[Revised version: The original version of this post contained an error in the calculation of the budget required by the NRA proposal.]
The National Rifle Association’s proposal to put a policeman in every school is not bad given the circumstances. Refusing to protect children with armed force when necessary in the vain hope to “de-escalate violence“, as an activist puts it, is tragically naïve. Let the madmen and children killers de-escalate violence first!
The NRA’s statement contains words of wisdom about which one wonders why it is apparently so revolting to so many people:
But what if, when Adam Lanza started shooting his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday, he had been confronted by qualified, armed security?
Will you at least admit it’s possible [emphasis in original] that 26 innocent lives might have been spared? Is that so abhorrent to you that you would rather continue to risk the alternative?
“Members of Congress”, the NRA statement also points out, “work in offices surrounded by Capitol Police officers”.
The NRA’s statement, however, is not above criticism. It includes a virulent attack against producers of violent movies and video games (one of which is called “Kindergarten Killer“!), and against the media who are said to encourage mass killers by giving them publicity. It is another sort of tragic illusion to think that we can defend the Second Amendment by attacking the First.
Another very disturbing aspect of the NRA plea is to create a “national database of the mentally ill.” Has the NRA not learned that when you give one inch to Leviathan, he will take a mile? If previous gun controls can serve as a guide, the bureaucrats would soon put on the list anybody who has seen a mental health counselor, whether a psychologist for problems during teenage or a physician for a burnout, potentially depriving such people of their Second-Amendment rights for life. A “national database of the mentally ill” belongs to police-state methods.
The cost of the NRA proposal is not inconsequential. As there are about 67,000 elementary schools in the US, and assuming that an armed cop on-site (with the necessary equipment and installations) costs $50,000 a year, the NRA plan would require an annual budget of $3.3 billion. This amounts to roughly 1% of all expenditures on public order and safety in the country. Governments are broke, and it is not clear where they would find the money. Of course if—but it’s a big “if”—governments diverted these $3.3 billion from other activities detrimental to liberty (like the war on drugs and other witch-hunts), this objection would be moot.
The NRA wisely suggests that trained citizens—perhaps volunteers—could also do the job, and offers free training for that purpose. The cost of protecting schools would then be even lower.
Yet posting a visible armed guard would not be foolproof, for a mass murderer would first endeavor to kill him. If this succeeds, then we are back to square one.
Thus, there is no alternative but allowing volunteer administrative personnel or teachers to carry weapons, whether or not an armed guard works on-site. This is now forbidden by law, including federal law, in most places and in most circumstances. It is the whole concept of coercive gun-free school zones that must be questioned. A potential mass murderer would then know that any adult can potentially stop him, a bit like if he were attacking, say, a police station or a hunters’ party. Under which conditions to allow for defensive guns should be the responsibility of every school or school administration.
Which brings us to another problem implied by the NRA proposal. Armed security should not be a federal centralized decision, but be left to every school administration. Some may choose, for whatever mistaken reason, to do nothing.
The tragedy of Newton should not justify more centralized coercion and mistakes. We have had enough of those. All in all, there are three fundamental alternatives: (1) yielding to the violence of madmen; (2) building a police state in the hope of solving the problem; (3) stopping the criminalization of self-defense. The NRA proposal aims at solution #3, but often unintentionally bleeds into #2.