Now the nation's most influential gun-rights group is proposing that every school employ an armed police officer, security guard or trained staff member.
And it wants three federal agencies the Departments of Homeland Security, Education and Justice to focus on school safety efforts, with Homeland Security making grants available for school security programs.
This is excessive, to say the least. The reality is the vast majority of schools do not require the presence of armed personnel. They are relatively tranquil places outside of the occasional playground scuffle or theft and have been so for decades.
The events of Newtown understandably rattled everyone associated with education in a special way, but statistically speaking, such tragic shootings remain improbable outliers.
As the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reported last year, "The percentage of youth homicides occurring at school remained at less than 2 percent of the total number of youth homicides."
Newtown or no Newtown, in other words, the typical child is safer spending time in a classroom than being almost anyplace else.
That's not to say schools should ignore security. Every school needs an emergency plan and, depending on circumstances, should be limiting access to outsiders.
If a district wants to place security guards or police officers in particular schools, that's its prerogative. And if another district wants to permit a trained volunteer from school staff to have a weapon within reach in each school, that should be its call as well.
Before school officials act, though, we'd recommend they read an analysis by Aaron Kupchik, professor of criminal justice at the University of Delaware, that appeared last December in The Washington Post.
Kupchik's research suggests, for example, that "the expansion of police into schools is a flawed policy that can have harmful effects on students." Indeed, he argues, a police presence "has effects that help transform the school from an environment of academia to a site of criminal law enforcement," and can actually "increase student offending rates."
Such research may not be conclusive, but it raises questions that ought to be considered by any district looking at security. At the very least, it amounts to another reason to doubt that it's wise policy for federal agencies and national groups such as the NRA to pressure schools into embracing an armed presence in their midst.
The Denver Post, April 7