Anyone hoping for constructive action or a new consensus arising from the ashes of Friday’s Newtown massacre must be sorely disappointed.
Old habits die hard. So do hyper-partisan polemics.
Voices on the conservative Right (including yours truly) cite hard-to-ignore root causations: an unaddressed mental health epidemic, the risks of which are exacerbated by a decaying, rudderless culture whose agents intentionally do a very poor job of isolating and correcting aberrant behavior.
Does the mid-20th century push for deinstitutionalization look as rosy in the rear view mirror?
Meanwhile, across the fence, elements of the reactionary Left elect to obsess over the instrumentalities (e.g. firearms) of the present crisis and demand nationwide disarmament, though they fail to adequately explain how a new spate of draconian gun laws will prevent determined maniacs from realizing their homicidal fantasies. Connecticut has some of the toughest regs on the books, yet early accounts of the Newtown tragedy suggest the killer’s weapons were stolen from his mother. There’s even one circulated report alleging that a dealer recently estopped the killer from purchasing a rifle.
It didn’t matter.
Somewhere in the “middle” of this circular debate are people of good faith calling for a “balanced” approach but achieving little consensus.
Still, having celebrated the Bill of Rights’ 221st birthday on Saturday, Americans need to recall the words of America’s original “moderate” political luminary and master of compromise, Benjamin Franklin: “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety,deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” The middle way isn’t automatically the wisest course. If compromise was always a valuable end unto itself, then the Compromise of 1850 would’ve staved off civil war and Hindenburg’s efforts to control Hitler might’ve avoided world war.
But guess what, Save Jerseyans? We don’t need to save the world in a day. I know it feels like that right now. The Newtown shooting is, nevertheless, a symptom of a metastasized disease that’s festered for over half of a century. And when liberty is on the line, it’s better to proceed cautiously than begin bargaining away rights for a little temporary comfort as Franklin abhorred. Instead, let’s focus on a few things which should be executable in short order and with minimal fuss.
Other modernized yet culturally divergent countries do it, including Israel and Thailand. The results have been positive across the board.
There’s really no good argument out there against doing it.
Up until now, the primary argument against arming teachers, believe it or not, has come from school officials who claimed the problem isn’t too bad. When a proposal was recently pitched by a legislator in Wisconsin after that state’s Sikh temple tragedy, Milwaukee’s director of school safety told MSNBC how “[s]tatistically, the safest place for a child to be is in school…[w]e have problems in our schools, but not to the point where we need to arm our teachers and principals.”
I am a big fan of avoiding overreactions particularly when rights and tax dollars are on the line, folks, but how many educators are adopting THAT same position post-Newtown?
As it stands, efforts to turn our schools into safe “gun free zones” have rendered them “helpless-victim zones.”
Let’s get busy implementing a workable program at home. If I were a member of the New Jersey Legislature (God save us all), I’d immediately begin drafting legislation to provide for the arming of designated faculty in all educational institutions within the reach of our state’s regulatory authority. Not every teacher needs a gun. For example, every school with 100 teachers should have at least 25% of its staff trained to use a semi-automatic sidearm. Modest pay increases would accompany the duty, and legislative fixes could be incorporated into the final law to abrogate liability concerns.
Anticipating criticism of my proposal, let’s remember that there’s no perfect deterrent for crazy. You could, however, deter a good deal of mischief and, when the worst happens, dramatically limit causalities. Metal detectors aren’t universally necessary, but adding one or two trained security professionals to the staff wouldn’t hurt one bit. A retired police officer or military serviceman in every building. Many schools already utilize local police.
And please don’t tell me it’s too expensive. Avoid embarrassing yourself.
In New Jersey, we’re spending well over $500k dollars annually for a class room of 30 kids (much more in some low-income districts). The median public school teacher’s gross salary is just north of $57k per year… approximately 10% of the per classroom expenditure. If we can’t free up a little extra cash for the security of our children and the professionals charged with educating them, then shame on us for a lack of imagination at budget time.
Firing one or two overpaid administrators in every school district should more than do the trick. And God knows there are plenty of folks in this state who are (1) retired, (2) collecting public pensions and (3) have weapons training. Here’s an idea: let’s pay for our underfunded liabilities by putting some of these retired public servants back to work defending our children?
Or should we continue to crap up our Facebook walls debating the constitutionality/effectiveness of regulations that objectively wouldn’t have prevented Aurora/Newtown anyway?
I don’t see another solution on the table until Americans are ready for a REAL discussion concerning the sorry state of our culture.