Public schools

Calling the Cops Every Time a Student Seems Sad, Angry, or Lonely Isn't Going to Stop Mass Shootings

Nor will throwing money at the problem.


Monica McGivern Xinhua News Agency/Newscom

It's easy to prevent future mass shootings: We just need to spend a couple billion dollars hiring more security guards, installing alarm systems, metal detectors, and bulletproof glass, while undertaking a broad cultural shift toward reflexively reporting sad loners to the authorities.

That's the flawed thinking of a number of commentators—ostensibly on the right—including The Washington Examiner's Tom Rogan, The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin, and of course, President Donald Trump, who tweeted in response to the Parkland, Florida, mass shooting:

Trump's sentiments were echoed by countless cable news pundits, politicians, and law enforcement officers. National Review's David French made perhaps the best case for an increased nation-wide emphasis on see something, please for the love of God say something. He wrote: "Looking at the deadliest mass shootings since Columbine, we see that the warning signs were there, time and again. People could have made a difference."

The warning signs always seem obvious in retrospect. Suspected Parkland shooter Nicholas Cruz appears to have been a gun-obsessed loner with disciplinary issues and a long history of threatening behavior, to the extent that other kids at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School had previously joked about him going on some kind of rampage.

But there are a whole lot of weird teenagers out there, and the vast majority of them never hurt anybody. Reflexively reporting suspicious people to the authorities would create major headaches for everyone. A useful comparison might be the world of raising children, where the helicopter parenting has created a bunch of nosy neighbors. Busybodies routinely call the cops on parents who innocently leave their kids in the car for just a few minutes, or let them play in the park by themselves, or leave them home alone for too long. There are consequences to a see-something-say-something mindset that makes people feel obligated to report potentially dangerous situations to the police: parents go to jail, lose custody of their kids, and must jump through insane hoops to satisfy child protective services.

Does this approach make children safer? Certainly there are cases where a kid was spared a terrible fate because a bystander spoke up. But we can't pretend there are zero tradeoffs, or that the tradeoffs are automatically worth it.

Nor is just throwing more money at the problem much of a solution, despite what we hear from pundits. On Chris Hayes' show on MSNBC last night, Rubin lent support to the just-spend-more-money theory, saying:

If Republicans don`t want to do something about guns, why aren't they doing something about school safety? Why are we wasting money in all quadrants and why are we hollowing out all sorts of things that could be done at the state and local level, rather than persecuting so-called sanctuary cities, what about giving grants so that we can help to secure schools, that we can put in safety glass, that we can put in buzz in and buzz out systems….

I want to make sure we have enough money to put a cop in every school, to have safety glass in every school, to have an alarm system in every school, to have training for teachers. Why don`t we do that with $30 million rather than having a parade of the army to please Donald Trump?

Certainly any public expenditure sounds reasonable when judged against Trump's proposed military parade. But increased funding for school security wouldn't magically make students safe from mass shooters. There isn't even compelling evidence that metal detectors actually improve school security, and while security guards can break up fights between students, it's difficult to imagine that they would make the preplanned mass shooting a thing of the past.

Nevertheless, in an op-ed for The Examiner, Rogan claimed that $10.7 billion dollars is all we would need to "dramatically reduce the threat of school shootings." (If you believe that, I know a Nigerian prince you should meet.) According to Rogan:

I calculate $10.7 billion based on government statistics which estimate the total number of K-12 public schools at around 99,000 and post-secondary education facilities at around 8,000. That gives 107,000 total. Multiply 107,000 by 100,000 (two security guards each making $50,000 a year) and you get $10.7 billion. I believe $50,000 is a good total estimate for the average security guard salary when taking into account state-level variations in average wage.

Why two guards and not one?

Because with two trained, armed guards in every school, there would be strength in numbers with which to respond to a shooting incident.

It's not just about the ability to dominate an attacker in the earliest moments of his or her attempted atrocity. It's that security officers could identify the sound or other signs of gunshots more easily than students or staff, thus enabling a quicker police response. They could also position themselves near to the various entry points of a school, preventing the kind of attack that we saw yesterday.

To be sure, it's not a perfect solution. A gunman could still kill students before being isolated and neutralized.

Indeed, that's exactly what happened at Stoneman Douglas High. The school resource officer—the law enforcement agent who works in the school—wasn't able to stop the shooter from killing people. Would even more guards make a difference? We don't know that they would, but we do know that the 50 million public school students in the U.S. would attend school in a very different environment. At what point do we say that making kids feel like prison inmates isn't worth it? Rogan ignores this concern—"Nor do I believe that armed guards would intimidate students"—even though there is plenty of reason to think that the increased prevalence of cops in schools over the past two decades has negatively impacted students' civil liberties and due process rights.

Conservatives are right to be skeptical that changing gun laws would automatically produce some significant decrease in mass shootings. Skepticism about security increases is similarly merited. If we're going to compromise teen autonomy, raise suspicions, and give the authorities more reason to intervene in people's lives, we have to be sure that what we're doing is actually going to save a significant number of lives. Such evidence is in short supply.

