Education Under Arms

On December 18, the National Rifle Association released a brief statement following the tragedy at Sandy Hook elementary school:

The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.
The NRA is planning to hold a major news conference in the Washington, DC area on Friday, December 21.

On Friday, one week following the Sandy Hook massacre, the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre, held that news conference. During the conference, LaPierre had many targets to blame for the tragedy, including the staple batch of video games, movies, music, and the media. Absent from the list was guns, gun laws, or the influence of the gun lobby in Washington.

His solution? Armed security guards at every school.

I pulled some data, crunched some numbers, and posted the following on Facebook:

There are approximately 135,000 public and private elementary and secondary schools in the United States.1 Hiring one armed guard per school and paying them a salary of $45,000 (that does not include any benefits or other expenses such as equipment, training, etc. that would be necessary — including these would likely double that cost) would cost the US over $6 billion. So, let’s spend $6 billion dollars and problem solved, right? Well wait, Columbine High School had armed guards, one of which actively engaged in a firefight with one of the murderers; one obviously isn’t enough. Maybe we need a dozen armed guards at each school: $72 billion. Let’s now pretend that this worked; another school shooting never happens again. What about all of the other public places that exist in our country?

Try again.

The post quickly generated interest and I received a number of different responses: everything from letting volunteers take up the task, to keeping armed guards out of the school altogether. Some argued the cost was too great, others that the price was worth it. A suggestion was made that the costs should be borne only by the parents of students in that school. One friend of mine made the point that I had been making in other discussions:

Isn’t it weird, that the people that holler the loudest about how the second amendment is designed to protect us from the government in case it gets too out of control, are fully supportive of hiring thousands of new government employees, arming them, and stationing them in our schools? That’s weird isn’t it? Or is it just me?

It is weird, isn’t it?

Just over a week ago, some of the same people that I hear on talk radio programs everyday — shrieking about how we have too many public employees, about how our nation is evolving into a police state, about having to take their shoes off at a TSA checkpoint — have suddenly decided the answer is more public employees of the armed variety.

Back to my question above. If we decide more armed people is the best answer to our troubles, can you imagine what our society would look like if we stocked the rest of our public places with armed guards in the same fashion that’s being suggested for our schools? Is that really the kind of country you want to live in?

Orwell’s 1984 was not intended to be treated as a set of guidelines for a healthy society.

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