We find ourselves once again mourning as a nation over the unspeakable and tragic loss of 17 Americans, most of which were children. The horror of this tragedy is beyond our comprehension, which is why these school shootings spark the reactions that they do. It’s a parent’s worst nightmare; it’s a nation’s worst nightmare. We should be able to expect to send our defenseless children to school and they come home safe. We should be able to expect that while they are at school the most basic of security infrastructure and protocols are in place to protect them. Sadly, tragedy after tragedy has demonstrated that this is not the case.
You can turn your TV or radio on at this very moment and every pundit or personality is wringing their hands, literally spit balling solutions as if we’re dealing with aliens invading from another planet and we don’t know what to do. The main topic of course is Gun Control. Those that oppose the 2nd Amendment never miss an opportunity to propose the removal of gun rights and make an inanimate object the source of tragedy. Every now and then you’ll even hear a Gun Control proponent honest enough to admit that nothing they propose would have prevented the most current attack or any other. But maybe, just maybe giving up a fundamental constitutional right (rights we are born with, not granted by any government) could prevent something similar in the future.
Other people not so bent on removing the rights of Americans astutely point to other possible contributing factors like mental health, the over prescribing of psychotropic drugs, a society desensitized to violence through video games and movies, the break down of the family unit, the decline of religion and morality… I could go on. All of those are complicated issues that we neither have the will nor means to solve any one of those issues, much less all of them. Never mind that you’d be hard pressed to directly attribute any of those as cause and effect to any mass shooting. ‘The Why’, can almost never be isolated and even if it was, it wouldn’t change the solution. These discussions are more about trying to sound smart or pushing personal, ideological, and political agendas and never really about preventing future tragedies. So what's the real answer to why school shootings happen? Because we allow them to happen… that’s the hard truth.
It is no harder to commit a school shooting today than it was 18 years ago at Columbine High School! This track record of failure would be considered gross negligence in any other situation, and government is the only entity that could ever get away with not being held accountable after so many tragedies. This is a very simple physical security issue! There is no excuse that schools do not have mandatory security infrastructure and protocols in place that are designed to prevent and deter a threat and other elements that mitigate casualties if a breach of security does occur. Why are schools, the institutions that are trusted with our precious children, somehow exempt from the common-sense approach that would be required for any other entity, facility, or company?
It didn’t take many banks to be robbed before robust security was commonplace in every banking facility. Yet here we are, 18 years after Columbine, having experienced the savage murder of 100’s of our children and we’re still sitting around scratching our heads like confused monkeys talking about ineffective and impossible abstract solutions!
It’s simple physical security, stupid! We can easily create access control points and identify and control every person that comes into a school. We can easily compartmentalize rooms and buildings with manual and electronic locks along with bullet resistant glass and walls. We can easily put other protocols in place that keep our kids safe. This isn’t rocket science and it’s a disgrace that we don’t actually care enough to propose real solutions. We’re so eager to reduce a tragedy to a hashtag to push agendas that we don’t apply the real common-sense solution of mandating security at schools. THAT should be the knee jerk reaction because physical security is what will prevent this from happening again.
Notice I didn’t include arming school staff or security guards. If we emplaced the correct physical security infrastructure and protocols, armed staff would likely not be necessary. Armed staff or guards would definitely be a greater deterrent and I personally believe armed staff should be on site… I mean it’s only our children’s lives we’re talking about. But, I do realize that there are many people with some weird aversion to putting armed anything in schools. The same people that enjoy armed security at the local sports arena are for some reason opposed to protecting our children with a method proven so effective that we use it to protect our president, along with other politicians and their children. Even the politicians that are the most ardent supporters of gun control would never give up their armed security. Sit and think about that for a few minutes. Very often, there is also armed security at the private schools their children attend…
We have to wake up. How many more children have to die before we hold our government accountable? We could have real security in almost every school by the end of the year. Our government has done nothing; we’ve done nothing. Why is it that school shootings are more common than they were 18 years ago and just as easy for a murderer to commit? If we’re serious about a real solution to this problem, we need to demand that our tax dollars go toward protecting our children while they are in the care of our government. That’s not a lot to ask.
Gary Melton is a former U.S. Army Special Forces Weapons Sergeant and Sniper Team Leader with 4 combat tours. He has worked full time for the last 6 years as the Unit Chief of a Security and Threat Prevention program at a federal agency, and is the Owner and Lead Instructor for Paramount Tactical Solutions.