Preposterous Proposals Proliferate


    We’re living a cartoon. One character puts up his dukes and the adversary pulls out brass knuckles, then escalation each in turn through a knife, pistol, rifle, machinegun, cannon, tank… It goes where arming and armoring schools goes: no constructive advantage. Cost without benefit other than political cover.

    Governor McDonnell legitimizing the concept of arming more personnel inside schools demonstrates his narrow experience and linear, attritionist approach to the issues raised by the violence at Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech. This is understandable. As an army intelligence officer raised and trained in the era of a set piece battlespace, he is comfortable with templates and minor tactics against local threats. His cohort, Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13th), lacks even that experience with conceptual threats. Marshall’s hobbies, weight lifting, gardening, and photography, might give him time to contemplate but do nothing to qualify him to defend our children or us. But both of these fellows do demonstrate the ability to push hot buttons even if they are unconcerned about the consequences they initiate.

    Nattering nabobs such as them attract attention. Some of that from Democrats who either think they must say something or are afraid of saying nothing even if they have nothing to add. At least the Republicans are expressing a core value, no matter how wrongheaded it is. The Democrats on board with this idea sound as hollow as their self-serving position. Disappointing.

    Reducing the security of children to talking points about arming teachers and adding resource officers limits the debate, ignores the broader issues, and potentially places children in substantially greater danger. Look, I have the greatest respect for teachers but they are not public safety employees and many are unsuited for this responsibility. Adding a resource officer to the soup definitely secures the few square feet occupied at any given moment, but has McDonnell, Marshall, or any of them actually been inside a school lately? Those resource officers are there for and deal with a lot of student issues not related to invasion; issues that do not occur in elementary schools. Unless we go back to one room schoolhouses, these ideas are just lipstick on a pig.  

    Suggesting the discussion about school security begin with a conclusion already framed is either intellectual deficiency or blatant dishonesty. The discussion should begin with a threat analysis. Guns constitute only one aspect of that discussion. One thing that we have learned about hardening targets is that perpetrators are not so linear that they will cooperate by attacking whatever strength we put in place. So, while security is important, we can’t secure against every inevitability.

    Beyond being able to defend against a threat, we must identify and disable it. As shameful as it is, we have to admit that our greatest threat is not some organized and politically motivated adversary. You remember shame: it’s that thing that many conservatives say our society lacks. So they should be happy to embrace the concept of introspection. It is our own citizens who have perpetrated the domestic violence that is our immediate concern. So how do we counter that without violating the values we hold so dear?

    Well, to begin, we must recognize there are limits on the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution.  For another, we understand that those freedoms carry obligations; even those guaranteed by the Second Amendment. Though defenders of gun rights want to believe Charlton Heston brought this one down from the mountain, there is a historical context for it they conveniently misread. There are practical aspects of the defense against a tyrannical government they simply ignore. And indeed, arming only those whose duty is to specifically protect against that tyranny provides even greater security.

    See, the problem is that the time preceding the sainted framers drawing up the Constitution, there were insurgents who had armed themselves in rebellion. Ever wonder why an arms clause wasn’t originally present? There being no federal army or standing state militias or willingness to pay for them, private militias were raised by those whose interest was to protect their own property. Private armies and vigilante bands are not so different. Indeed one private army seized a state armory without authority. So which is legitimate? One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, or so we have been told. And in this regard, the use of the term “militia” in the amendment informs at a minimum that the framers were not enthusiastic about a free for all and were concerned with legitimacy.

    When one freedom begins to infringe upon the freedoms of others, and the current application of the Second Amendment does, it is time for reasonable restrictions. And one of those is a restriction against gun ownership by the irresponsible and the incompetent.

    Guaranteeing the availability and proliferation of arms is not the same as guaranteeing freedom. Arming everyone does nothing to disarm those who threaten a civil society.

    And right now the march that should have fueled reform is threatened by those practiced at obfuscation and distraction.  

    • Jim W
    • lowkell

      House “leadership,” using the word VERY loosely, contributing anything positive whatsoever on this issue. Basically, those guys – and they’re almost all guys – are no better than Wayne LaPierre. Pretty much, anything that they and their allies in the NRA, ALEC, etc. are for, I’m strongly against.

    • lowkell

      Armed guards won’t make schools safer

      “In general I don’t think that the solution to safety in schools is putting an armed guard because for it to be really effective in my view, from a law enforcement perspective, you have to have an armed guard at every classroom,” he said during an event in Newark Friday morning. “Because if you just have an armed guard at the front door then what if this guy had gone around to the side door? There’s many doors in and out of schools.”

      And he said he doesn’t like the idea of having multiple armed guards inside schools. “I don’t necessarily think having an armed guard outside every classroom is conducive to a positive learning environment,” he said.

    • lowkell

      I was just listening to Marketplace on NPR, they estimated $80,000 per year for each armed guard at a school. Let’s just assume 1 guard per school, which is probably too low, for the moment. According to these statistics, there are 2,093 public schools in Virginia. Multiply that by $80,000 per year for 1 guard at each school, and you get $160 MILLION per year. Say 2 guards at each school, and it’s $320 MILLION per year. To put that in perspective, that’s about what Virginia spent in FY 2012 for Agriculture and Forestry ($86 million), Technology ($54 million), Legislative Agencies ($73 million), and the Executive Department ($46 million). Is that worth it? Would it be helpful, neutral, or harmful to put armed guards at every school? (I’d argue at BEST neutral, but more likely harmful) In short, this just doesn’t add up.