School violence has gone down in recent years, but in response to a few mass shootings, the Obama Administration and the NRA have advocated putting armed guards in every school, even though that would cost billions of dollars. Washington Examiner columnist Gene Healy explains why this is a bad idea. As Healy points out, “if your goal is to prevent kids from getting murdered, the schools are about the last place you’d put new police, since 98 percent of youth homicides occur off school grounds.” (Like Monday’s terrorist bombing in Boston, which took the life of an 8-year-old boy who had come to watch his father run in the Boston Marathon).
Even a rather high estimate of school violence suggests that a typical “school in the United States can expect a school shooting” only once “every 6,000 years.” Meanwhile, “to put ‘armed police officers in every school,’” as the NRA’s Wayne “LaPierre has frantically demanded that Congress do, would require hiring over 100,000 new cops,” notes Healy. Moreover, putting armed guards in schools increases the risk of accidental shootings, or armed guards “going postal.” For example, “A New York town that began assigning an armed police officer to guard a high school in the wake of the Connecticut massacre has suspended the program after an officer accidentally discharged his pistol in a hallway while classes were in session.” I have no desire for my daughter’s elementary school to hire a bored or trigger-happy rent-a-cop with a loaded gun.
Government officials’ responses to school shootings are often foolish and reflect panic rather than logic. After the Sandy Hook massacre, college and school officials overreacted by restricting First Amendment-protected speech, protests, and poetry that posed no conceivable risk of violence. In response to the Sandy Hook shootings, New York hastily passed a poorly-drafted gun law that inadvertently shackled the police and could actually undermine school and college safety (a law that which some rank-and-file legislators did not even read before they voted for it). New York’s governor and legislature have since had to come up with a series of “technical corrections” to fix flaws in the bill that should have been obvious, including provisions that turned out to be nonsensical after it became law.
The gun control legislation pending in the U.S. Senate also contains some seemingly odd provisions that may reflect hasty or underhanded drafting. Senators should read the bill carefully before voting on it. Journalists, who often are quite ignorant of guns (and do not understand basic things such as the difference between an automatic weapon and the semi-automatic weapons that are the norm), are ill-equipped to shed much light on the bill before it is voted on.