By Bruce Felton
There is a growing frustration felt by me and many fellow law enforcement officers over the incidence of mass killings in the United States, particularly those occurring at our schools. Understandably, with each new incidence of mass murder at our schools, there are renewed conversations; conversations that prove largely ineffectual at addressing the immediate threat to our students. It seems we have become a nation of agendas, parading those agendas at each new tragedy without any regard to efficacy of solution. We all have opinions about gun control, mental health, bullying; these are discussions that must take place. But they need to be separate conversations. We need to impose practices at our schools that will protect the students yesterday! Not tomorrow, not next week or next year. Immediately.
If we are serious about protecting those at our schools, we need to study solutions in a realistic framework of immediate, short-term, and long-term solutions. For instance, gun control is, by itself, a very important discussion that should be had. Truthfully, I personally think that guns are far too easy for the wrong people to obtain in this country, and there should be intense study on realistic ways to remedy that given our history and Constitution. But, at best, this would be a long-term (and partial) solution to mass killing in our schools. If we were to somehow ban all guns tomorrow, the estimated 300 million guns in the United States would still find their way into the wrong hands, and would-be killers are going to continue to harm students and co-workers. While we debate the merits and boundaries of gun control, innocent people will still be killed.
The logical solution to preventing students and staff from being harmed by killers in the schools is to provide trained, armed security forces for every school and at every school function. This would be a short-term solution since it would take time to put in place. In the interim, as an immediate solution, armed law enforcement should be assigned to schools until those armed security professionals could be hired and placed into the schools. Would it be incredibly expensive? Absolutely! So were fire suppression systems and alarms, but we did it. If we are serious about school safety, if we are serious about protecting our youth and the teachers that mentor them, then it needs to be an absolute priority. Once our schools are secured with trained professionals, we would then have time to tackle long-term solutions, such as gun control, access to mental health care and, very importantly, changing our mindset about how we treat each other. Respect; not the word, but the actual mindset, has to be returned to our society.
I have the deepest admiration and support for those who are advocating better gun control, better care and treatment for those suffering from mental health issues, and a more inclusive society. But please, do not let these issues distract this country from real solutions on how to keep people safe. They are all part of the puzzle, but they will not save lives now, or likely in the near future. Let’s do what we need to so that we no longer lose young lives in what should be one of the safest environments that they should ever know.