Former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Nikolas Cruz is accused of walking onto the campus in Parkland, Fla. and attacking dozens of helpless students with an AR-15 gun. The shooting left 17 dead and dozens of others injured.
“Thoughts and prayers” has become an all-too-common phrase tweeted across the internet and spoken by countless politicians who do not take legislative action after shootings. Still, there is gridlock in Congress about what to do regarding recent gun violence to prevent it from continuing. The two political parties blame the other for failing to identify the problem. Democrats suggest stricter gun control laws would prevent attacks, while Republicans argue that “guns don’t kill people; people kill people” just like “pencils don’t cause spelling mistakes” and “cars don’t cause accidents.”
While it is frightening that despite his suspect record, Cruz was able to get his hands on such a deadly weapon, it is arguably just as alarming how easily he — or anyone for that matter — can enter most school campuses. Yes, there are laws that are meant to prevent trespassing during school hours, but how can they be enforced?
The idea of adding security guards or arming school teachers has been floating around for quite some time, but neither side is pushing heavily for its implementation. It does no good to blame the other side for failure to act, and then turn away from a realistic bipartisan response. Can you really imagine a politician taking to the podium and advocating against increasing security for helpless children in public schools? That politician would be chastised off Capitol Hill in a mere election cycle. Boosting school security as a possible remedy should certainly be looked into.
Despite how President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for 2019 slashes more than $25 million from funding for school violence prevention programs, members of the Republican Party have suggested it briefly. Each time the suggestion is brought forth, some members of the Democratic Party criticize them for hypocritically being willing to spend more money on security in schools, but refusing to fund other aspects of schools. But why make this political? If politicians suggest security programs that would benefit students and boost safety, this should be taken seriously by all on a bipartisan level.
The most prominent argument against bettering the security of America’s schools is the hefty cost. One estimate puts adding security guards and several metal detectors in every school in America at a cost of $13.3 billion per year. This estimate includes multiple metal detectors in public and private schools with a $72,000 salary for several security guards at the location. To put $13.3 billion per year in perspective, the Trump Administration’s budget proposal for defense spending is $469 billion, and its proposed infrastructure investment is $200 billion. There is a way to make room for $13.3 billion for children’s safety. Considering conservatives are typically the ones who oppose increased spending on infrastructure, it is surprising that Democrats are not joining them in this push to make schools safer.
The increased security is not guaranteed to prevent all future gun violence on school grounds, but surely it will cause shooters to think twice before they trespass onto schools. Surely security guards, metal detectors and increased surveillance will not cause America’s school children to be less safe.
That being said, we should not overlook the cost-effective and essentially free solution of gun regulation, which should still be the goal. But this is not altogether very likely in light of the polarizing nature of gun control in Congress. Even if added security prevents just one shooting, it would be more progressive than the current gridlock in Congress, which is doing nothing to save lives.
We don’t need more “thoughts and prayers” and playing politics. We need action. If gun regulation is off the table in the current political climate due to the economic clout of the National Rifle Association among other causes, then Congress should implement the next-best solution and take action to bring improved security to America’s schools. The two proposed solutions are not mutually exclusive.
Shauli Bar-On is a freshman majoring in political science. “Point/Counterpoint” runs Wednesdays.