I’m ending my very long silence with this wonderful and eloquent guest blog post by my good friend, Matthew Brockelman. I meant to post this a very long time ago, but today, as I watch President Obama lay out his plans for gun control in the United States, I thought it was appropriate to share these sensible ideas with the world. Thank you, Matt.
A few weeks ago, we saw National Rifle Association (NRA) Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre give a press conference in which he offered one of the most troublesome solutions we’ve heard to date in the struggle to contain violence in America: give every school in America armed protection. Although this may sound simple enough (just get some police officers and make it happen!), the reality of the situation is far more complex than Mr. LaPierre is willing to discuss. Here are a couple points that I, as a 23-year old, immediately thought of when I watched LaPierre make his case.
In 2009, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, there were 132,183 schools (public and private, K-12) in the country. The average police officer makes around $40,000 per year (I’m sure this doesn’t include benefits, cost of retirement, etc.). So simple arithmetic takes that cost to $5,287,320,000 annually. Washington, D.C., folks like to talk about everything over a 10-year period, so by taking the NRA’s advice we’ve just added almost $53 billion in expenses if each school had only one police officer. This doesn’t account for inflation, salary adjustments or other costs that could increase. Of course, that money wouldn’t just come from the federal government (local, state and other taxes would probably be the main source, maybe some federal grants, too). And plenty of schools already have officers (more than one in some cases), but that’s still quite a thought.
Virginia Tech has an entire University Police Department, much like we do at UNF. If the logic is “putting trained, armed guards deters and helps prevent massacres,” 2007 offers evidence against that. The argument for deterrence assumes that shooters are rational actors. Since most of these end in suicide or mental issues being discovered, that assumption almost always falls short.
Semi automatic rifles > police issue handguns. We should ask police officers across the country how down they would be to get into an armed conflict with a person(s) armed with high-powered rifles with high-capacity mags (and probably a conflict in which the shooter would have the element of surprise over the officer). So then what’s the next step? Give our school cops assault rifles?
Last thing: most of us on all sides agree that cultural issues are a piece in this puzzle. In the press conference, Mr. LaPierre blamed violence in video games, on television and in the entertainment industry as contributing factors. I don’t disagree, but it just seems strange to say in one breath that our kids are corrupted by animated guns on their XBox 360s, but then in the next breath say that they wouldn’t be de-sensitized if they had to walk by heavily armed police every day at school.
Are we really ready to accept that in our America, the only way to protect kids is to turn schools into weaponized institutions? Soon we will be the ones responsible for leading our country and society. It will be shameful if, under our watch, we replaced “home of the brave” with “home of the paranoid who have to arm everyone and their moms to feel safe.” I don’t know. Maybe my status as a Democrat devalues these points in the eyes of those who disagree with me politically. Or maybe more Americans — Republicans, Democrats, non-politicals, gun owners, non-gun owners, adults, kids and LEADERS — need to stop staying silent.