As lobbyist for the gun and ammunition industries, NRA chief Wayne LaPierre issued the following statement: “If it’s crazy to call for armed officers in our schools to protect our children, then call me crazy.” As one who appreciates Mr. LaPierre’s invitation, let me begin my response to his “armed guard in every school” proposal by pointing out that he is indeed wacky.
Let’s look beyond Mr. LaPierre’s limited vision by delving into some of the practical issues sparked by his suggestion:
• Is a capable armed guard a $15,000 (full-time minimum wage) person, a $30,000/year man with a modicum of training, a $45,000/year fully trained marksman, or a $60,000/year even-tempered sharpshooter with the exceptional skills you may wish to have on guard to protect your children?
• How about costs in urban schools like New York and Chicago and San Francisco and Los Angeles? Won’t they be much higher? Does the job require some ongoing level of fitness? How is that enforced? Does the guard need to be speedy and agile? What if he acts erratic? Since most will never be called on to use their skills, what does their career path look like? What if they form a union? To whom do they report?
• According to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, qualified applicants for similar jobs are scarce. Where do we find 99,000 guards? By the way, there are 33,000 private schools that are in a position to pay more for qualified help.
• If, at the critical moment, the armed guard is one minute away from the point of attack, a shooter with an AR-15 who obeys the owner’s manual will get off 15 rounds before the “good guy with a gun” arrives. A shooter who ignores the owner’s manual’s advice may get off as many as 60 rounds before the guard appears.
• Wouldn’t it be careless to arm the guard with less of a weapon than that of the anticipated shooter? A larger, more powerful weapon is the only sensible recommendation. To stop the 600 round per minute AK-47, what gun would Mr. LaPierre recommend we place in every school?
• With 99,000 public schools, $45,000 per armed guard per year comes to roughly $4.5 billion, not including training, equipment, gun storage cases, and, presumably, uniforms, and overtime. Of course 99.9 percent of these armed guards will never experience any hostile activity, a factor possibly relevant to compensation.
Some non-logistical issues Mr. LaPierre failed to take into account include:
• Columbine had a security guard.
• Weapons must be secured to prevent theft, and kept out of the hands of students. Consider that a hearty middle- school student wearing steel tipped boots can cripple the guard if he approaches from behind.
• Will the armed guard protect extra-curricular events such as football and basketball games and band concerts? How about PTA meetings?
• What effect will the presence of armed guards in schools have on young children – what message do we wish to send them about the world in which they are growing up?
• In August 2012, trained NYC police officers shot nine bystanders while pursuing a gunman at the Empire State Building. How do we prevent similar accidents from occurring in schools?
While Mr. LaPierre’s handlers – America’s gun manufacturers – would no doubt reward him handsomely for selling 99,000 high powered assault weapons, would our children be any safer? Rational people have concluded that banning assault weapons, unnecessarily large ammo clips and cop-killer bullets, requiring background checks for all would-be gun purchasers, empowering ATF with modern forensic tools and databases, and legislating safeguards to reassure responsible gun collectors and hunters will get us closer to our safety goal. Yes, Mr. LaPierre, you and the nutcases who support your unhinged ideas are clearly certifiable. Thanks for asking.
The writer lives in Pawleys Island.