Keep Guns Out of Columbine (and all other schools)

By Blake Paradis

Colorado State Rep. Patrick Neville, a Columbine massacre survivor, came out strongly in favor of allowing more school personnel to carry guns in a statement featured by The Hill.[1] Although the American people have heard this argument before, it is particularly troubling coming from such a sympathetic voice. Allowing more guns into schools is not the answer.

 

By now, school shootings have become the norm. But on April 20, 1999, two shooters entered Columbine High School and began a killing spree, ending with 13 dead and 24 injured. The country mourned this tragic loss of life and feared that children were no longer safe in school. Since then, school shootings have only gotten worse. In 2007, a gunmen killed 32 students and faculty members before committing suicide at Virginia Tech. In 2012, a shooter entered Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 20 children between the ages of six and seven, as well as six of their teachers, leaving the country wondering how such a horrific act could happen in America.

 

These tragedies continue to have a profound effect on the national discourse surrounding gun control. It is tempting to see an increase of guns in schools as a means to protect the innocent. However, statistics do not support this argument. As demonstrated by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, more guns means more murders, no matter the location.[2]

 

The information is very clear, “studies indicate that in homes, cities, states and regions in the US, where there are more guns, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide.”[3] The same is true in a school setting, more weaponry results in conflict escalation. Since the Columbine shooting, a country wide program doubled the number of armed School Resource Officers (SROs) available to school districts.[4]

 

Despite increased police presence, school shootings continue and smaller incidents of violence have also increased. In 2015, Mother Jones reported that at least 28 children were seriously injured by SROs and in one instance, a student was actually killed by an armed SRO.[5] These incidents are caused by school officials seeking to protect students. Despite good intentions, guns only lead to more fatalities.

 

Employing more SROs was intended to prevent school place violence but officers are usually not equipped with proper de-escalation training. Rather, officers choose brutal tactics to subdue students, using methods ranging from pepper spray and handcuffs to gunfire. There is very little evidence to suggest that greater SRO presence has successfully prevented school shootings, despite the increase of gun use on school campuses. To allow teachers to carry concealed weapons as well would only contribute to a higher numbers of injuries, instead of lowering the number of school shootings.

 

Unfortunately, pro gun legislators, media personalities, and the National Rifle Association (NRA) continue to push the narrative that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” An idea Neville reflects in his own quote, “the only thing that is going to stop murderers intent on doing harm is to give good people the legal authority to carry a gun to protect themselves and our children.”[6] Although this message resonates strongly in the pro gun community, it is an emotional argument that does not reflect reality.

 

A segment recently featured on the comedy show The Daily Show demonstrated, using various simulations, how additional weapons are more likely to be used incorrectly, misidentified by police personnel, and arouse suspicion of the gun holder’s intentions.[7] More significantly, the segment references a 2014 FBI report on active shooter incidents, which shows that less than four percent of active shooter incidents were ultimately stopped by an armed civilian.[8] This same report also found that 13.1 percent of incidents were stopped by unarmed civilians.[9] Looking more deeply into the statistics surrounding school shootings it becomes clear that increasing the number of guns on campus does not prevent school shootings. On the contrary, smaller incidents of violence increase. It is time to put the argument that “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” to rest, regardless of who is spreading the message.

 

[1] Tim Devaney, Columbine survivor calls for guns in schools, The Hill (Feb. 23, 2016 12:44PM), http://thehill.com/regulation/270420-columbine-survivor-calls-for-guns-in-schools.

[2] Harvard Injury Control Research Center, http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/hicrc/firearms-research/guns-and-death/.

[3] See id.

[4] Jaeah Lee, Chokeholds, Brain Injuries, Beatings: When School Cops Go Bad, Mother Jones (Jul. 14, 2015 6:00AM), http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/05/police-school-resource-officers-k-12-misconduct-violence.

[5] See id.

[6] Devaney, supra note 1.

[7] Jordan Klepper: Good Guy with a Gun, The Daily Show (Dec. 11, 2015) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCI4bUk4vuM.

[8] FBI, A Study of Active Shooter Incidents in the United States Between 2000 and 2013, 11 (2013) http://documents.latimes.com/fbi-study-mass-shootings/.

[9] See id at 21.