As an educator in Roseburg for the last 30 years, I’m compelled to address recent responses regarding the horrific events at Sandy Hook Elementary. To begin, my intent is not to take guns away from responsible gun owners. Most of my friends own guns.
Recently, Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association stated that we need, foremost, to increase armed security in our schools (Dec. 21, 2012 NRA national press conference). That same sentiment was voiced by Sam King in a guest column to this paper two days earlier.
Let’s follow the logic of increasing armed security in our schools. The question becomes, what level of security can we achieve? Is 50 percent, 60 percent or an 80 percent increase acceptable? I know 100 percent will never be reached.
Does the presence of armed security stop mass killing in schools? Not at Columbine, which had an armed security officer. Not at Virginia Tech, which had its own armed police force with SWAT team capabilities.
If they weren’t trained well enough (and certainly they were!) and capable of stopping those massacres, how much training does it take? How many security personnel will each site require?
If we can’t afford more teachers, how can we add security personnel? If armed security can’t realistically protect our schools, then what will it take?
An impenetrable security system would require schools be placed behind prison-like walls with armed security towers. We are supposed to be the greatest nation on the planet. We’re supposed to be the superior species with intelligence far surpassing nearly all others. Increasing the personal armament of our citizens, for protection from those who kill innocent children and adults, is a regression for humanity to a more barbaric time in our existence. I think our society is better than that.
Why is increasing armed security in schools illogical? Answer these questions: Are you ready for the government to spend the money required to secure all schools (if it were even possible)? Is this how we want to spend our school funding dollars? Over the last several legislative sessions, government and voters have emphatically demonstrated an unwillingness to increase funding for schools. Since 2007 Oregon school funding has dropped from $6.3 billion to $5.72 billion in 2011. No more taxes!
Adding a school security force, undoubtedly would come at a loss of teaching jobs, increased class sizes and elimination of classes like music and art. Many schools would require substantial improvements to their facilities. Funds for building maintenance have been slashed for years.
But let’s assume we increase security at the 139,000-plus schools in our country to such a level that a tragedy like Sandy Hook has a negligible probability of reoccurrence. We close one door.
Now, following this logic, other sites then become targets for disturbed killers. Another door opens. These include: churches, shopping malls, parks, private businesses and so on. We then must increase armed security everywhere. An impossible task. Ultimately, all adult citizens, and even teenagers, need to be armed and trained in the use of deadly weapons for personal and group security. I find this premise illogical.
A lack of adequate security at our schools is NOT the problem. Schools are not the problem. People incapable of making appropriate decisions with weapons are the main problem. Hopefully, this we can agree on. The availability of weapons to these killers is a problem. Approximately 40 percent of all guns are sold through private sellers who are not required to conduct a federal background check. This uncontrolled existence of weapons, whose only purpose is to kill other human beings, is a problem.
I believe there are solutions to gun violence in the United States. Foremost, make access to guns as difficult as possible for criminals and those mentally or emotionally incapable of appropriate use of weapons. Our refusal to enact more stringent gun measures has made that nearly impossible. I know many police officers. I’m sure they agree. Also, all gun dealers should be licensed, and all buyers should undergo a background check. We need to reinstate the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
The Second Amendment guarantees our “right to keep and bear arms.” Our founding fathers’ original intent was to ensure a citizen’s right to protect himself from threat, not use these “arms” to murder innocent children and other American citizens. I know that no law will stop murder from happening. Yet, we are capable of decreasing the number of gun-related deaths in this country. Other industrialized countries are well ahead of us on this issue. Protecting our citizens is the job we’ve entrusted to our police and military, not our teachers. Time to act!
Robert Pierce, who has lived in Roseburg for 30 years, is a retired teacher who has taught in numerous schools in Wisconsin, West Virginia and Oregon. He has been trained in security lock-down procedures for Oregon schools. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.