Opinion: School Security - Not Gun Control - is what we Should Learn from Sandy Hook

Metal Detector in New York City public school

After every awful mass shooting in America, the hot topic becomes gun control. The anti-gun side says we should ban guns, the pro-gun side says everyone should own a gun. The debate is being had all over the internet so I won't add to it at this time except to say none of the plans presented by either side do anything realistic in the short term to stop other Adam Lanzas.

What would be realistic is implementing a new level of security for places where groups of people congregate and where these kinds of attacks seem to take place.

School shootings unfortunately happen with enough frequency that it’s time to make security of the physical space a priority. None of us love the idea of metal detectors and security guards. We all want to believe that nothing could ever happen to us, that our kids are safe and something like that can’t happen here. It can, it has, it does.

It doesn’t necessarily mean we need to be Israel, with its metal detectors and armed guards at malls and bus stations (though maybe someday we will), but it might mean we collectively need to be more like Jews in New York and around the world.

It is no secret that Jews are a targeted group wherever we live. Security is second-nature for Jews, even outside of Israel. The inconveniences that come with that security are mostly taken in stride.

Our daughter’s Jewish nursery school on the Upper West Side is a happy place. Community-oriented, calm and welcoming, the school encourages an openness and acceptance that make it a wonderful place to be. But all that openness and acceptance doesn’t mean they don’t have a metal detector and a crew of security guards checking IDs and searching bags as people come in. They also have cement blocks on the sidewalk in front of the building to prevent a car from slamming into it.

The synagogue across the street from where we live also has the cement block, as well as a frequent police presence in front of it — particularly during times of services or on holidays.

Both places, and every other Jewish-affiliated organization, school and shul, must take their security this seriously. This is the way we live — and while we all wish it weren’t so, we face the truth about the world and concentrate on survival.

It doesn’t sound like the Sandy Hook Elementary School had much, or any, security nor do most schools across the country. The original story had the shooter being buzzed in. But Gov. Malloy of Connecticut noted on “This Week” on ABC “He [the shooter] discharged to make an opening and then went through it.” The only security the school is reported to have had is a buzzer.

This isn’t blaming the victim. We all wish a locked door and a buzzer were enough to keep out a maniacal murderer. But facing reality that it’s not is necessary to protect ourselves and our children.

This is not to say we don’t need to work on deeper cultural problems, or address failures in our mental-health system or any of the other long-term ideas suggested in the wake of these atrocities.

But our most important reaction should be rationally taking steps that will stop these kinds of attacks in the short term, and better security in our schools should be the first step.