There must be a name for the specific sort of argument that David Kopel of The Volokh Conspiracy is making when he proposes a solution for horrible incidents such as the case of the deranged man who rounded up and murdered a number of schoolgirls in a Pennsylvania school this week (hat tip: InstaPundit). Mr. Kopel notes that only draconian measures would prevent 100% of such ghastly acts:
…the only realistic gun control policy which would stop school shootings would be to completely prohibit firearms, and confiscate the entire existing supply of more than 200 million firearms. Lesser policies (e.g., one-gun-a-month, gun registration) would, whatever their other merits, be unlikely to have a significant effect on school shootings.
His proposal? Arm teachers:
The second-best–and much more realistic approach–would be to allow licensed, trained teachers and administrators to possess concealed handguns on school property.
Note the form of this argument. He notes that only an extreme policy would prevent 100% of the cases and proposes an alternative (which wouldn’t prevent 100% of the cases, either). He provides no evidence that a proportional policy would not produce proportional results. Perhaps someone can help me by supplying the name for this style.
I note that Mr. Kopel does not consider possible secondary effects in particular the possibility of shootouts between teachers or teachers and students, the possibility of the action making teachers targets in order to obtain their firearms, etc. Unlikely? No doubt. But possible and it’s possibility not likelihood that’s being discussed here.
People in Chicago area, particularly teachers (at least those of a certain age), are acutely aware of the possibility of such an incident. In 1988 a young woman with a history of mental illness named Laurie Dann walked into Hubbard Woods School in the posh Chicago suburb Winnetka and began shooting children. One child died.
In the aftermath of the incident Chicago area schools (particularly suburban schools) took a number of commonsense steps. First, all entrances to schools were secured. Entry was allowed only through a single entrance and then only to people specifically authorized. There was no arming of students or administrators. I don’t know that any school in the Chicago area that has implemented and enforced similar measures has ever experienced a similar incident subsequently.
IMO teachers and schools have enough on their plates without becoming armed guards to students. There is only so much time in a day.
So, here’s my alternative prescription:
- Bad things happen. No amount of preparedness will provide absolute security.
- Seek help for your mentally ill relatives and friends. In both the Laurie Dann case and no doubt in this most recent case in Pennsylvania the perpetrator had an extremely lengthy history of mental problems and, in the case of Laurie Dann at least, the problems had been excused and glossed over.
- Schools should be aware of the potential and take commonsense precautions. Is there any case in the United States of a deranged person battering a security door down to kill students?
My prescription won’t provide 100% security, either. But it will improve the odds.