Look to Texas for a proven template to combat school shootings


There is nothing more tragic than the death of an innocent child. Words cannot capture the grief that we feel when young lives so full of potential are lost to violence. It is not surprising, then, that Americans reacted to the most recent school shooting with sorrow, anger, and a desire to know whether it could have been prevented.

Gun control advocates have been capitalizing on this compassion, but their proposals fail to strike at the heart of the problem. These groups are heavy on emotional appeal but light on practical solutions to secure our schools. Before we reflexively expend our political will for action on more futile gun laws, people should consider a Texas program that has already proven effective.

{mosads}Texas allows school districts to approve “marshals” or “guardians” as the last line of defense against a shooter. Under this program, faculty members volunteer to keep a firearm within reach in case the unthinkable happens. They undergo mental health screenings and rigorous firearm safety training — in some cases they are held to a higher standard than police officers.

In an active shooter situation, law enforcement takes roughly three minutes to respond on a good day (through no fault of their own). It’s disturbing to consider the damage that can be inflicted in that amount of time. Only school marshals — who, contrary to the media portrayal, represent a select few trained and capable staff members — can deliver response times measured in seconds rather than minutes.

Arguably, the deterrence factor is even more important. It shouldn’t take an academic study to prove that shooters are far less likely to target a school that will offer resistance. It’s commonsense. Those willing to shoot defenseless children are deranged, evil men, and the only thing such men respond to is force. They are cowards, and the prospect of return fire is the only thing likely to convince them to leave a school alone.

Coverage in the aftermath of Parkland has focused disproportionately on the AR-15. The gun has been established as a symbol of mass shootings, a device designed for wanton destruction. What use, we are repeatedly asked, could private citizens have for an AR-15? Texans like myself have been frustrated by this collective amnesia. On November 5, 2017, a private citizen heroically stopped the fleeing shooter of the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs using an AR-15.

The lesson is that guns are morally neutral. It is people who have the capacity to use them for good or evil. Those willing to kill the innocent in cold blood will hardly be hindered by a new gun regulation. They are, after all, willing to murder – it defies logic that they will respect a gun law. It stands to reason, therefore, that schools should be made a hard target, just like airports, stadiums and government buildings.  

President Trump recently endorsed the broad outlines of Texas’ school security plan. While I welcome this issue going national, states have every reason to seize the initiative themselves – student safety shouldn’t have to hinge on the intractable gridlock of Washington politics.

The states are the laboratories of democracy, flexible and resourceful enough to try out creative ideas. Texas has already proven the effectiveness of school marshals, and I hope other states will realize that they can implement this program inexpensively with or without Washington’s blessing.

There have been no shootings, intentional or otherwise, at any participating districts in Texas. Teachers and students feel — and in fact are — safer coming into work.

A sign outside of Argyle High School, which has opted into the program, reads “Please be aware that the staff at Argyle are armed and may use whatever force is necessary to protect our students.” Is a would-be shooter more likely to target such a school or a “gun-free zone?” The answer is obvious.

The children at our schools deserve better than another round of trite political opportunism on guns. They deserve concrete measures to secure their safety. Texas has developed a system that works; if other states are serious about reducing school shootings, they will follow suit.

Ken Paxton is attorney general of Texas.

Tags arm teachers Donald Trump gun violence March For Our Lives Mass murder Mass shooting Parkland school shooting school safety School shooting Sutherland Springs church shooting

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