I was wrong. Another school shooting. Another round of “prayers, thoughts, condolences” and breast- beating by the pols.
Following Santa Fe, Texas, incoming National Rifle Association President Oliver North blames Ritalin. Texas Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick blames abortion. Diane Black, a Republican U.S. representative from Tennessee running for governor, blames pornography.
Anti-gun proponents blamed Publix because the grocery chain donated to a self-described “proud NRA sellout” for governor. Publix has since pulled its support.
According to the Washington Post, more than 215,000 children at 217 schools have been exposed to gun violence since the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, with 428 killed or injured. Including Santa Fe, last week saw three — three — school shootings, killing 10 and wounding 15.
All the usual squabbles are playing out once again: It’s violent video games or gun show loopholes or mental health issues or the breakdown of family values or the absence of an assault weapons ban.
I thought reason and common sense would eventually win out, but I was wrong … in believing this madness could be fixed through compromise. We can’t even talk about it without demonizing one another.
The two sides hold beliefs that are totally irreconcilable. They are matters of lifestyle, culture, deep — seated values and attitudes that are not going to change through legislation. Do you want to make points or make a difference?
Back in the 1960s and ’70s, when we were plagued by frequent airplane hijackings, we didn’t spend endless time and energy arguing over what to do. We hardened the airplanes. From cockpit doors to evasive measures to retraining flight attendants — although I think they were still called stewardesses then.
We did it again after 9/11: Hardening the airports themselves, X-raying baggage and passengers, ticket and passport verifications, an increase in the number and use of air marshals and portside security, etc.
Here’s what we must do in the schools. Design entrances, windows, classroom doors, an internal sterile vestibule for entrapment purposes, perimeter fencing, lighting and landscaping to limit access and control flow. No one gets in — the one and only entrance — without passing through a metal detector and having backpacks X-rayed. Cameras and alarms on every fire escape door. A central monitoring station. Police or resource officers patrolling the halls.
True, Santa Fe was already hardened. It won awards for its preparation. Clearly more was needed or 10 students and teachers would still be alive.
The New Jersey School Boards Association task force on school security estimates the cost of hardening schools would run from a one-time cost of $350,000 to $500,000 plus annual personnel expenditures.
I understand this also is controversial but we did it with federal buildings, corporate headquarters and airports to protect adult lives. Should we do any less for our precious kids? So, stop the bickering and feds and states find the money and not by filching it from already overstretched education budgets or local police departments or cheap-out by arming volunteer staff and start protecting our kids for real.