National Rifle Association President Wayne LaPierre's post-Newtown press conference was seen as bizarre by many observers. It included the incendiary recommendation that armed guards should be posted at every school. Many scoffed at the idea and the majority on the Left saw it as a demonstration of the NRA"s lack of sensitivity to or understanding of the seriousness and complexity of the problem America faces --- where guns are used to kill over 30,000 people annually.
The USA numbers (+/-10,000 homicides annually) are particularly striking when compared to annual gun deaths in other countries such as Canada (+/-175), Japan (+/-18), England (+/-41), Spain (+/-90), Germany (+/-190), Australia (+/-30). Adjustments for population differences don't make us look much better.
Others argued simply posting an armed guard guaranteed little because a person or group plotting an attack could easily take out that person first. And some questioned the rationality of potentially escalating the situation by having armed personnel at school --- possibly resulting in an even greater tragedy if some fraction of those hired to protect schools went berserk.
Despite these objections, the NRA's proposal could be a good one for a number of reasons. Here are the arguments for it.
First, having one or more armed guards at a school would reassure parents, faculty, staff, and students that they are being protected to the highest degree possible.
Second, it would give children direct exposure to the concept that their society has people they can trust to protect them. This could have long-term benefits in regard to the relationship between police officers and the communities they protect.
Third, with approximately 100,000 public schools and 35,000 private schools as well as 7,000 institutions of higher education (both public and private) in the United States, this would generate a minimum of 200,000 and probably closer to 300,000 jobs.
The latter number assumes there would be an average of 1½ full-time equivalents per school, with small schools needing only one FTE and larger ones (especially institutions of higher education) adding an average of four FTE's to their campuses. There also would be staffing to administer the program. That easily would get the total number of new positions to 300,000.
Fourth, one of the key sources of staffing for these positions could be Veterans as well as many of the law enforcement officials who were laid off in recent years by state and local governments experiencing budget shortfalls. There are several hundred thousand looking for jobs. In turn, this approach would have the additional benefit of giving students the opportunity to meet former members of the U.S. military and law enforcement officers.
Assuming each position is paid an average of $40,000 annually (less than $20 per hour) and there are $25,000 in additional costs such as equipment, training, certification programs, taxes, benefits, vacation and sick leave, office space, other overhead, et cetera), the cost per person could easily be $65,000.
This means, for 300,000 positions, the annual tab would be almost $20 billion. To fund these position, all guns would have to be registered in the United States with an initial Community Safety Fee of $350 per weapon and an annual renewal fee of $50 per weapon plus a small tax on ammunition (e.g., averaging 25 cents per shell).
With 10 million weapons sold annually, sales would generate $3½ billion each year. With almost 300 million guns held by Americans, a $50 annual renewal fee would generate $15 billion each year. Estimates of the number of rounds of ammunition sold annually vary but assuming an average of 500 shells for new weapons and 100 for existing weapons, this would total approximately 35 billion rounds. If the fee was set at just 25 cents per round, this would generate almost $9 billion.
The resulting Community Safety Fee total would be approximately $27½ billion annually. The extra funds would cover the initiative's start-up costs so schools could get protection right away. Of course, it is possible this number would go down over time because some gun owners might trim their collections and not be willing to pay fees for weapons which are worth less than the fees.
To address potential rogue owners, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, would be in charge of ensuring all weapons are properly registered. To create a disincentive for anyone to cheat, those who fail to register a weapon would be subject to a fine of $10,000 per weapon and $5 per round of ammunition for any unregistered weapon. Funds generated by these penalties would be dedicated to the Community Safety Program protecting the nation's schools.
The elegance of this solution is that it allows America to continue its unique love affair with weapons while protecting its children. While some gun owners may protest at the cost, it is a fair price to pay for a right which the vast majority of advanced nations do not bestow upon their citizenry.
Aaron Harber hosts "The Aaron Harber Show" seen on Channel 3 KCDO-TV (K3 Colorado) on Sundays at 8:00 pm and at www.HarberTV.com. Send e-mail to Aaron@HarberTV.com. (C) Copyright 2012 by USA Talk Network, Inc. and Aaron Harber. All rights reserved.
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