Preventing School Shootings


I’ve read a wide variety of recommendations to prevent another school massacre in different places. I’m sure they all mean well, but most will be very difficult or impossible to implement.

Those who wish to further restrict gun rights may win a few battles, but even if they are very successful they aren’t going to change the landscape of the U.S. by much. If there is a “next shooter” out there right now he probably isn’t going to be affected by any new gun laws.

Those who wish to significantly revamp our mental health system to identify and better handle these situations are also unlikely to make a big difference. Among other things, our protection of civil liberties, medical privacy laws and litigiousness as a society will continue to make it difficult to prevent these cases.

Those who wish to make schools much harder targets will also probably meet with limited success. Some areas may be comfortable with armed teachers, others with armed guards or policemen, but many will not.

There are a few things I would suggest that might be more easily implemented (let’s grab the low hanging fruit first):

I don’t know about the most recent shooter, but several of the mass shooters in the recent past were motivated by the prospect of fame. Some of them obsessed about it and spent a lot of time pondering how to make their massacre the most famous ever. I propose that the major media (U.S., international, you name it) stop identifying them by name. This would be voluntary, but if enough public pressure were applied perhaps we could get them to agree to it. Yes, I know that the names and photos would still end up on the internet, but the big thrill of imagining your name and photo above the fold at the supermarket or on the home page when you log in would be gone. This may be a very small step, but not glorifying these atrocities seems like one that could get widespread support.

A second idea that I hope can get widespread support and be implemented rather quickly involves hardening the targets apart and aside from bringing in armed security (teachers or otherwise). Again, I haven’t studied the details of the Parkland shooting, but the murderer walked into the school carrying a rifle. In most office buildings in a metropolitan area this couldn’t happen. There is, at a minimum, a receptionist or security guard watching everyone who enters. If the Parkland shooter had faced this obstacle he might have still pulled it off, keep the rifle out of sight as long as possible, shoot the guard first, then start the attack. However, there is a chance that the guard would raise the alarm, possibly even stop him. Even if he took out the guard quickly and cleanly the school would know it was under attack before he reached a classroom. This could be made far more effective depending on the physical layout, for example, if the guard is situated so that they can’t be approached furtively or if there is a physical barrier that they must permit you to pass.
We should develop a comprehensive “best practices” security plan that can be fine tuned to each school’s circumstances. Obviously, nothing is foolproof, and people fail to follow through, procedures stop being followed, etc. but this seems like something that should be doable.

I’m really interested in feedback, especially any reasons these two ideas aren’t practical or worthwhile – or if the details I’m unaware of make these ideas moot.

I’m working on a separate article about other options re: guns, mental health, the government’s role in the Parkland massacre, etc. so please leave those comments out of this discussion. I really, really, want to vet the two ideas noted above, not get into an argument about the NRA or PC at this point, that can come soon enough.