Commonsense solutions to securing our schools already exist

Within hours of the horrific shooting at Newtown, CT’s Sandy Hook Elementary School, grotesque, low-class hack politicians were already making public calls to “exploit” the tragedy.

There is a time and place to reflect and look back at what we as a society could have done to prevent this, but within a couple of weeks, much less the day of the tragedy is not the right time to do it. Reigniting age-old petty debates about this policy or that policy in the immediate aftermath only serves to trivialize the tragedy, disrespect the lives that were lost or shattered, and inject unnecessary emotion into what should be a deliberative process.  Decent Americans reject this kind of exploitation and media-driven sensationalism and instead prefer to exercise restrained grief and sober mourning after something like this happens.

That being said, eventually the issue must be taken up.  I believe enough time has passed where cool heads can come together and begin to propose ideas for reform.

First of all, I do not believe that making (certain) guns more difficult or impossible for law-abiding Americans to obtain is the answer. Not only does it violate a constitutional right specifically, but more broadly punishes the masses for the sins of the very, very few. Any public policy proposals that do that should be looked upon with skepticism in all cases–not just gun control.

Instead of sweeping new gun regulations that frankly would do little-to-nothing to thwart a repeat of Sandy Hook, a more effective approach would be to look at policies that have already proven successful in another area.

In response to the September 11th attacks, tightening security at airports was obviously a top priority.  But beyond that, airplanes themselves were specifically made more secure in case the airport screening process was compromised.  Cockpit doors were strengthened, undercover armed air marshals were introduced, flight attendants were retrained to focus more on physical protection and offense during attacks, and pilots were allowed to bring guns into the cockpit.

These are possible actions that can be replicated in the schoolhouse setting.  For example, states can require school districts to retrofit classroom doors to make them more difficult to penetrate.  In many cases, using better locks and reinforced hinges can make a door much more difficult to breach.

Just like airlines post undercover air marshals, schools can hire retired military or law enforcement officers as plain-clothed, undercover armed security guards to serve as a first line of defense against a gunman to slow or stop a shooting until police arrive.

Finally, as a last line of defense to directly protect the lives of children, a policy allowing teachers to voluntarily carry a concealed firearm into the classroom should be considered. Sure, this would be a controversial proposal, just like arming pilots initially was.  However, like the “Federal Flight Deck Officers” program, it would have to be entirely voluntary and require those teachers wishing to participate to undergo some kind of relevant and clinically approved psychological screening, as well as professional gun training, specifically in the use of the firearm and its concealment, defensive tactics, legal training, etc.

Critics at the time claimed that pilots who are routinely under stress might snap and inappropriately use a firearm, or worse, a hijacker could gain access to it. This has never happened.

Teachers are likewise subject to stress in the classroom environment, and that is where a psychological screening would come in.

Teachers who volunteer and qualify for the program would not receive payment or any other incentive to participate in it, and would be able to opt out at any time without penalty. They would not be expected to bring a firearm to school every day simply because he or she passed the training and is in the program.

Applying and participating teachers’ identities would be exempt from public records laws and kept secret, except to designated administrators (i.e., principals).

The lack of hijackings and airliners used in the commission of terrorist acts since September 11th is thanks in part to the increased security at airports, as well as the security precautions taken on the actual airliners themselves.  Many of these steps can largely be adapted to the schoolhouse and classroom settings to discourage, thwart, or even stop future shootings without militarizing the school environment, or worse, infringing individual rights with knee-jerk laws designed only to make politicians look and feel good.