After the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks that killed more than 3,000 Americans, the United States responded with an array of security upgrades that we all endure today. We walk through metal detectors at airports and government buildings, have our bags (and even shoes) scanned before flights. There are stanchion barriers at gates to stop car bombers.
In 2011, the National Priorities Project estimated the costs of these security upgrades for defense and homeland security at $7.6 trillion. The homeland security cost an estimated $636 billion, footed, of course, by U.S. taxpayers.
As I wrote last week, in 2018 we are enduring a spate of school atrocities. I cited a figure of 18 incidents from the Everytown organization, that included any gun incident on or adjacent to a school campus. Out of that number we’ve had five resulting in injury or death. In the wake of the Douglas High School massacre in which 14 students and three teachers were murdered, we are witnessing an array of responses.
In Indiana, we’ve watched 20 students arrested in Griffith, Rushville, Kokomo, Columbus, Loogootee, Evansville, Bloomington, Muncie and Carmel for making violent threats aimed a school, mostly through social media portals such as Facebook and Snapchat. The Indiana General Assembly is advancing bills on background check requirements, waiving lifetime handgun permit carry fees, and loosening restrictions for carrying guns into schools attached to churches. We’ve watched a number of our churches conduct drills to confront shooters.
At the White House on Wednesday, President Trump and Vice President Pence listened to victims and parents from Columbine and Douglas high schools, and Sandy Hook Elementary School as a jittery nation watched on live cable. Andrew Pollack’s 18-year-old daughter Meadow was murdered at Douglas. “We protect airports. We protect concerts, stadiums, embassies, the Department of Education that I walked in today that has a security guard in the elevator,” Pollack said. “How do you think that makes me feel? In the elevator, they got a security guard. 9/11 happened once, and they fixed everything. How many schools, how many children have to get shot?”
President Trump is now considering banning bump stocks (used to efficiently kill 58 in Las Vegas and wound more than 200), arming teachers, and bringing in armed military veterans into schools. “Certainly it’s controversial, but we’ll study that, along with many other ideas,” Trump said. He’s also suggested investing in mental health screening and services with a price tag measured in the billions. And he wants to “harden” school security systems.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio appeared at a CNN town hall that night and suggested Americans need to rethink their positions on gun reform, just as Florida Gov. Rick Scott has said that “everything is on the table.” Both Scott and Rubio are longtime NRA supporters. Rubio is now open to restricting the size of ammunition magazines, raising the age limit to buy rifles, and create gun violence restraining orders.
Rubio, like many of the teachers I know, is against arming educators in schools.
America has evolved significantly in other areas of safety to reduce mayhem and costs. Since I was a kid the U.S. government has placed restrictions on the sale and use of tobacco, mandated the installation and use of seat belts, lowered blood alcohol levels on drivers, toughened DUI penalties, placed protective guards on lawn mowers, and health warning labels on our beer cans.
But when it comes to the Second Amendment, the prevailing governing notion is that it should not be restricted. And when we did restrict the 2nd Amendment with the assault weapons ban of 1993 (the Brady Bill) with former President Reagan playing a key role in its passage, that was later rescinded.
As Sept. 11 changed the America we knew, this wave of school atrocities will change us even further. And it is going to create a clash of priorities. Unfettered Second Amendment rights are going to collide with another mantra of our predominant governing mode, which is low taxes.
We now watch frightened parents call for “hardened entries” for schools. This includes steel reinforced entries, vestibules and sally ports, the use of acrylic and polycarbonate bulletproof glass systems for ground level floors, entryway metal detectors that range from $3,000 to $40,000 each. Many of these changes will come to voters via Indiana’s referendum process.
The Michigan firm Total Security Solutions notes on its website, “The reality of the education system is one where funding and budgets are getting cut. A lot of times, when we speak with a school administrator or an architect working on school building renovations, we discover the original scope of the project is unrealistic. Of course, this is driven by the fierce desire to protect children and give them a safe place to learn, but to do a job as scoped initially, schools would have to pay about $1 million.” It recommends fortified entry points.
My solution is classic asset management of a given community. Have schools create office space for local police and sheriff deputies to do end-of-shift paperwork. Stagger police shifts to create less predictable arrivals. Have patrol officers “adopt” a school and make a point of making a presence at different times of the day.
Freedom isn’t cheap. It comes with costs. Taxpayers are ultimately going to have to decide how much they want to foot and how safe they want to keep their children.
— Brian Howey is publisher of Howey Politics Indiana at www.howeypolitics.com. Find him on Facebook and Twitter @hwypol.