This week’s tragic attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida is a deeply painful reminder of how much we have failed to honestly confront the problem of school shootings in America.
Putting up “Gun-Free Zone” signs is not a solution. It is an act of self-deception. By definition, the determined killers carry their guns past the signs. They are not slowed down for one second by community sentiment.
The current strategies of responding to a violent threat by either freezing students in place or accelerating student evacuation both carry seeds of disaster. Freezing the students in place simply sets them up to be killed methodically by a brutal, evil, or mentally ill person. Having them flee may lead them to run right into the path of the killer.
In Day of Wrath, a novel by Bill Forstchen, there is a vivid description of how dangerous our current school policies are in setting up the innocent to be killed. In this stunning depiction of a methodical radical Islamist assault targeting American schools, the moral and intellectual dead-end of the current policies is made clear.
America is not going to become gun-free. Firearm specific bans, such as bans on semi-automatic rifles, won’t have an impact because the majority of mass shootings in the United States are committed with semi-automatic handguns. In fact, the deadliest school shooting in our history, in April 2007 at Virginia Tech, was committed with handguns. Therefore, the danger of evil, insane, or politically-religiously motivated people killing the innocent will remain.
Mental health-focused “solutions” are incompatible with civil liberties. America is not going to adopt laws to apprehend or restrict every person who might become dangerous. That would trap hundreds or even thousands of innocent people to try to stop the few truly deranged, dangerous people. Each killer’s threat is much more obvious after the killings.
After each wave of killings, we wring our hands, say strong words and do little.
The fact is, evil people with guns must be stopped by good people with guns.
Furthermore, the faster good people can respond, the fewer innocent people will be killed.
Every school in America should have several teachers and administrators trained in firearms who are permitted to carry concealed weapons. The number of these “protectors of the innocent” in each school should be determined by the number of students. Agreeing to serve in this role might be encouraged with an appropriate monthly stipend. After all, in Georgia, teachers who agree to serve as coaches are paid stipends ranging from $150 to as much as $400 (and sometimes more for large football programs). Surely, we can afford to provide this type of incentive to people who want to help protect our children.
Because these protectors would have concealed weapons and not be in uniform, would-be killers would have no idea who might be capable of ending their threat by ending them.
This idea is the same principle behind the Federal Air Marshal Service, which was rapidly expanded after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. We don’t rely on gun-free zone propaganda to protect our airports and airplanes; we rely on countervailing force. Furthermore, because air marshals are unidentifiable (they wear plain clothes and their weapons are concealed), would-be terrorists don’t have a target to attack first.
If we are really serious about protecting our children, we must have trained and equipped protectors prepared to handle this type of situation whenever there are school activities. The Parkland school had an armed officer assigned to the campus, but the officer never encountered the shooter and was not able to respond in time. Dramatically increasing the presence of uniformed, visibly-armed security guards, however, might create an environment ill-suited for learning.
Instead, teachers and administrators serving as protectors could complement and support the dedicated officer or security personnel who are already serving in many schools. This combination of using uniformed police officers to handle standard school security challenges, while also having responsible adult protectors who are already going to be working in the school prepared to provide additional force in the case of a catastrophic emergency, like a mass shooting, is the most effective and practical way to protect our children.
Newt Gingrich is a contributor to Fox News and a former Speaker of the House.