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After Sandy Hook, Are Ideologies More Important Than Children?

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On Friday, National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre called for a national effort to place armed security guards in every U.S. school, and offered the NRA's assistance to the federal government for such an effort. His proposal - like those of liberal politicians who want to ban manufacture of military-style assault weapons -- deserves a fair hearing.

The proposal was met quickly with derision, and Mr. LaPierre himself was dismissed by various media outlets as sounding "paranoid," and "crazy" and was even referred to, according to the New York Daily News, as a "mad gunman" himself -- despite the fact that he essentially called for broader implementation of school security than President Bill Clinton put in place in the aftermath of the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School as part of a comprehensive plan that included counseling for teens and more police in schools. From this piece in the Los Angeles Times, April 16, 2000:

Clinton also unveiled the $60-million fifth round of funding for "COPS in School," a Justice Department program that helps pay the costs of placing police officers in schools to help make them safer for students and teachers. The money will be used to provide 452 officers in schools in more than 220 communities.

"Already, it has placed 2,200 officers in more than 1,000 communities across our nation, where they are heightening school safety as well as coaching sports and acting as mentors and mediators for kids in need," Clinton said.

I support the efforts of Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) to ban the sale, importation and prospective possession of assault weapons even though, as some point out, passing laws and initiating gun buybacks might not ensure disappearance of assault weapons any more than the War on Drugs insures disappearance of drugs. After all, since criminals and the profoundly maladjusted are not inclined to comply with the law and, in the case of the insane, to operate rationally, such laws are more likely to prevent law-abiding people from having these weapons than to prevent these others.

On the other hand, in cases like that of the Newtown shooter, the fact that these military-style weapons were lying around made it easier for a maladjusted individual to commit a massacre. Is it unreasonable to suppose that, over time, if fewer of these military-style weapons -- that can facilitate mass, quick killing, without a lot of reloading -- are in circulation and easily accessible, fewer lunatics will be likely to get hold of them? In hopes that is true, I support the proposed legislation. Regarding Second Amendment concerns, the slippery slope argument is weak. Conceived as a hedge against tyranny, the Second Amendment will remain intact should government enact sensible restrictions, as a public safety measure, on manufacture and civilian access to modern military-style weapons.

Before critics of the NRA dismiss the idea of armed security personnel in schools, they should be careful not to fall prey to the same reflexive, fanatical thinking of which they accuse staunch opponents of even limited restrictions on gun manufacture. Consider: a sizable minority of U.S. schools already employ armed security personnel. And so do the majority of schools in Israel. The last several times I was in Jerusalem, I noticed lines of tiny children walking accompanied by their teachers -- and armed guards (Israeli soldiers, I believe) at either end of the line. LaPierre cited that every school in Israel has armed guards protecting children. In all the years of Palestinian suicide bombings and other terrorism, rarely has a school been targeted. Terrorists know that schools in Israel are not "soft" targets. As such, the guarding of children has been an effective deterrent.

To dismiss without consideration the idea of trained, armed security personnel in schools in the name of being "gun free" or with the statement "there are already too many guns" is to put ideology above the security of children. Israelis, a peace-loving people, recognize they do not have that luxury.

The idea would need to be implemented with care, because for every bold decision, there's a potential unintended consequence, such as a kid or kids accidentally getting hold of guns, or overpowering security personnel (although as mentioned earlier, there are already thousands of armed guards in U.S. schools and I have never heard of that happening). You'd want to hire trained people, not just low-paid, marginal employees. But a petition has already been circulated promoting the idea of hiring competent U.S. veterans to do the job. Also, under Clinton's plan, the armed guards were police officers, who also spent time "coaching sports and acting as mentors and mediators for kids in need."

Sounds like a great combination of liberal and conservative approaches to me.

Consider, too, that in the U.S. we have armed guards protecting our airports, our banks, and as Mr. LaPierre accurately pointed out, members of Congress.

Are they more precious than our children?

Or is all the talk about protecting our children, and children being our most precious resource, etc., from liberals as well as conservatives, just a bunch of platitudes? When it comes time to even have a conversation, it seems to me many people are already vociferously defending their sacred cows -- no guns! Second Amendment! -- before even hearing out the proposals of the other side and considering creative, mulch-pronged, bipartisan strategies that might actually reduce the likelihood of another Sandy Hook.