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

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 - 01:53 PM

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.

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Comments [12]

RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey

Karol -

On the same day as the Newtown Massacre a madman with a knife attacked an elementary school in China resulting in 23 wounded and (I think) causing two deaths. The salient difference between these attacks in the USA and China? It has to be access to efficient killing hardware.

If Nancy L had survived that day, I would have wanted to see her prosecuted for her unsafe weapons handling practices that enabled her son's aberrant behavior. Her right to 'keep and bear' is ALSO her responsibility to safeguard the rest of us from misuse. She failed. Her decision to stockpile killing hardware in a home she shared with a person whose mental status she had doubts about was wreckless. She paid for that wrecklessness with her life but so did the 26 persons killed at Sandy Hook Elementary. At the range or in a gunsafe - not locked, or in a case or a cabinet.

Any person who thinks repeatedly firing bullets in a school or a movie theater is anything other than a horrific thing to do is obviously unhinged and in need of mental health services. So what happens when the probability of 'crazy' meets the probability of access to high-tech killing hardware as it does in our country?

And do you really think that putting more killing hardware in our schools is a practical idea? Aside from the predictable rise in unintended discharges and accidental shootings, an armed safety element in EVERY SCHOOL would simply add to the current tax burden and is easily defeatable by most madmen - kill the guards first or wait for a shift change or create a ruse to draw them away before beginning their spree.

Non-lethal and effective takedown is far more preferable. At least the 'mistakes' get to brush themselves off and go home. However, I think we are headed toward liability insurance requirements for handgun and assault weapon owners and (possibly) accomplice or accessory charges against the owner for misuse of firearms they own.

I personally prefer an amendment to the Constitution that limits access of deadly weapons to persons who have passed a safe gun practices course. That could cut the carnage in half in a year.

Mar. 02 2013 10:45 AM
Humpty Dumbrowski from texas

this is a good idea too keep schools safe. I hope there will not be anymore shootings anywhere in the world so everyone will be safe.() ()
( '_' )
()_(")(")

Feb. 05 2013 01:49 PM
benita casarez from brandon

i really do think that people should way more careful and they should have better security .im a 7th grader

Feb. 01 2013 12:58 PM
Victoria Zunitch from Forest Hills

Speaking of school security, how about student privacy? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/leonie-haimson/confidential-student-and-_b_1156701.html

Jan. 28 2013 01:09 AM
CL from Az.

I don't want to belittle Mr. Yang but his post is completely myopic and pollyannish. Mexico has banned guns many years ago yet the cartels are not lacking one bit for firepower and the unfortunate dead body count hasn't diminished with gun control laws. The simple statement rings true "when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns". Violence we see at the movies and tv desensitizes more and more as Hollywood continues to push the envelope preferring blood drenched scenes over the sanctity of human life.

Dec. 23 2012 12:14 AM
unkerjay from Puget Sound, WA

I might add, "ONLY" is a dangerous word. It leaves one's argument vulnerable to exceptions disproving the rule.

If we ONLY considered lowering the river, never raising the bridge, imagine what might happen to the cost of tributary commerce.

P.S. considering "armed guards", perhaps Mr LaPierre might make note of the military, police and current armed forces within the United States. Certainly in some respects we ARE safer as a result. And, yet, in some respects we are not.

Imagine the possibilities if our ONLY limitation was to that which can make us safer.

NOT arbitrary limits without definitive proof intended to preserve existing freedoms at existing levels.

Perhaps it is time to move beyond misdirection and artificial limits and amnesia against what brings us to this same point again and again and again.

Not every effort to resolve this problem is directed at restricting the rights of law abiding gun owners enshrined in the second amendment of the Constitution. Maybe it's just an effort to consider this one significant component of mass tragedies such as what happened at Newtown.

Rail that it should not be the only aspect or necessarily the most significant aspect but don't expect us to believe that the ONLY path to resolution is through an ever increasing presence of armed guards, sufficiently trained and armed against such possibilities.

It ignores the imagination and resourcefulness of would be killers.

We will never have enough guns to protect us from that.

We need a far more comprehensive and expansive solution.

And a broader consideration of the methods, means, and origins of such violence. The kind that "homeland" security, law enforcement, gun owners, health care providers, and victims ALL can lend credibility to.

WE need to change, to rethink OURSELVES and OUR collective contributions to this problem and the failure to resolve it.

This is a boat, we're ALL on it. If it's sinking, it's not THEIR problem.

This is a problem which on any given day could affect ANY of us.

Let's start there. Less blame, less restrictive. More collaborative. More productive.

Primary outcome - greater safety - REGARDLESS of the weapon of choice.

Better enforcement tools for identifying, minimizing, mitigating risk, and more effective resources and courses of action in the event of such tragedies - rapid response, early warnings, better countermeasures.

