Today Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne announced the worst idea in the history of school security. According to his press release:
"The proposal is that any school that wishes to do so, may designate the Principal or another designee to receive training in the use of firearms and how to handle emergencies such as that which occurred in Newtown. The training would be provided by personnel of the Attorney General’s Office, and of the cooperating Sheriff’s Offices. The training would be free to the schools. The designated individual (no more than one per school) would then be authorized to keep a firearm locked in a secure place, and would have adequate communication to be alerted to an emergency in any part of the school."
Here's the letter that I wrote him, upon hearing of this disaster-in-the-making:
Dear Attorney General Horne,
I read today that you'd like to arm a member of every school's staff, as a preventive measure against school shootings. I'm a writer, and I've been invited to speak at a symposium in Colorado (site of too many mass shooting events) in January, on the topic "Inside the Mind of a Mass Murderer." So I'm more than a little expert on this topic, and I've been doing considerable additional research in preparation for my talk.
The number of times that an armed civilian has stopped a mass shooter in the United States is zero. Not a single time. There are a couple of instances where a civilian has shot a mass shooter AFTER the shootings were over (possibly, though doubtfully, preventing bloodshed on some later occasion), but in no cases has a civilian ever prevented a mass shooter from shooting more people. None.
At the January 8, 2011 shooting incident in Tucson, unarmed civilians were able to disarm Jared Lee Loughner when he emptied his extended magazine, but the only armed civilian on the scene, fortunately, did not use his weapon, because if he had he would have shot the wrong person. At the Fort Hood shootings, an Army base full of trained soldiers didn't stop the shooting--a trained police officer did. At Columbine, an armed deputy sheriff didn't stop the shootings--they continued until the shooters killed themselves.
A little firearms training won't equip a school official to handle a mass shooter. This is a situation akin to close-quarters combat. Police officers with years of training can make a difference, on some occasions. Sending a school official into a mass shooting scene with a gun will only exacerbate the situation and possibly result in more loss of life.
Finally, school shootings are exceedingly rare in this country. Fewer than 1% of the firearms deaths of school-age children take place on school property. Mass shootings in general have become more severe, with higher casualty rates, since the expiration of the assault weapons ban in 2004. We would be better off, as a state (a state with an inordinately high rate of gun deaths) and as a nation, if we reinstated that ban, outlawed high-capacity magazines, and tried to wean ourselves as a society from the idea that if guns kill people, more guns will prevent killing.
I hope you will consider the reality of the situation, and not the politics. These are the lives of our children you're talking about putting at needless risk.
Feel free to contact me if I can help advise you or any member of your staff on this issue. I will be making my concerns public.
Sincerely, Jeffrey J. Mariotte
When NRA accomplice-to-mass-murder Wayne LaPierre suggested putting an armed police officer into every school, it was ridiculous. There are just shy of 100,000 K-12 schools in this country, and as noted above, school shootings are very, very rare. At Columbine, the deputy sheriff was sitting in a car eating lunch when the shooting began. Every armed cop in every school will need a lunch break, and bathroom breaks. Same with the school officials Mr. Horne wants to arm. Additionally, they'll have days when they're out sick, or when they're in but didn't sleep well the night before, or have other stressors on their minds. If a cop is sick, the police force can assign someone else to that post, but Horne is specific that there will only be one armed official at each school, so if that person is unavailable or not functioning at full capacity, he or she will be no help.
The estimated cost of a single cop in every school is somewhere in the $5-6 billion range. The estimated cost of an armed school official in every school in Arizona is incalculable, because it will be paid in the blood of innocent children.