School safety: Beyond gun control
President Eisenhower was fond of saying that if you correctly define the problem, then you are 90% of the way toward finding the solution.
The left defines the problem as weapons in the hands of civilians. As always, leftists insist that the only solution is government (just pass a law, and the problem goes away). The right defines the problem as mentally ill people having weapons (so keep them away from lunatics). The correct definition of the problem is that society is threatened and vulnerable to many modern malevolent forces (insanity and Islamic extremism among them) intent on destruction via many weapon types. The solution is a threat-solution matrix and an improved, layered defense, not a single solution like banning semi-automatic rifles or truncating magazines.
One thing was apparent at the Florida school massacre: law enforcement failed us. We learned that the FBI tip line was being managed not by James Comey or Christopher Wray, but by Inspector Clouseau from the Pink Panther movies. If you think government or law enforcement alone is going to keep your school safe, think again, or you may die.
It would behoove school boards, administrators, principals, and police to structure their thinking holistically, so that they have a robust security plan.
First, define the threat source (sniper, single shooter, multiple shooters, terrorists).
Second, define the threat type (pistols, rifles, machine guns, knives, explosives, trucks).
Third, define the scene (school bus, building, campus, classroom, hallway, assembly, drop-off and pick-up places).
Fourth, define the action (visual deterrents, keeping killers out, shielding the students and staff, stopping and not necessarily killing the attackers).
Let government do what it can to keep weapons away from crazy people without violating our constitutional rights. But if you see a study that indicates that only a small percentage of gun crimes are committed by legally possessed firearms, you will suspect that more gun laws will have only limited effects. As the bumper sticker says, "when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns." Leftist progressive extremists push confiscation. But since firearms and ammunition can be made in a basement with metalworking equipment, organized crime views gun confiscation as the biggest new business development opportunity since Prohibition.
The anguish: What has our society come to? We have to defend innocent institutions! The Israeli schools have figured it out: don't wring your hands. Deal with it. When the killers are assessing targets, which would be the more effective visual deterrent: a gun-free zone sign with a yellow happy face or one of Orwell's rough men, who stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm?
School boards will soon have many more security consultants, security architects, and guard services from which to choose. They need funds: federal, state, and local taxes; fundraisers; fees; and grants from The Michael Bloomberg Foundation. It's better to pay more than to die.
Here's one low-cost threat-reducing idea that falls under the fourth point above (action): use Apple's iPhone facial recognition software to sort through a database of locally identified miscreants as they try to enter the school property. No rights are taken away; no court order required. ID the bad guys, then confront them. If an iPhone, a surveillance drone, or CCTV camera had flagged Nikolas Cruz entering the school campus with his weapons bag on Valentine's Day, then his rampage may have been averted.
Here's another idea. Many high schools and prep schools teach robotics. The Department of Education or the local school district could sponsor a competition (with monetary prizes) for the best new school "Robocop" designs (three categories: surveillance, shielding, and non-lethal force). This would channel concerned students in a constructive direction. Technology and pragmatic logic can thwart the devils among us.
Squeamish about arming teachers? Consider non-lethal force. At least give them tasers and pepper spray (and a stun grenade for the principal). Beats bare hands. (Expect a strong headwind from the teacher unions, who won't lift a finger unless there's more pay involved.) If budgets are tight, then get armed, trained volunteer moms and dads to pitch in and stand guard duty. It's "How the West Was Won." We need more good old-fashioned American self-reliance.
And ask yourself: when a group of jihadis forgetfully neglect to take the firearms background check and attack the high school football game with belt-fed automatic heavy weapons, do you want to sprint to the trunk of your car and retrieve that muzzle-loading musket that Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) believes is sufficient, or would you prefer something...more substantial? Can you spell outgunned? If not, then don't forget your ramrod.