Our kids started back to school on Aug. 5. That same day we received an email from the school district reminding us of all of the safety measures they’ve implemented. One of my favorites was, “All of our schools have 24-hour exterior cameras, creating a virtual video fence to deter unauthorized activity.” A virtual video fence?
On the drive home recently, KTAR reported that all six schools and the two administration buildings in the Apache Junction school district were going to be outfitted with panic buttons. Really?
Of course, all of these measures are in response to the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., last year.
After that tragedy, the National Rifle Association proposed putting armed security personnel, or School Resource Officers (SRO), in every school.
I’m a life member of the National Rifle Association (NRA), and that’s a horrible idea. First, there’s the cost. There are 384 public schools in Phoenix, and each would need an SRO. If an SRO costs $100,000 for salary, benefits, equipment, training, etc., that’s $38.4 million in annual, incremental cost to the city. And just how would we pay for that?
Second, there’s the impact. A good friend of ours is an SRO. We think he does invaluable work at his school. But we don’t think he’s there to prevent another Newtown. There was an SRO at Columbine High School. The shooters waited until his lunch break, then launched their attack while the SRO was off campus. Virginia Tech had a force of 40 uniformed police officers on campus. The shooter simply put in obstacles to slow down their response time. Criminals don’t obey the law, but they’re not stupid. They can see and adjust to the presence of an SRO.
Also in response to Newtown, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horn suggested that we train and arm volunteer faculty and staff already in the schools. The hysteria that generated was laughable: “If a school is attacked, they might shoot more innocent students than the attacker.” “They’re not trained like the police, or SWAT teams, or Navy SEALS, so they can’t be trusted with a gun.” “The mere presence of guns will increase violence, not reduce it.” “A gun on school grounds, even though concealed, will do permanent, psychological harm to every student, their families, and all of their descendants.”
So, we end up with a virtual video fence.
And if an Adam Lanza shows up, the faculty and staff in Phoenix will react the same way that faculty and staff at Sandy Hook did: with a stern look and harsh language.
I recently read an article that on Aug. 19 students returned to school in Clarksville, Ark., north of Little Rock. They were accompanied by 20 armed faculty and staff. Yes, guns on school grounds! Oh, the horror!
The Clarksville school district decided that stern looks and harsh language wasn’t enough to protect their kids, so the district spent $50,000 training 20 volunteers, allowing them to covertly carry concealed on school grounds. Criminals will know that people on campus may be armed, but they won’t know who or where they are. Just as Horne suggested.
I wonder which will be more of a deterrent: the possibility of armed resistance, a panic button or a virtual video fence?
This is a great test case. We should monitor the schools in Clarksville to see how long it takes before one of those guns goes off by itself.
Perhaps someone from Arizona People Acting for a Safer Society could monitor the Clarksville newspaper for us? Anyone?
• CPA Bill Richardson and his wife, Annelle, have lived in Ahwatukee for more than 17 years. They have four children and one grandchild.