Gun violence is a major social issue in America, and schools and university campuses have become targets of this gun violence.
In recent years, dozens of students, faculty and staff have become victims of this gun violence while on campus, and the loss of life and serious injuries have been devastating to our communities. Citizens are demanding that federal and local government take immediate action to make our educational campuses safe.
In response to recent campus violence, an idea to have schools adopt an armed security force to patrol campus grounds and buildings has been proposed to lawmakers, law enforcement and educational governing boards. This proposal has been controversial, and as the debate continues on how best to secure U.S. educational campuses, campuses remain vulnerable to future acts of gun violence.
This article will evaluate this proposal and analyze the evidence to determine the benefits or concerns of armed security forces as one possible solution of defending campuses against future gun violence.
Armed security forces on campus
In the wake of recent school shootings, the National Rifle Association (NRA) made a proposal aimed at protecting school campuses across the United States from future acts of gun violence on campus. The NRA’s proposal is The National School Shield plan. This comprehensive campus safety plan also called for the creation of armed security forces made up of volunteers and paid, trained security professionals to patrol the school campus to deter future gun violence.
The National School Shield plan has formed into a National School Shield Task Force headed by Asa Hutchinson, the former U.S. attorney and former administrator for the Drug Enforcement Administration. Hutchinson has gathered experts in homeland security, law enforcement, emergency management and school safety to draft security policies for educational boards.
The recommendation from the task force is to hire and train armed security officers to patrol and protect school campuses. The task force recommends placing trained, armed security officers on campus not as law enforcement officers with powers of arrest but as a defense force. When an armed threat appears on campus, armed security are on scene and can take immediate action to engage an active shooter before they can cause mass casualties.
Since the Colorado shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, U.S. law enforcement has changed tactics when responding to an active shooter on school campuses. Law enforcement officers are trained to form small tactical entry teams from the first responders arriving on scene, enter onto the campus and buildings, and confront the active shooter using deadly force if necessary to stop the armed suspect from harming additional innocent victims.
According to the NRA, The National School Shield plan was a direct response from citizens to secure American campuses from gun violence. The NRA has made this proposal so that there is an armed security force presence on campus to deter gun violence from occurring as well as an immediate trained armed response to take action if gun violence starts on the campus.
Opposing armed security forces on campus
According to recent research in the American Journal of Criminal Justice, there are just as many citizens opposed to placing armed security officers on campuses for a variety of reasons. The study indicates that the disadvantages far outweigh any benefits to armed security.
Besides the estimated cost of $4 billion to $6 billion to hire, train and arm a campus security force for every educational campus, there is an increased potential for accidents to occur when there are armed security patrolling. The authors argue that with armed security on campuses, there will be an increase in public perception of a false sense of security, potential of increased fear among students and the negative impact of school climate leading to increased dropout and lower graduation rates.
According to the authors, the most obvious safety flaw in The National School Shield plan is the fact that the presence of armed campus security means the presence of firearms already on campus and the potential for accidents occurring or an escalation of violence once an incident starts. They stated that the more firearms that are on campus, the greater the likelihood that they could fall into the wrong hands and then be used on campus. The liability is greater than the possible benefits.
Teachers are also voicing their opinions about firearms on campus by armed security forces. In a survey of Connecticut teachers, 67 percent are opposed to armed security officers on campus patrolling. In Fairfax County, Va., 60 percent of teachers also stated they were opposed to armed security forces on campus.
Proactive thinking on campus security
Preventing school gun violence is a social issue that affects the safety and health of our citizens and local communities. As we have witnessed over the past several years, gun violence can occur on college campuses, high school campuses and elementary school campuses.
No campus is immune from becoming the next target of an angry person using a firearm to destroy lives on American campuses. It is our social duty as citizens to help develop proactive preventive strategies before violence occurs. We cannot wait or look for answers from our local, state or federal government to solve the issue. We have a stake in our educational institution’s safety as responsible citizens.
America’s first responders have become experts at responding to mass school shootings after the incident. Law enforcement can secure a crime scene and make it safe, medical units have experience providing emergency medical care and evacuation injured, and our hospitals can accept large numbers of casualties without a lot of notice and provide life-saving care.
We know we can respond to man-made disasters because we have trained and well-equipped emergency first responders. However, we can be proactive with school gun violence with a comprehensive security plan.
Armed security forces patrolling the local school campus might be the right solution in some areas of the country. In other areas of the country, armed campus security has the potential to distract from the academic success of students.
Perhaps each community must weigh the pros and cons of creating an armed security force to protect their educational campuses. Each community will have to determine whether an armed security force is the best proactive security measure for their local educational campuses, as well as a legal option depending on local firearm laws in their jurisdictions.
About the Author
Mark Bond has worked in law enforcement and has been a firearms instructor for more than 33 years. His law enforcement experience includes the military, local, state and federal levels as a police officer and criminal investigator. Mark obtained a BS and MS in criminal justice, and M.Ed in educational leadership with Summa Cum Laude honors. As a lifelong learner, he is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in education (EdD) with a concentration in college teaching and learning. Mark is currently an assistant professor of criminal justice at a university and adjunct professor of administration of justice studies at a community college.