NEXT: An 'Assault Weapon' Ban Won't Stop Mass Shootings

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  1. The problem is not autism but the DIAGNOSIS. Because that tells kids: “There is something wrong with your brain and you will never have normal social interactions.”

    Why do we do this? Because lonely mothers want to emotionally hobble their kids. Why? To have a permanent boyfriend. Same story with Sandy Hook and Santa Barbara.

    Still Shillin’ for Jill 2020 approves this message.

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      This is what I do…

  2. I don’t think gun rights supporters really feel strongly about putting cops in schools or patrolling the Internet for dangerous weirdos. They just realize that the gun grabbers start screeching “DO SOMETHING!!!” before the bodies are cold, and the public is receptive to that urge. Therefore they have to put forth some alternative remedy so the choice doesn’t appear to be “doing nothing” vs. passing gun control.

    Of course doing nothing is usually the best option, as a child is more likely to drown in a swimming pool than be shot at school. But that’s not how the public perceives things.

    1. Similar to fear of airplane travel. Over 30,000 die in car accidents a year, but 0 deaths from commercial airliners last year. Nobody fears jumping into a car for some reason.

      1. It’s human nature. We become numb to the risks we take every day, while becoming paranoid about risks that are small because they represent exceedingly rare events but have dramatic impacts.

      2. I used to think it was because you think you have control when driving a car that you don’t have in a plane. once a plane starts heading on its way to crashing there’s nothing a passenger can do. But then, people aren’t fazed by train derailment deaths either, so that can’t be the whole story.

        1. Trains are at ground level and we encounter them and the risk associate with them in a visible way every day. We have more experience with train risk than with airplane risk, so we are more used to (numb to) train risk.

    2. Hard to carry a swimming pool. Then you gotta push people in.

  3. It isn’t going to stop mass shootings, and will likely result in an increase in police-related shootings.

    1. The vast majority of people shot by police are bad guys. Not so for mass shootings.

      1. even if 99% of the people shot by police are real bad guys (which I rather doubt), there are still more innocent people shot by police every year than die in mass shootings.

        1. Numbers? You only get full credit if you show your work.

        2. According to the data, there are around 400 annual deaths by police shooting. Several people have accused this number of being falsely low


          The highest number I could find for school shootings is 56 in 2012.

          So, your number is off, Slyfield. However, if you say “90%” instead, that would be close enough to be considered accurate.

  4. Well, Nancy Pelosi is well known for saying things that would certainly qualify for ‘saying something’.
    Can we get her rights revoked?
    Just go right up to her and say “You have posted some really weird shit on social media, so you are under arrest”?
    Didn’t think so. Equal protection my ass.

  5. But… but… But we have to DO SOMETHING!!!

    And somehow, DO SOMETHING!!! always == grow the Sacred Powah of Government Almighty!

    1. Oh yas. I saw some guy whose eyes were bugged out and about to pop because of the amount of CARING he was doing, and his DO SOMETHING was…armed police or soldiers at every door to every school, all the time.

      And we have to do this, or we just. don’t. care.

      I felt so bad.

      1. That’s hilarious.

    2. Oh yas. I saw some guy whose eyes were bugged out and about to pop because of the amount of CARING he was doing, and his DO SOMETHING was…armed police or soldiers at every door to every school, all the time.

      And we have to do this, or we just. don’t. care.

      I felt so bad.

  6. You get the f*ck away from me, strange loner kids!

  7. There are consequences to a see-something-say-something mindset that makes people feel obligated to report potentially dangerous situations to the police: parents go to jail, lose custody of their kids, and must jump through insane hoops to satisfy child protective services.

    The CPS abuses you speak of are not a problem with SSSS, they are a problem with the child protection laws. Were it not for those insane laws, a person calling the police because they see two 10 year olds playing in a park would be laughed at and hung up on.

    SSSS is a decentralized system that allows a free society to protect itself — by counting on the citizens themselves, rather than broad and intrusive surveillance by the authorities that is ripe for abuse. Liberty doesn’t die just because people decide out of the blue that they like authoritarianism, it dies because people feel endangered, which would be the result of adopting a Reason security model. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  8. Seriously: this time, we got a live one!

    Keep him on suicide watch, pry his brain open, and reveal it’s alt-right secrets!

    1. My God! It’s full of stars!!!

  9. Give the teachers guns.

    Anything is better than the status quo. More cops in schools will just lead to more body slammed children.

    1. I don’t have a tremendous amount of respect for teachers. I don’t necessarily trust them with guns either.

      1. Many teachers are awesome, but so many of them are awful too. Pretty much just people in that regard.

    2. yup i’ll bet there is a Naty Gaurd or Army Res or some other kind of vet in almost any school. give em a gun. better yet tell the students that one of the teachs has one…. but you dont know which one… and it rotates to a different teach every day.

