Whenever there is a school shooting, the most dominate calls to action are
- We need to arm teachers
- We need to change gun laws, making getting a gun more difficult.
These responses are ones that divide America. What’s more, the arguments don’t consist of which position is perfect but how it’s the best option we have. It’s something rather than nothing.
Both seem simple, bordering on easy. For one, teachers can now protect their students, helping to mitigate the reaction time from law enforcement. The other, making guns harder to get would decrease the frequency of school shootings or possibly mass shootings as a whole.
Both also come with pretty significant drawbacks. Just to make sure I don’t get lost in the weeds over it, I’ll point out substantial problems with each one: By arming teachers, you’ve now introduced the very thing that we are looking to avoid, having guns in schools. And owning guns is part of the Bill of Rights, so by de facto, changing laws to curb ownership is very difficult.
A third option often mentioned is an all-out firearms ban. They’ll cite Australia’s 1996 National Firearms Agreement, which enacted great restrictions after the Port Arthur Massacre left 35 dead. In fact, from 1997-2006, there were no mass shootings that lead to 5 or more deaths in Australia.
The United States is not Australia. There are vastly different cultures within the two countries. Just because it was possible in Australia, doesn’t mean it will work in the US. With over 400 million guns estimated to be in the United States, trying to eradicate or change the laws surround 400 million of anything is difficult, and that would be true even without resistance.
Banning is just not plausible.
Tougher gun laws?
The federal government has passed only eleven gun laws that could be viewed as protecting society from gun violence. These include,
- The Federal Firearms Act of 1938, which requires manufacturers, importers, and dealers to have a Federal Firearms License, and also prohibits certain types of people from possessing a gun, i.e. felons, signed by FDR
- Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986, which prohibited the sale of automatic weapons, and required ATF approval in transferring ownership of automatic weapons, signed by Reagan
- Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988, where guns had to have more than 3.7 oz of metal, signed by Reagan;
- Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990, which prohibited an unauthorized person from having a gun near a school, signed by GHW Bush
- Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act of 1993, which required those with a Federal Firearms License to have a background check, signed by Clinton.
There are a few others, but they either pertain to law enforcement personnel, or manufacturers. All other gun laws fall to the states.
Since the assassination attempt o Representative Gabby Giffords in January 2011, there have been 10 mass shootings where 10 or more people were killed. The federal government proposed hundreds of pieces of new legislation to curb gun violence. All have failed. If post-Sandy Hook or Las Vegas shootings couldn’t get a new federal law, it’s likely not going to happen.
If the federal government cannot adopt new gun laws, how about states?
There are seven major laws that states could implement, which you can read about in this article.
California and Connecticut have passed all seven. Montana and Idaho have passed none. Of the five states that have the highest gun death rates (deaths per 100,000), only one state has more than one of the laws. The five states with the least gun deaths per 100,000? Four of them have at least four of the laws. There is quite a distance in the per capita death rate. The 5 safer states have less than 4.6 deaths per 100,000. The 5 worst states are at 19.6, or more, per 100,000. Even with these numbers, states simply do not want gun laws.
It’s hard to expound on arming teachers. We don’t know if doing so would work, without any data to work with, but this is not an area for social experimentation. More cars on the road lead to more accidents. This axiom wouldn’t be different for more guns in schools. And I have yet to see a proposal or plan where doing so seems safe. This is not the same as having an armed officer at a school. Law Enforcement are well trained professionals, unlike your daughter’s biology teacher.
If not new laws, if not arming teachers, how about the leading champion of safety?
Technology exists to make our lives a bit easier. Ten million years ago, we used bones and rocks as tools. They made certain jobs easier, and they made us safer. Soon after the utilization of tools, we learned to use animal hides. Having your skin covered allows you to be in the elements longer. More time to hunt, gather food, get water. The sun is not as hot, and the cold is more bearable. Though hides and antlers are low end tech, they were still technological progress. Our lives are married to technology. Unless you’re in a forest or desert island, you’re surrounded by electronic advancements in technology. A lot of that technology works to keep you safe. Even our technology has technology to keep it safe.
The Transportation Security Administration is probably one of the best models to look at for school safety. The mission of the TSA is to make sure there are no violent incidences past their control points. Their goal is to protect personnel is a specific location. Their methods are an amalgamation of technology and human action. Technology is used to make an agents job easier, efficient, and more effective. The TSA electronically screens 4.9 million carry-on bags daily, as well as 1.3 million checked bags. In 2017, nearly 4000 firearms were discovered in carry-on bags. 84% of those were loaded.
The TSA isn’t an armed task force, defending our airports. The government didn’t look to have a mini-militia guarding the gates of sky travel. They looked to technology to accomplish their mission. The TSA utilizes technology and agents in tandem. The screening computers use algorithms to detect a prohibited item. The screener is notified of it, and a manual search is done. Though the TSA can get a bad rap for a multitude of reasons, none of which would be their ability to keep air travel safe from people who look to do harm.
There is also a culture that the TSA has been effective in creating. No one has a problem reporting a bag left alone, odd behavior from a person, or a car left in a loading zone. When we see these things, we report it. Our schools could benefit from such culture.
Automobiles are one of the most widely used tools, and also the leading cause of death in the US, outside of illness and disease. There are roughly 267 million cars in the United States., far less than there are guns, all of which are equipped with safety features.
Every new vehicle that comes along has at least 21 safety features, designed to mitigate injuries, or prevent accidents. Backup cameras, pedestrian sensors, crumple zones, airbags. All of these protections are separate technologies for safer driving.
The 21 features are not the final product either. New features come out yearly, and they’re effective too. In 1966, there were 50,894 motor vehicle deaths. The 1960s and ‘70s saw high death rates from accidents. In 2016, even with a population nearly double that of the 1960s, the death toll was 37,461. The US has only had one year where the fatalities eclipsed 40,000 since 2008, and that was in 2017.
With that 40,000 toll in 2017, no one seems to advocate for less cars on the road, unless they’re talking about a goal in emissions reduction. But not because of wanting to lowering death tolls. We seem to have a large social agreement that cars are a permanent fixture in our lives. So what do we do to lower accident fatalities? We look to new technologies.
Passenger aircraft travel is on par, or even exceeds safety based technologies over cars. Airline travel is so safe now, it’s hard to rank US companies for safety The last airline accident the US has had, where 50 or more deaths were a result, was in November of 2001.
In April of 2018, Southwest had an engine explode in flight, resulting in the death of one passenger. Of all domestic commercial flights, this was the first death in 9 years. Juxtapose that to the 29,000 commercial flights that happen every single day in the United States. Technology, as well as some oversight, has made air travel one of the safest activities there is.
An Internet search using “safer” and “technology” will provide a litany of areas this is happening: travel, construction, healthcare, banking, home, football. These areas are as unrelatable to each other as possible. There isn’t a new safety technology for banking that would be applied to football. However, in all these areas, and a great many more, it’s to technology that people are looking at to improve safety.
The final result that leads to school safety from shooters will likely be multi-layered, and not a single cause. I have no idea what that technology will look like, but I have no doubt that it will happen.