The tragic attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida is a deeply painful reminder of how much we have failed to honestly confront the problem of school shootings in America. Putting up “Gun Free Zone” signs is not a solution. It is an act of self-deception. Killers are not slowed by community sentiment.
America is not going to become gun-free. Firearm-specific bans such as on semi-automatic rifles won’t have an impact because the majority of mass shootings in the United States are committed with handguns. Case in point: the deadliest shooting in our history, in 2007, at Virginia Tech. The killer used a handgun.
Mental health-focused “solutions” are incompatible with civil liberties. America is not going to adopt laws to apprehend or restrict every person who might become dangerous. The fact is, each killer’s threat is much more obvious after the killings.
Make no mistake – evil people with guns must be stopped by good people with guns. Furthermore, the faster good people can respond, the fewer innocent people will be killed.
Every school in America should have several teachers and administrators trained in firearms who are permitted to carry concealed weapons. The number of these “protectors of the innocent” in each school should be determined by the number of students.
Agreeing to serve in this role might be encouraged with an appropriate monthly stipend. After all, in Georgia, teachers who agree to serve as coaches are paid stipends ranging from $150 to $400 per month.
Because these protectors would have concealed weapons and not be in uniform, would-be killers would have no idea who might be capable of ending their threat by ending them.
This idea is the same principle behind the Federal Air Marshal Service, which was rapidly expanded after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The marshals provide countervailing force to stop terrorists. And these marshals are unidentifiable, so the terrorists don’t know who they are. Do you ever hear of anyone who feels less safe getting on a plane because they know an armed air marshal in on board?
If we are really serious about protecting our children, we must have trained and equipped protectors prepared to handle this type of situation whenever there are school activities. The Parkland school had an armed officer assigned to the campus, but the officer never encountered the shooter and was not able to respond in time.
Dramatically increasing the presence of uniformed, visibly-armed security guards, however, might create an environment ill-suited for learning.
Instead, teachers and administrators serving as protectors could complement and support the dedicated officer or security personnel who are already serving in many schools.
This combination of using uniformed police officers to handle standard school security challenges – while also having responsible adult protectors who are already going to be working in the school prepared to provide additional force in the case of a catastrophic emergency, like a mass shooting – is the most effective and practical way to protect our children.
About the Author
Newt Gingrich is the former Speaker of the House of Representatives.