Forget the gun debate and protect our schools

The echoes of gunshots had barely fallen silent at Umpqua Community College in Oregon when the gun control and the National Rifle Association crowds had dutifully taken up their entrenched positions for yet another public relations battle in America’s civil war over firearms.

Even sports reporters chimed in, with Sports Illustrated’s Peter King tweeting, “This is the 141st school shooting in 33 months since Newtown. Do we have the guts to actually do something? Or is ‘thoughts and prayers’ it?”

I can’t confirm his numbers, but I can answer his question.  Of course we have the guts.

There’s not a person I know on either side of this debate who doesn’t want to do something, right now, to make sure this kind of mass murder doesn’t happen again.  Or at least ensure that it happens with far less regularity.

The problem isn’t that either faction in this debate lacks guts.

On one side are activists like Barack Obama, who have the guts to enact gun confiscation laws tomorrow if they thought they could get away with it.  On the other side are Second Amendment scholars and defenders like Dana Loesch, who have the guts to ensure that their guns will be confiscated only if pried from their cold, dead hands.

The problem is that we have a fundamental disagreement over how to achieve the end that everyone wants.

Although I doubt the effectiveness of liberals’ ideas, I also believe that progressives favor new gun control laws because they think their enactment will result in fewer innocent deaths.  The liberals I know are angry about the mass murders and want them stopped; that is the motivation behind their proposals.

Conversely, the concerned voices that I am inclined to agree with suggest that more laws to “control” guns will be counterproductive.  The lawless, who are intent on committing acts of mass murder, will not be stopped by a mandatory background check at a gun show, as much as we wish that were the case.  These voices instead favor eliminating gun-free zones and arming responsible citizens as the best way to save lives.  Liberals who suggest that these conservatives harbor some morbid desire to engender more violence are irresponsible.

With such well-entrenched and passionate advocates on either side of this debate, it is unlikely we will see anything accomplished legislatively to truly protect people.  And merely recognizing the good intentions of both sides won’t get us anywhere, either.

That is why state lawmakers must ignore the perpetual national gun debate for now and move immediately to enact defensive legislation designed to protect our children in public schools and universities.  As a high school teacher, I have a particular interest in the safety and security of school buildings – and this isn’t about gun control or the Second Amendment.  It’s about common sense.

First, spend tax money to hire and pay more uniformed security personnel at every public school in the various states.  As writer John Nolte points out, there are plenty of unemployed veterans and off-duty police officers who would be perfect candidates if our states made serious investments in this regard.

Second, fund the training of a handful of willing staff members at every school, giving us access and authority to use deadly force if necessary to protect children and young adults in our charge.

Third, mandate and fund the installation of lockdown doors and entrances, limiting access to all school buildings to one entrance, controlled by surveillance-equipped office personnel.

Do these steps turn our schools into armed forts?  I don’t really care.  If it means tragedies averted and lives saved, so be it.  It’s money well spent while we haggle over safety locks and waiting periods.

When I walk into my local courthouse, I am funneled through the one entrance accessible to the public, and I immediately see uniformed, armed security.  On any given day, plenty of defense-trained personnel walk through those halls.  Why?  Because we believe that our civil servants are worthy of protection from violent threat.

Aren’t our children worthy of the same?

Peter Heck is a speaker, author and teacher.  Follow him @peterheck, email  or visit