Huffington Post today with an important, if unfortunate local history lesson that occurred to us as well during this morning’s announcement by the National Rifle Association:
In a highly anticipated press conference on Friday, the National Rifle Association announced that after a week of reflection following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, it decided the way to prevent another such tragedy was to place more guns in schools.
“I call on Congress today to act immediately, to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school — and to do it now, to make sure that blanket of safety is in place when our children return to school in January,” said the NRA’s top lobbyist Wayne LaPierre in a speech at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C.
But having armed security on-site failed to prevent the deadliest mass murder at an American high school.
In 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 15 people and wounded 23 more at Columbine High School. The destruction occurred despite the fact that there was an armed security officer at the school and another one nearby — exactly what LaPierre argued on Friday was the answer to stopping “a bad guy with a gun.” [Pols emphasis]
In fact, as we recalled during today’s NRA press conference and Huffington Post’s Amanda Terkel recounts, there was an armed police officer permanently assigned to Columbine High School in 1999. Jefferson County Deputy Neil Gardner exchanged fire with the gunmen at Columbine without stopping them, and was quickly backed up by, as everyone knows, dozens of officers who were also unable to prevent the killing of 13 people (and the killers’ own suicides).
This isn’t the first example of a wrongheaded response to tragedy that has a strong, if superficial, allure. Sure, there’s a chance that armed guards in schools could stop an act of violence. The practice of assigning police officers to schools, after all, is not new.
But as our community’s own experience shows, it’s not the solution either.