School Board, let your staff carry concealed

To borrow that usually empty catchphrase, do it for the children

In the wake of the horrific Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, pundits and politicians are composing a shrill cacophony that has the right wing, the NRA and many others talking about trained security officers in every school and blaming video games for violence. It has the lefties giddy with the chance to ban something.

And their prescriptions are not mutually exclusive. Pretty much everything folks are saying could be implemented. If any of them get their way, we’re likely to lose yet more of our civil liberties and throw away cash for little real gain all in the name of a crisis that doesn’t really exist.

Right now we need to listen to H.L. Mencken: “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

Words can’t describe the evil murders of small children at Sandy Hook. Only the sickest waste of human skin and breath wouldn’t be utterly repulsed by what happened.

But it represents no crisis.

Our nation has been headed the right direction with crime rates in general since the early 1990s. Crime rates are down. They keep going down. What we’ve been doing is working. This is a fact.

The number of victims of mass shootings has ranged from about 30 to 130 in the past 30 years. While 2012 will be on the higher end of that scale, there is no trend upward.

“There is no pattern. There is no increase,” said criminologist James Allen Fox of Boston’s University in an Associated Press story. He has been studying the subject since the 1980s, spurred by a rash of mass shootings in post offices. The shootings that get the most media attention are rarest.

“Without minimizing the pain and suffering of the hundreds…who have been victimized in senseless attacks, the facts say clearly that [there] has been no increase in mass killings,” Fox wrote. When clusters of incidents occur close together, he added, that likely reflects a mixture of copycatting and coincidence.

The chance of being shot in one of these incredibly rare incidents has decreased substantially. The U.S. population is now 311 million. It was around 225 million 30 years ago.

At best, the NRA is talking about spending billions to save 30 to 130 lives per year. If it costs $5 billion to put a security officer in each school and it saves every life in a bad year, we’ve spent $38.5 million to save a single life. Chances of a single security guard stopping every incident are low. Most schools have a lot of doors, and the bad guy will always have surprise on his side and a good chance to get the drop on a guard.

That price tag ranges much higher in a good year, in which 30 lives are saved, but some will say that no price is too high to save a life. But if that were true, we could reasonably accept the costs of never driving and parking every car in the nation to save more than 30,000 lives per year, including children and adults. We could accept the price of placing a security officer on every bridge to prohibit rocks from being dropped on passing cars. We would accept the cost in liberty and remove backyard pools, which cost some 4,000 lives per year.

The idea of spending more and more cash and liberty on our security has given us the Transportation Services Administration and the Patriot Act.

A new ban on so-called “assault guns” is the silliest idea of them all. Security guards would no doubt make some kind of difference. A ban will accomplish nothing, not to mention the inherent rights violation in such a ban.

The Columbine shooting occurred on April 20, 1999, smack in the middle of the ban on assault weapons that ran from 1993 to 2004.

It seems absurd to even have to mention a possible gun ban, but our ridiculous politician class can’t help itself when it sees an excuse to curb citizens’ liberties.

All that said, we certainly have a problem when 30 to 130 people per year (out of 311 million today) are randomly killed. It’s disturbing to imagine how easily we and our loved ones could be kicked off the planet, and these incidents bring that home.

We can take steps to prevent this sort of thing from happening here, even though it’s not likely we would have to deal with any such incidents in the next 20 years. Taking action, though, would further reduce the possibility and would leave us with better defenses in place.

The cost is zero dollars and we can implement it quickly.

It doesn’t take federal or state action to improve our security in this case. Their solutions cost too much. They’re too invasive.

The answer is for the District 55 School Board to repeal its policy against staff carrying weapons. Our culture probably can’t handle open carry, and the board could retain a ban at that level, but there’s no reason staff members who qualify for a concealed handgun license shouldn’t be able to arm themselves at school.

If a potentially violent incident were to happen in one of our schools, having armed staff members on the premises would ensure that it could be addressed immediately. No longer would it be solely the shooter who is able to move armed through the school.

The ban on staff carrying concealed serves no real purpose. It really doesn’t protect students or staff. It doesn’t do anything except ensure our staff members cannot defend themselves or the children should Sweet Home become the site of one of these rare mass shootings.

Any person bent on causing that kind of harm is not going to be stopped by letters on a sign or on a page banning their attack.

Oregon state Rep. Dennis Richardson of Central Point has suggested enlisting two or three adult volunteers at each school and training them to serve as campus responders.

School Board, take this idea up the January meeting. Set an example. Don’t fear the political reaction. This community would probably give you medals while the anti-gun fearful around the state cringe. You’ve got nothing to lose, and in a rare bad situation, you and Sweet Home families have a lot to gain.

Everyone else, urge your favorite School Board member to consider this. Drop by and bring it up at the Jan. 14 meeting.