A friend on Facebook who I’ll call Joe (because that’s his name) posted a link to a news item covering the announcement by the Arizona Attorney General recommending that schools arm their principals. Joe then made the thoughtless mistake of commenting on this link with the single word, “Thoughts?” The one thing that I’m sure we can all agree on is that Joe is somehow to blame for the rest of this post.
My immediate reaction to the headline was negative. I don’t see more guns as a solution to guns. But after actually (gasp!) reading the article I think the AG makes a pretty good argument, takes a number of factors into consideration, and makes a clear distinction between solving the “gun problem” and protecting potential victims. One of my concerns was that the headline specifically mentioned arming only principals, many of whom might not be well suited to the task, but the AG’s plan actually refers to “principals or other designated staff” which allows the assignment to be given to the person best suited to the job. Mixing this up is a good idea, otherwise the principal would just be the first target, and frankly if you’re going to implement this plan then there should be more than one person in each school authorized and trained to use the firearm simply to provide coverage for sick days, etc. Regardless of who is responsible for the gun it is tactically critical that they are NOT uniformed. Again, a uniformed guard would be the first target instead of the principal.
The plan also would have the actual firearm located in a secure location and does not require that the designated responder carry it with them at all times. This is another compromise between protection and safety. This implies a need for effective and rapid communication between the location of an intruder and the designated protectors, and the article mentions this but doesn’t provide any details on that part of the solution. Putting the gun in a secure location is a good safety measure but also provides a single point of failure if the shooter has done their research and knows the location of the weapon. Get to it first, and the school is just as vulnerable as they are now.
As I’ve previously posted, the causes behind these sort of shootings are complex and this proposal doesn’t address any of them. Also, don’t forget that in the worst of these cases the shooters are planning to die anyway so the best you can hope for from a solution like this is to reduce the number of casualties. This proposal isn’t perfect but I think that if it is properly implemented it may provide an additional level of protection and deterrence, and hopefully buy us some time to address the real issues.