Monday, May 28, 2018

Why is no one proposing doing something to protect students from a school shooter?

by Rod Williams - As Metro government takes up consideration of the budget, I have heard no one propose that Metro should budget money to make our schools safer.  Protecting school students from a school shooting has not even been mentioned. Not  Mayor Briley, none of the candidates recently running for mayor,  not the Director of Schools, no school Board members, nor Council members, nor student activist, nor engaged parents, nor The Tennessean - not anyone has called for improved school safety.  No one has even called for studying the issue.

It is not rocket science to know what would make safer schools.  Adopting the same policies as airports and the court house and many office building and concert venues and sporting events would be what was required.  Schools would have to have bags checked, single points of entry, and metal detectors.  The cost very well not be worth it, but I find it curious that no one wants to even find out what it would cost.

Following the Parkland, Fla. tragic shooting there were national school walkouts, demonstrations in state capitols and major cities and a march on Washington and high school student activist were on TV for days.  Here in Nashville, we had school walk-outs and students at Hume-Fogg marched to the capital plaza for a demonstration.  Much of the protest seemed unfocused and the message was unclear. The NRA was criticized and attacked and activist called for a boycott of companies who gave discounts to NRA members and boycotts of firms that were friendly to the NRA. A call went out to vote against any politician who accepting NRA funding or endorsements. Other than an anti-NRA focus about the only other consistent message was a desire to ban the AR-15. There was a lot of noise but to what purpose was unclear. After a while the intensity of the protest died down.  Following the Santa Fe shooting the anti-gun activism again geared up but it seems some of the passion had died down and the demands to "do something," seemed more muted.

I guess it is cathartic to demonstrate and march and make rousing speeches following a tragedy such as that at Parkland, Florida and Santa Fe, Texas.  I guess it is convenient to have the NRA upon which to vent your anger. It is exhilaration to let off steam amidst people who share your passion. Unfortunately, it appeared to me that all of the thundering was more like shaking their fist at the sky rather than a concrete call to action.  It seems more like "letting off steam," than advocacy of policy.  The protestors did not seem to have a coherent message.  Some called for "gun control" and for adults to "do something," but were not very specific.  About as specific as the protestors got was a call to ban bump stocks and "assault weapons," or "weapons of war."  The most  often sighted "assault weapon" protestors wanted banned was the AR-15.

Banning bump stocks and banning the AR-15 and maybe some other "assault weapons"  really seems like modest goals and would probably not prevent any deaths.  Those goals might even be achievable. A ban on bump stocks most likely will occur. It has been proposed and the proposal in the phase of receiving public comments. There was a ban on the sale of newly manufactured "assault weapons" from 1994 to 2004. It withstood constitutional challenges but it had no demonstrable effect on gun violence. It is possible that with a change in the makeup of Congress, the AR-15 could be banned again. Does anyone really think that would make a difference? 

If a ban on what is called "assault weapons" and a ban on bump stocks went into effect does anyone think schools would be one bit safer?  Would those protesting students feel they had really accomplished anything of much importance? To be effective a ban would not only have to apply to newly manufactured weapons but there would have to essentially be a confiscation of weapons already in the hands of Americans and ban on gun ownership.  The Second Amendment would have to be repealed for that to happen. That is just not going to happen.  It would be an uphill battle to win public support for that and even if a majority of Americans accepted that the Second Amendment should be repealed, the process of changing the constitution is long and slow. Since the first ten amendments were adopted, the constitution has only been amended 17 times and a couple of those were when the South did not have a vote.  We still do not have a balanced budget amendment, a right to life amendment or the equal rights amendment and those have been pushed for years and years. If one thinks they can repeal the Second Amendment, they have their work cut out for  them.

If one really wants to "do something" about school shootings, then marching and demonstrating without a specific goal seems like wasted energy and campaigning to repeal the Second Amendment seems like wasted effort and a commitment of many, many years. If one was really concerned with stopping school shootings it would seem that improving school security is something that is achievable but it may not offer the same emotional satisfaction as marching against the NRA and engaging in school walkouts.

I am not necessarily advocating turning all schools into fortresses but am surprised that school safety is not a concern beyond a desire for ineffective or unattainable gun control.  Contrary to public perception. gun violence is down considerable from  thirty of fourty years ago but has increased since 2014 from the years immediately prior.  Of the gun violence that does occur, mass shooting account for less than 1 percent of gun violence and school shooting are a fraction of that. In the wake of the two most recent school shootings, students have been quoted as saying they feel like a school shooting is going to happen; they say they live in fear of it.  They say they feel like they have a target on their back. School shootings do, no doubt, effect the psyche of students, but student grossly overestimate the risk of being the victim of a mass shooting.

One study found that time spend in an airline flight was 300 times more dangerous than time spend in a classroom. A study from 2013 found that your chances of dying in a car crash was approximately 1 in 7775, which is about the same as your chances of dying due to any type of gun violence in the next year. As a writer explained in a Washington Post story recently:

The chance of a child being shot and killed in a public school is extraordinarily low. Not zero — no risk is. But it’s far lower than many people assume, especially in the glare of heart-wrenching news coverage after an event like Parkland. And it’s far lower than almost any other mortality risk a kid faces, including traveling to and from school, catching a potentially deadly disease while in school or suffering a life-threatening injury playing interscholastic sports.
Spending money to fortify our schools may not be money well spend. Dollars are limited. To take money away from classroom instruction or school counselors to pay for armed guards manning metal detectors may not be money well spent but don't you think that those Hume-Fogg students who walked out of their classroom to march to the Capitol building would be demanding it?

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