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On school shootings

I have four things to say about this.

In the national collective grief rising from Friday’s mass shooting in Connecticut, one apparent trust seems to have completely shattered: that an elementary school was sacred and safe ground.

Left in the wake of 20 children and eight adults massacred by a lone gunman is a renewed debate over how secure should schools be and at what cost. Closer to home at least one teacher’s union is now calling for more armed guards on Houston school campuses.

Several local school districts acknowledged they focus their full-time security staff on high school and middle school campuses and only send patrols to elementary schools. They said it was too early to say if that strategy would be changed or if there was money to pay for it.

Other officials and experts questioned the expense of providing enough security – the kind that could turn a school into a virtual fortress – to repel a heavily-armed intruder.

Gayle Fallon, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers union, said she favors placing more armed police officers in schools, even on elementary campuses. It’s a proposition she recognizes would be “very expensive.”

“We really need more security,” she said. “You never know what nutcase is suddenly going to decide that shooting up the local school is a good idea.”

Fallon, however, said she does not support arming teachers with pistols, as a small school district in Harrold, Texas, did in 2008, drawing national attention.

[…]

HISD spokesman Jason Spencer noted HISD has 279 campuses, and only 200 full-time officers who are assigned to high schools, middle schools and secondary school campuses. HISD officers patrol the elementary schools.

“We don’t have enough officers to have one stationed full time at each campus,” Spencer said. “We do the best we can with the resources we have.”

1. What does it say about us as a society that we are talking about the benefits of having armed guards stand over our children? I don’t know about anyone else, but that’s not what I want for my kids.

2. For those like Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who do believe that having armed guards in place is the key to preventing this kind of violence, I’d like for you to please explain the Fort Hood shooting to me. (Patterson conveniently omitted that tragedy from the list he gave in support of his argument.) Surely the problem there was not the lack of armed and trained personnel in the vicinity.

3. After cutting $5.4 billion from public education in 2011 and causing the layoff of thousands of teachers, librarians, counselors, nurses, support staff, bus drivers, and God knows who else, we’re going to find the money to hire thousands of armed security guards? Seriously?

4. If we really want to do something constructive, and spend our money in a way that might actually help the problem, then let’s finally get serious about mental health in this country. Right now, it’s far easier to buy an assault weapon than it is to access mental health services, and the latter is much more expensive if you can get it. I hope we can all agree this is a problem.

Actually, I have five things to say: Screw Mike Huckabee. That is all.

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9 Comments

  1. Peter Wang says:

    My understanding about Fort Hood was that you cannot have a weapon until you are deployed and in-theater, so no one was armed.

    And we don’t have money for guards.

  2. Michael says:

    Texas is 50th in mental health spending. We spend $36.09 per capita on mental health. This is not a serious investment in Massacre Prevention. In the US alone, 12 billion rounds of ammunition were purchased in 2012 so far.

    Here’s my proposal:

    1 : Create a new tax on ammunition. Dedicate that tax to mental health funding.
    1a: Allow an exemption to the tax for rounds purchased at and expended at gun ranges.

  3. Peter Wangs comment is correct. Off the Kuffs is is not. Ft Hood, like Aurora, like Virginia Tech, like Columbine, were gun free zones. Patterson “conveniently omitted” nothing. Fact to consider: U S firearms homicdes are down approximately 55% since 1993 (7.07/100,000 in 1993 to 2.98/100,000 in 2009, the most recent year data is avaialble). Why/how do we have an increase in school shootings? The common denominator is deranged young men with guns who are “copy cat” killers. After a diet of violent video games and movies, and continuing broadcast media coverage of school shootings etc, these losers conjure up a way to “be somebody”. The 1st amendment protects violent entertainment and media coverage of violence. The 2nd Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms, and both amendments can facilitate tragedy. Google “Pearl Mississippi school shootings”. The violence was stopped by an armed teacher.

  4. All right, I concede the point about Fort Hood. But you also mentioned the Aurora shooting in that story, Commissioner. Do we need to have armed guards at every movie theater as well?

    And the common thread among these shootings is mental illness, and the lack of access to it. What are we going to do about that?

    To put this another way, you’re talking about defense. I want to talk about prevention. According to Nick Kristof, children ages 5 to 14 in America are 13 times as likely to be murdered with guns as children in other industrialized countries. This is a public health crisis. If we were talking about a form of cancer, we’d have long since mobilized to do something about it, to make it happen less often and with less deadly results. What are we doing here to make it happen less often?

    Commissioner, the first time I talked to you, several years ago, I told you that I had originally opposed Texas’ concealed carry law, on the belief that it would lead to more gun violence. That didn’t happen, and I told you that it made me rethink my previous beliefs about guns and gun control, because I could see for myself that what I believed wasn’t true. I know you’re a passionate believer in gun rights, and I respect that even if I don’t fully agree with it. We can all see what’s happening out there. Are you willing to rethink what you believe to see if any part of it doesn’t agree with what we now know?

  5. Charles, Re: Aurora, I don’t know. What I do know is had someone in that crowded darkened theater in Aurora been able to return fire, the dynamic would’ve immediately changed. The shooter would no longer have been in complete control and able to calmly walk about shooting folks cowering on the floor, he would have had to deal with the cop. security guard, or the armed citizen. Lives would’ve been saved. Lives were arguably saved in 1966 when citizens with deer rifles returned fire pinning down Charles Whitman. As you go through the list of mass shootings, you’ll note that that all the deaths occured while the sick shooter was unchallenged by another armed person. I want to talk about prevention as well, and access to guns by the mentally deranged is the issue. However, we will hear the usual “more gun control” BS that won’t make things safer, but will allow politicians to brag they did something about gun violence. This is a mental health issue, a 1st Amendment issue, and a 2nd Amendment issue. Gun laws are not a panacea, but the left (Mayor Bloomberg-what a dufus!) believes them to be. You have no right to own firearms in Mexico. Is Mexico safer than the US?

  6. Ross says:

    Let’s also not forget the poignant words of Suzanna Gratia Hupp describing her having to watch her parents die in the mass shooting in Killeen because she had left her pistol in the car to comply with the law then in effect in Texas.

  7. matx says:

    Land Commissioner Patterson – “What I do know is had someone in that crowded darkened theater in Aurora been able to return fire, the dynamic would’ve immediately changed. The shooter would no longer have been in complete control and able to calmly walk about shooting folks cowering on the floor, he would have had to deal with the cop. security guard, or the armed citizen. Lives would’ve been saved.”

    In the shooting at the Empire State Building, which happened outdoors, in the morning, the shooter was killed by police, but nine innocent bystanders were injured by police gunshots. I am not convinced an armed adversary to the Aurora shooter would have resulted in less carnage.

  8. JP says:

    matx, You make a very good point. Cops are not perfect, nor are armed citizens. Bad things can happen when folks start shooting. On balance however, the option to shoot back at perps is a good thing. JP

  9. Ross says:

    I would prefer to have armed citizens shooting back. Police officers are generally not very good with their firearms. Ordinary citizens who carry a handgun tend to practice more than police officers, and are much more cognizant of safety.

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