Armed guards - one of an ARSENAL of tools, not as the only or primary anymore than gun control / bans / magazine / ammo restrictions as an only or primary means simply forcing those who would do us harm to seek more effective alternatives.

How about THAT for a good place to start?

Dec. 21 2012 09:58 PM
unkerjay from Puget Sound, WA

Wayne LaPierre (NRA)

"The only thing that stops bad people with guns is good people with guns."

Maybe he's never heard:

"You use your fists, I bring a knife, you bring a knife, I bring a gun."

Or perhaps he's unaware of the extent to which police are outnumbered and outgunned.

Or maybe he's never heard of "perimeter expansion". Block access to schools, how about school buses, school access routes? Guards for those "soft targets"? Semi-automatic weapons with high capacity magazines for the guards as well?

What about alternate means, methods? Snipers? Biological weapons? Explosives? Malls? Public Buildings? Public Parks? Should EVERYONE be armed to the teeth? Good business for weapons manufacturers. Good business for bulletproof vest manufacturers and hardened shelters, hardened cars, but is all that REALLY making us safer? Is THAT the society we should be living in, that of the better equipped, the better marksmen?

Does he really believe that we should ONLY be looking at his interpretation of reality and the solutions therein or that we should be free to explore other possibilities, other interpretations that YES account for law abiding gun owners and users but that also entertain the possibility that in addition to that we can look at ALL possible concerns and means NOT just a better armed society?

"I reject your reality and substitute my own."

I submit, Mr. LaPierre, that, in my opinion, yours is not the ONLY possible solution, the only possible avenue of resolution. If we try hard enough we can find a way for gun owners and the rest of us to coexist peacefully without turning us all into gun owners living in a fortified America.

Dec. 21 2012 08:57 PM
Michelle Yang from new jersey

arm every school guard and next will be arm every movie theatre, every shopping center, every train station, every bus station, every store, every cafe and every restaurant and bar - this is clearly not the solution we're looking for - ban all the guns if possible. they did it in england, in australia and it was a total success. why can't we do it? what is wrong with american?!

Dec. 21 2012 05:11 PM
Charles from Kentucky

We should learn both. Our First pres stated it best. Now why would one person armed deter any criminal any different than a thousand armed people that are trained deter criminals everywhere.
They do not go by laws so take away the fear from law biding good people and scare the criminals and others with the facts of everyone has a gun and are trained to use it in defense.
Educate not outlaw, please consider this different approach the old one of doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome is just insane. Lets save lives, please try to understand how you are when around Police with their guns would be the way everyone would feel if we all had guns. Ask yourself and be truthful with your self!

Dec. 19 2012 01:47 PM
hippiethatlovescanadianass from Boulder, CO

This tragedy is a reminder that we do need better gun regulations, not so much in terms of broad sweeping knee-jerk decisions but real pragmatic solutions like real consequences for letting ones weapons fall in to the wrong hands. You can put a lock on a trigger of any gun or put any gun in a gun safe, I feel that people should face real consequences for irresponsibly storing their weapons, mandatory jail time to be specific (needless to say Ms Lanza paid the ultimate price for her irresponsibility). Additionally, I really believe that if I have to go through a gov't background check for my job anyone that wants a permit for a pistol or an assault weapon should also be scrutinized on that level. Right now I can go to a gun show and have the identical background check my landlord did to secure my lease and walk out the door with an AK with all the trimmings, not good enough, not thorough enough, assault weapons need to be difficult to obtain period, they have very little practical use in terms of a gun as a tool and a lot of use as a weapon, I can take an elk down in 1 shot from a hunting rifle, why do I need a semi-automatic mil-spec weapon with a 30-100 round clip of ammo for that; because the government might turn on me?! Give me a break, the government loves taxpayers, not too concerned with that outcome, plus if they really wanted to end me in some paranoid apocalyptic world, drone strike and done! People will argue that Adam did not obtain his weapons conventionally but what about the Aurora shooter who did via gun shows and online? This guy stockpiled over 3000 rounds of ammo from 1 online store without a flag going up anywhere, the same outlet he purchased multiple 100 round magazines. Capitalists and consumers likewise need to adopt a sense of personal responsibility. The old cliche goes: with great power comes great responsibility, the ability to end another person's life instantly falls in to that realm and we are consistently proving that some of us are not reasonable or responsible enough to have guns and the unfortunate reality is that these deeds become punitive to many who are responsible, but that is life, it is unfair but being a member of a society comes with some hardship sometimes.

Dec. 18 2012 06:19 PM
Karol from NYC

NONE of those things would stop Adam Lanza. Next.

Dec. 18 2012 05:55 PM
JB from Queens

the author states "The anti-gun side says we should ban guns"

no, hardly anyone says that. this is why the debate doesn't happen. any attempt to discuss common-sense measures like background checks, gun tracking, and other uses of technology are all dismissed as backdoor attempts to ban guns.

Dec. 18 2012 05:44 PM

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