because the danger of mass shootings is so present. If you want to remove the need for drills, remove the causes of shootings. Stop thinking of how to treat symptoms, and treat the disease that is plaguing our society.
It’s interesting that Donald Trump says that, “I don’t want to tell my son ‘you’re going to have to participate in an active shooter drill. I’d much rather have a hardened school.”‘ So, in other words, drills aren’t the answer. Gun battles are! You know what’s less disturbing to a student than drilling in Trump’s worldview? Students listening to the pitiful pop-pop of a handgun in the hallways, followed by the explosive sound of rapid gunfire from a high capacity assault weapon, and wondering if they’re next after the rent-a-cops are dead (assuming they even managed to intercept the shooter in the first place).
Another fact the right wing likes to pretend doesn’t exist is that many schools and sites of mass shootings have had armed security on-site. It does not deter shootings. Unfortunately, people can’t be everywhere at once. Even assuming you were able to magically get enough security coverage that no shooter could ever fire at a student without first killing a security guard, that’s not a preventative tactic. In Trump’s fantasy, active shooter drills are instead replaced with shootouts. And it’s a fact that even “good guys” with guns miss most of the time. Do you know what happens to bullets that miss their target? They keep going until they hit something else.
School shooters aren’t people who were bound and determined to shoot into a crowd. They’re not going to go, “Oh, you know what? The school hired another out-of-shape rent-a-cop, I guess I’ll shoot up a restaurant today.” They shoot at a school for specific reasons in almost every cases. Whether or not the school has a security guard has not been a factor in any of the shootings. Do you know what’s been a factor? Access to weapons, full stop. Every school has angry, violent young men who interventions have failed for.
We all knew somebody who was expelled for constant fights or other behavior, and who ended up in prison or committing acts of violence. Most young men who fit the profile of a mass shooter never actually follow through with it, and there are too many to track. What’s the difference? Well, in many cases, access to weapons. Every time you make something more difficult or lengthier, fewer people follow through with it. For example, fewer people are reading this paragraph than read the first or opened the article. Making something harder and longer matters.
Having multiple armed individuals at a school is a bad idea. They’ll confuse each other, students, and first responders. The real solutions lay in preventing mass shootings in the first place by restricting access to weapons. Then, when shootings still happen, our job as a society is to mitigate the body count. Will armed security lower the number of people who get shot? Sure, maybe, in some lucky cases. Yet there are 100,000 schools in the United States. Do we have 200,000, 300,000, 400,000 combat-trained individuals waiting in the wings to be school security? Who is paying for that?
You can also limit the number of casualties by restricting magazine sizes and increasing reload times, but don’t tell that to the NRA or Trump. They don’t want to hear it.
It comes down to a cowboy fantasy. Every conservative with a gun fantasizes that they’d be able to stop a mass shooting, if only they were there and armed. The reality is that combat is chaotic, and that most humans will react based on instinct, and that instinct is self-preservation. Getting off an accurate grouping with a handgun at somebody who has you and others pinned with an assault rifle is Hollywood stuff. It simply doesn’t happen.
It’s in the numbers: Gun control works. Our unique problem in the United States stems from a unique gun culture and uniquely high levels of gun ownership, our limitations on studying gun violence, and our inability to design a system which prevents violent, unbalanced people from obtaining high powered weapons at their local Walmart.
Featured image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images