In an ideal world, no one could quarrel with Rose Nolen’s recent columns opposing firearms in schools. Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world.
The psychos who target students in schools and colleges — where the vast majority of mass shootings have occurred — do so for a couple of reasons. The first relates to the concentration of targets in a small space, where the most people can be killed in a short time.
The second reason these shooters prefer schools is because they know their guns will be the only ones there. Making schools off-limits to firearms sounds good — but only if everyone plays by the same rules. The current situation guarantees only one thing: that the students will be utterly defenseless when a mass killer shows up. Does that make sense?
We have armed guards in shopping centers, banks, airports and other locations, so why not place them where they are most urgently needed? Security experts could design a system where they would be minimally intrusive and visible, yet prepared to go into action when needed.
This could be done in relatively short order, but other steps should be taken as well. A study into whether violent video games lead to aggressive behavior should be undertaken. We also need to take a hard look at the effects of “deinstitutionalization,” which puts some 70,000 severely mentally ill people on our streets at any given time, some of whom are at risk of turning violent.
Stopping someone who is willing to kill himself if he can take others with him will never be 100 percent effective. The most we can hope for is to cut his chances significantly. That’s worth trying.