I held this column back a week, hoping that hot rhetoric on both sides might die down and to allow parents, family and friends to say goodbye and bury their loves ones, lost again tragically and all too young to a school shooter. I will not mention the gunman’s name, or add to his infamy. I wish there was space here and elsewhere to tell the unfinished stories of glory of those taken away.
There is, and will be, considerable disagreement on the path forward, but on this I think we all can agree, we must do something more to protect our children. So far in 2018, there have been five school shootings with injuries or fatalities across our nation. One is too many and as we were only six weeks into this year, these violent recurring patterns and outcomes demand thoughtful debate and action. Thoughts and prayers are not a waste of time, nor are they lacking value, but again, at this point, we are going to require more.
Since 9/11 and it’s attempted shoe-bomber aftermath, airports have become at least partially a fortresses. Entry and access to courthouses, state houses and any federal government building have become secure and much more heavily guarded. Congressional office buildings on Capitol Hill appear visibly much the same in the interior, but take a moment to note the omni-presence of cameras most everywhere, as well as the speed of the Congressional post, as all member mail is now heavily screened. Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.
Let’s start with some basic, common sense security improvements in our schools:
Fortify and reinforce classroom doors — Solid steel or bullet resistant wood doors with reinforced windows and limited lines of site into a classroom will allow each classroom to be automatically locked down and transformed into a temporary safe space.
Police and trained security personnel for each schoolhouse — Beginning with high school campuses, place a trained professional, with a firearm, and with access to a security system and monitoring cameras at all entrances and public spaces, on every high school campus. Larger metro systems often have schools resource officers in place now, but the bulk of these armed attacks are occurring in communities of 50,000 residents or less.
Regularly drill students on safety procedures for lockdown and ‘active shooter’ scenarios — Our youngest, a child with developmental delays, is well aware of “Stranger Danger,” as well as the particulars of “Stop, Drop and Roll.” Require monthly lockdown drills, tied to the receipt of state or federal grants to improve school security systems and staffing.
Rebuild and better staff law enforcement “See something/Say something” tip lines — Prioritize and reconstruct the information flow supply chain on state and federal law enforcement tip lines. This was not the first or even the second miss.
Consider re-instatement of federal death penalty for those found guilty in mass shootings — I remain a strong believer in the ultimate price being paid for the most heinous of crimes. Several states have eliminated their capital punishment statutes. Making school shootings a federal crime, or adding the potential of the death penalty back to state statutes might cause future shooters to consider the risk they are taking, versus their path to an insanity plea, or losing a shoot-out with local first responders.
And before we spend billions on a largely symbolic wall, let’s commit a fraction of those dollars to state grants to fortify and improve school security, first at our nation’s high schools, where not all, but the vast majority of these attacks are occurring. Border security is important, but this threat to the safety of our children is eminently more pressing.
Our children today may be even more concerned and traumatized, regardless of what they might say. They deserve our behavior to exemplify being the adults in the room. Cat-calling at our elected leadership or president is not likely to expedite performance or results. Sharing concerns and odd behavior needs to remain focused on a sense of caution, and not intensify alienation or bullying. And let’s begin a thoughtful and broader dialogue on many aspects of our culture which both desensitize our youth and in some ways amplify and almost glorify those who behave badly.
This problem is not simply about high capacity firearms. Solving it will require some disagreement, discomfort, compromise and prioritizing limited resources. But c’mon America — we’ve got this. What issue places more of the focus of our lives and nation’s legacy at stake?
Bill Crane is a senior
communications strategist who
began his career in broadcasting and has worked at the state capitol and in Washington in both
political parties. Contact him