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Dave Dougherty, Fargo, Published January 04 2013

Letter: LaPierre solution won’t do

The National Rifle Association’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, has suggested that our nation needs to provide armed guards, preferably police officers to begin with, to protect our nation’s children. While LaPierre believes this is the best solution for our nation, I can’t believe this is the best solution he could come up with. As a retired high school teacher of 31 years, if one of my students provided this solution to me, I would ask them to develop their solution beyond their first gut reaction, to evaluate the real challenges we would face as a nation if this was the only solution we were to adopt, and to develop multiple solutions.

Our nation has more than 132,000 elementary and secondary schools. Can you imagine the cost to schools to implement LaPierre’s solution? Listening to LaPierre on “Meet the Press,” it appears he believes if we put one guard on the front door of our schools, our children will be safe. I would suggest that to truly protect our children, we would need to place an armed guard at every entrance that has glass doors or windows bordering the doors in every building. In addition, we would need to place guards at every other entrance that is used during the day. Let’s modestly estimate an average of five entrances to be secured per school. That requires a starting point of 660,000 armed guards to protect our children during regular school hours in our school buildings.

Now, if we are serious about protecting our children, we need to anticipate that if we secure our buildings during the regular school day, then people intent on attacking our children will adjust their tactics. We will need to protect every school bus carrying students to schools and to co-curricular activities. We will need to protect our buildings beginning at 7 a.m. as we serve students breakfast and carry on preschool activities. Then we need to protect our children in post-school day activities, including athletic practices, fine arts practices, tutoring and every activity that takes place. Once we do that, we need to provide security for all games, concerts, drama productions, etc. This means we need to provide armed guards from 7 a.m. to approximately 10 p.m. at tens of thousands of schools across the nation. And we would be asked to do this when school district budgets are already stretched too thin.

Next, let’s add more than 6,700 colleges and universities in our nation. What would college budgets look like if we were to include hiring enough armed guards to secure every building on every campus? We will have the same challenges as we look to protect our innocent citizens in malls, movie theaters, office buildings and other public places.

It seems to me that while LaPierre’s solution has some merit, it can’t stand on its own. We need to look comprehensively at securing our schools, identifying and helping those individuals who seek to harm themselves and others, and reduce the destructive power that weapons have in our society.

In the 1800s, the residents of our towns in the “Wild West” knew civilization had come to their communities when cowboys were no longer free to shoot up their towns any time they wanted to. They were required to turn their guns over to the sheriff when they arrived in town in order to ensure the safety of the residents. Why would we think that allowing more people to arm themselves in public places would actually make us safer?

I think if we really want to do everything we can to make our children and citizens safe, we will need to realize that some aspects of our lives will have to change.