The school security solution

It’s not surprising that the general reaction to the Newtown shootings was to regard the incident as a “problem” to be “fixed,” or more specifically prevented from occurring in the future.  That’s how people think.  It is, generally speaking, a constructive impulse.  Much progress has resulted from efforts to improve systems that seemed reasonably functional, right up until the day they failed.  And even if we had a system which afforded 99.1 percent protection from some outrage or tragedy, each death would inspire us to seek improvement to 99.2 percent, and then 99.3.

The urge to respond effectively to high-profile crimes or tragedies can also lead us astray.  The response to the Newtown horror has included calls to strip law-abiding people of their Constitutional rights… and not just the Second Amendment, either.  There has been some hand-wringing about the freedom of expression as well, in terms of violent movies and video games.  This amounts to judging the entire American population according to the actions of one deranged individual – or a handful of deranged individuals, if Adam Lanza is viewed as the latest example in a series of mass murderers.

The standards employed to render that judgment are absurdly slanted.  How can the integrity of millions be questioned based on the actions of a few?  How can it be reasonable to cast aside the countless examples of responsible gun ownership, including the use of firearms in lawful self-defense, and consider only the horrifying exceptions to a generally superb record of individual responsibility?  If we began applying such standards to the freedom of speech, instead of just the right to bear arms, we would soon find ourselves without a free press.

At any rate, there is little talk of completely rescinding the Second Amendment.  The proposals actually on the table are either meaningless symbolic exercises – such as the “assault weapons” ban, which amounts to outlawing certain guns based on what they look like – or measures that would, at best, slightly reduce the body count from killing sprees.  Adam Lanza did not purchase his weapons, so the discussion of new restrictions on gun sales is entirely tangential to his crimes.  Reducing the size of gun magazines could marginally reduce the number of shots fired during an attack, but reloading even a revolver or shotgun is not time-consuming or difficult… especially when the attacker’s “opponents” are helpless, terrified children.  Will the mighty hue and cry for a “solution” to the Adam Lanza problem really be satisfied by a 25 percent reduction in the body count from the next mass killing?  And really, it doesn’t take a gun to kill a horrible number of children packed into a “gun-free zone.”

Improvements in mental health screening are worth discussing, and may provide laudable results, but it’s unrealistic to expect any such regime to approach total efficiency at locking down disturbed people, to say nothing of those who become suddenly violent due to substance abuse or emotional trauma.  A review of the past decade’s mass killers – not all of whom have committed their crimes in the United States, of course – makes it seem unlikely that we could ever devise a mental-health regime that would have caught them all, and we would create an Orwellian nightmare in the attempt.

There is only one “solution” that could be implemented immediately, and which would provide real protection for vulnerable children, without offense to the rights of law-abiding Americans: armed security at schools.

Some schools already have such security, ranging from police officers on site to private security personnel.  Security officers could be hired for the rest.  This is probably not the most efficient use of a police officer’s time, and security would be enhanced by permanent school officials who developed a rapport with the student body.  Not all school shooters have been invaders attacking from outside the campus.

There is the problem of paying for such security… and that’s where I’d like to make a plea to conservative millionaires.  Not that I think this should be a partisan initiative, by any stretch of the imagination; I’m just trying to be realistic about who might actually read this, and step forward to answer the call.  I’m talking to the likes of Sheldon Adelson, Mitt Romney, and Donald Trump.  Those gentlemen could bring others of different political persuasions on board.  Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook has made huge donations to schools and youth initiatives in the past.  He might be interested in donating some money to secure our schools.

Why not form a company that would train security officers to very high standards, and provide them to schools at very low cost?  The “charitable” aspect of the program would lie in a business model that anticipated very little in the way of profit.  If the founders of the company wanted to provide especially swift results, and were willing to take the financial hit, they could put the initial wave of officers in place at a loss.  After that, the school systems could sacrifice a few bureaucrats to pay for continued protection at discounted prices.

We just happen to have an excellent source of prospective hires for such a corporation: American soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.   They have experience in counter-insurgency tactics, which would be adaptable to controlling violence in schools.  Many recruits of exemplary character would be readily available.  Many of them have children of their own.  And giving American school children a chance to interact with our military veterans would bring many additional dividends, beyond enhanced physical security.  Our military and civilian cultures have grown too far apart.

Allowing teachers and school officials to carry weapons is an idea with merit as well, but many of them don’t want to carry guns, and in any event they’re not likely to reach the standards of discipline, accuracy, and perception that professional full-time security officers can attain.  A few deep-pocketed private investors could get a security company up and running, or expand an existing corporation, much faster than the political class could accomplish anything meaningful.  All that remained would be convincing politicians and bureaucrats to pay for putting those officers in the schools that need them.  In the current climate, anxious parents would probably handle the persuasion.

Perhaps it would be appropriate if the endeavor were named after Dawn Hochsprung, the heroic principal who died trying to stop Adam Lanza.  There are those who can match her astonishing courage with corresponding training and firepower.  We just need a little private-sector initiative to make sure they’re on the scene.  Knowledge of their presence might be good enough to keep the next prospective mass murderer from firing his first round.  In a short time frame, no other investment could do more to prevent the next Newtown… and absolutely nothing could do more to stop it.

Update: At least one Marine, Jordan Pritchard, has already led the way by volunteering to guard his local school for a few days:

On Sunday night, the father of two decided to bring his uniform out of retirement and stand guard at Gower Elementary School, his children’s school in Nashville, Tenn., according to

“If you are able and capable of doing something, you have the responsibility to act,” Pritchard told the news outlet.

Even though Wednesday is his final day at the volunteer post, students and parents have been overwhelmed by the former Staff Sergeant???s gesture. They have tearfully thanked him with words, cards and pictures, he told

???I feel this is the least I can do as a parent,??? he told the news outlet, citing how the local police force is tied up and can???t take on school security at the moment.

How much would it cost us to put people like Pritchard on duty for the long term?