America is failing at school safety

More than 150,000 students attending at least 170 primary or secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus since 1999. In the wake of these shootings, politicians and parents try to reassure students that they need not worry when they return to class, that they will be kept safe. But why should blanket reassurances without accompanying action make students and teachers feel safer?

The possibility of mass murder in the United States is real. What’s fake is the fear the National Rifle Association is peddling: that any attempt to prevent gun massacres is the first step to losing every personal liberty Americans hold dear.

The NRA’s false claims

At a conservative convention Thursday in Maryland, NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre declared, “Their goal is to eliminate the Second Amendment and our firearms freedoms, so they can eradicate all our freedoms.” In reality, it’s the NRA that has been extreme, tirelessly opposed universal background checks, bans on suspected terrorists buying guns, restrictions on those with mental health issues possessing firearms, and proper funding of federal enforcement of gun laws.

The United States holds 5 percent of the world’s people, has been the scene of 31 percent of its mass shootings, possesses 48 percent of its civilian-owned guns and has a gun homicide rate 25 times that of other industrialized nations. The difference is the laws.

More security and prevention at schools are needed now. But we do not need to arm teachers, as President Donald Trump demands, any more than we would arm tellers to protect banks or reservations agents to protect airports.

We need to make sure people buying guns are safe, stable adults. We need to make sure the power and firing speed and magazine capacity of the guns are appropriate to hunting and self-defense, not massacre. We need to stop the stockpiling of thousands of bullets and dozens of weapons. Even most gun enthusiasts know this.

A start toward sensible compromise

Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott said Friday he will seek to end gun purchases by people younger than 21, ban the “bump stocks” that turn rifles into machine guns, and ask for $500 million to fund mental health and school safety measures, including posting one armed officer per 1,000 students at every public school. That is a start toward showing how even gun-rights advocates can compromise so the nation can put the Columbine era behind it.

Scott’s plan, which echoes statements Trump has made in the past week, raised the ire of the NRA, which opposes limits on gun purchases by people ages 18 to 20 and has worked to deter bans on the bump stock device, which enabled the killing 58 people in Las Vegas in October.

We need to live up to the reassurances we give our children by taking steps to keep them safe. We need the help of law-abiding gun owners to debunk and defeat the NRA argument that any attempt at reasonable regulation will lead to the enslavement of the people by a tyrannical government.

The death toll is real. The paranoid delusions are the calculated fear tactics of an organization that will say anything to keep insanely lethal products legal, cheap and easily accessible to all.