The day after the horrific massacre in Parkland, Florida, as I entered my high-rise office, it dawned on me that the building’s lobby has six guards, several armed, and that I have to swipe my key card at three checkpoints to reach my office. Later that day, I visited my bank and quickly noticed two armed guards, plus additional security cameras.
Visit a jewelry store, a casino, even regular shopping malls and you’ll find armed security everywhere. Why? Because evil walks our streets, even if we would rather live in blissful denial.
But as seriously as we guard businesspeople at offices, gaming chips at casinos and gems at jewelers, we have neglected to protect the most valued treasure — our children. As recent shootings have shown, refusing to enhance school security represents an inexcusable failure. And while this may be a costly investment, we cannot put a price tag on our children’s lives.
Gun debates always elicit heated responses, especially when the pain of many in Florida is so raw. But high-powered weapons have been around for decades, and yet mass shootings — one right after the other — have not. So what’s really driving these acts of violence?
The forces that increasingly convince young men — and there’s no denying it’s almost always young men — to resort to acts of evil are incredibly complex. I suspect that some of the factors include abandonment issues, violent entertainment, graphic social media and the overuse of psychiatric medications. Whatever the causes, though, we must seek to heal our society and promote a culture that values human life above all else.
In the meantime, the only responsible action is to greatly improve school security. Let’s value our children like the treasure they are and guard them accordingly. How? Let’s start with key cards, fences, entry checks, biometric scanners, and — yes — armed guards, and a lot of them.
Since the awful Our Lady of the Angels elementary school fire of 1958, which killed 92 students and 3 nuns, there has not been a large casualty school fire in America. Why? Because we took myriad precautions since then: better fire exits, more extinguishers and sprinklers, routine fire drills, etc.
Water squelches a fire — and only a gunman, I would argue, can stop another gunman.
In other words, gun control is an ineffective approach at stopping gun violence. First, our Constitution and 240 years of American liberty require that any sound-minded, law abiding adult may own firearms. We can’t just infringe on this right. Second, even if gun control were a good idea, there are over 300 million guns in America, and more than 8 million AR-15s, according to National Rifle Association estimates, so this issue of school safety will not dissipate anytime soon. Finally, we know that weapon restrictions failed to prevent high fatality massacres in places with tight gun control, such as the 2011 Norway summer camp attack and the 2015 Paris Bataclan nightclub attack. Evildoers, by definition, do not respect our rules and will find ways to skirt them.
What can work is the deterrence of lethal security. Israel provides a model. In the 1974 Ma’alot Massacre, Palestinians killed 22 children in the Netiv Meir elementary school. Ever since then, Israel has armed guards — and sometimes armed teachers, too — at every school of 100 students or more. And it has proven quite effective, even in a country with ever-present terror threats.
Here in America, consider the 1999 rampage of a neo-Nazi named Buford Furrow. According to Newsweek, he first targeted the Museum of Tolerance, affiliated with the Simon Wiesenthal Center, but moved along because of visible guards, whom he likely assumed were armed. So instead, he unleashed his carnage at the North Valley Jewish Community Center, which was full of children, but bereft of any security.
A policeman I know is presently organizing other law enforcement parents at his Chicago area Catholic grade school to volunteer for guard duty shifts. We must make such protection the standard at all of our schools. Wicked and disturbed individuals often seek soft targets — let’s not give them any.