Is Armed Security the Solution to Mass Shootings?

Is Armed Security the Solution to Mass Shootings?

With the tragic school shootings in Santa Clarita and Fresno yet again igniting the ever-present worry about mass shootings in America, we see familiar rifts forming. Politicians are being urged to “do something” to quell the tide, usually through gun control. And even though they’re incredibly rare, these horrific events have filled the public consciousness and are driving lawmakers to somehow respond. It’s a push that has culminated in responses like former presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke’s “Hell yes we’re going to take your AR-15” or current presidential hopeful Kamala Harris’ “executive action” ultimatum. And as the frenzy grows, fewer and fewer “solutions” seem concerned at all with the Constitution.

One side tells us gun control is the obvious answer, and the other side’s solution is widespread domestic surveillance. Whatever potential merit these proposals might have, they certainly frustrate our rights. Not only the right to bear arms, but also the right to freedom from unreasonable searches. Occasionally we’ll hear another solution: armed guards everywhere. Sure, this is much better than restricting Americans’ Second Amendment rights, but it, too, presents concerns that shouldn’t be ignored. 

The idea of ubiquitous armed security isn’t necessarily new to the nation’s gun debate. After Parkland, there was a big push from the right to arm teachers. That’s not an irrational proposition, given the fact that federal law makes it illegal for most people to carry a gun in schools, and history has shown mass murders don’t generally stop until another firearm arrives on scene. That said, the “arm teachers” approach is limited to schools, where a shooting is actually least likely to happen. (Plus, there’s another problem with an armed presence at schools, which I’ll address later on.)

What about everywhere else, then? The Institute for Policy Innovation’s president, Tom Giovanetti, has suggested that “we can stop mass shootings without restricting Second Amendment liberties.” His proposal is that “every school, every church, every large retailer and every government facility should have armed, obvious guards at all entrances.” Given the breadth of the suggestion, this would likely have to come through a change in law — not just policy.

So is this “solution” constitutional?

If implemented at the state level, it would appear so. It’s emphatically within the power of the states to provide for the security of their inhabitants. Whether it’s through providing a police presence or grants to hire private security, it would logically follow that states have the authority to put such a policy in place. And where gun control seriously punishes the whole country, abridging our rights in the name of safety, at least this solution is more directly “aimed” at the problem.

Of course, an armed guard could deter shooters, but other problems would inevitably crop up. In schools, for instance, the school-to-prison pipeline would become even wider. An increased police presence in school has already funneled thousands of kids into prison due to overzealous enforcement against troubled youths. But dumb teenage behavior — getting into fights, experimenting with drugs, etc. — shouldn’t irreparably ruin lives. Armed guards, whether police or private, would increase the likelihood that correcting troubled behavior escapes the confines of guidance counselors and lands in the hands of law enforcement.

Another concern blends aesthetics and costs. Do we really want to live with gendarmerie (a blend of military and police) everywhere people gather, when it may ultimately only help a little? For example, France is absolutely crawling with machine gun-toting gendarmes, but that didn’t stop Paris from being the site of some of the deadliest mass murders in modern history. So, then, would a drastic shift like that really be worth it?

It’s not a popular thing to say, but obsessing over preventing mass shootings isn’t actually productive — in fact, it may be perpetuating the problem. And armed guards aren’t the solution, in the same way that gun control isn’t. In the end, we’d be much better served by addressing the deep-seated, largely cultural issues plaguing the soul of America than experimenting with expensive, ineffective, and dangerous band-aids that will never actually stop the bleeding.

Matthew Larosiere is the Director of Legal Policy for Firearms Policy Coalition and a Senior Contributor to Young Voices. He can be found on Twitter @MattLaAtLaw.

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