  10. “The warning signs always seem obvious in retrospect.”

    No, that’s not really true. There have been plenty of shooters that people have claimed were perfectly nice guys.

  11. Thanks, Robby, for pointing out that the solutions coming from the right, calling for higher law enforcement spending, are equally stupid.

    The solution, if there is one, and there may not be, does not lie in government. This kid is fucked up, no doubt, but no one is talking about why or how it got to be like that. Was he genetically predisposed to be a murderer? May be. But I wonder how many of the kids he ran across over the years, who thought “he is weird, keep away,” reached out to him and tried to be his friend. The kids are trained to ostracize those that do not fit in, because that is what their parents do. This just isolates those that may have the most to gain from human connections, and breeds resentment.

    Do people have some kind of duty to try to connect with weirdos? Of course not. But a little compassion could not hurt.

    1. Let me add that of course some people you can’t reach. Some people are psychopaths or have scrambled brains. What to do with people like that, if they have not shown signs of violence? That is a difficult question, to be sure.

      1. Some people are psychopaths or have scrambled brains. What to do with people like that, if they have not shown signs of violence?

        Nothing. You nut up and live with the risk and punish the guilty after they commit the crime. Anything else is a NAP violation and immoral. Life ain’t safe.

  12. You know what can’t hurt stopping school shootings?


    Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School? May as well be called Julius Streicher High School. Or Helen Thomas High School

    Tear statues of journalists down too. Eradicate the memory of Henry Grady

    1. You can pull my Matt Welch statue from my cold, dead hands.

      1. If Matt Welch is God then it doesn’t violate the 2nd Commandment.

        1. Wait, no it totally does. I have no idea where I’m going with this joke.

          1. Or you could just go, taking it with you. Saying for a friend.

  13. again. Over 40% of children live in single mother homes and single mothers account for the bulk of child abuse and neglect. At the root of every abusive man is an abused boy. A fatherless male child with mental health issues on psychotropic medications exhibiting erratic behavior goes to a place where he knows there are very few MEN and no self defense firearms and kills people. Where are the calls to reduce single mother by choice homes? Calls to address the problem of males with mental health issues (easy to ignore when it “only” results in a male suicide). Where are the calls to study the impact of these mind altering drugs on youths, mostly directed at males? And where is the call to allow individuals to exercise their Constitutionally guaranteed right to protect themselves with firearms? I have seen not a single article in any news outlet which didn’t sensationalize the absurd “ban something” with a shrill cry from SJW’s and PC’s calling on guvmint to stop what it can’t, while ignoring the things they can address which would reduce these. What a shameful anti-male and anti-family anti individual responsibility country we have become.

  14. Just put a cop in every school, regardless.

    1. So they can taze and arrest grade schooler’s for ordinary childhood misbehavior? Because that’s what will end up happening while still failing to prevent a single mass school shooting.

    2. Honest, I saw a guy on the news insisting we HAVE to have police at every door and entrance to every school at all times.

      Good thing no policeman ever used their power to abuse youngish girls, huh?

    3. Go to almost any country, and schools are not open campus: people must come through the front door. Good fences do make good neighbors after all. Beyond that, the second amendment is actually a guarantee for governors to draw upon an armed civilian force – we actually need another amendment to secure a right to self defense. Our right of ownership was not crafted with the individual in mind, but the Militia.

      1. Just for the record, a militia is a temporary military unit, composed of volunteers.
        It offers its service to an organized army on a conditional basis, usually of place or time. For example, we will come under your military authority in this county (or state), or we will come under your authority for three months. The members of the militia bring their own weapons, and often their own logistic support. The main points for the second amendment of the US constitution are that they are volunteers, NOT conscripts in the regular military, and that they bring their own weapons. Therefore the second amendment applies to all weapons, and to all citizens. The Governor can “call out the militia”, but no one has to respond. This was the intent of our founding fathers; to keep a small army, and supplement it in time of need. Sort of like the poster from the sixties “Suppose they gave a war and nobody came?”
        Maybe this has all been overtaken by events, but the constitution remains (in theory) the final law of the land, and no infringement on the right to keep and bear arms is constitutional.
        The only legal road open to the confiscators is repeal of the second amendment. Then they can outlaw any and all arms, and come and take them from the survivors.

  15. what about giving grants so that we can help to secure schools, that we can put in safety glass, that we can put in buzz in and buzz out systems. ?

    I want to make sure we have enough money to put a cop in every school, to have safety glass in every school, to have an alarm system in every school

    IOW, let’s make schools even more like prisons than they already are. Problem solved!

  16. Someone on Reddit just told me that the reason Canada doesn’t have mass shootings is because they limit magazine sizes to 5 rounds.

    1. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


      1. Well, not just that. They also strictly limit concealed carry (cuz that matters). But yeah, that was the reason he gave.

    2. The big question is, why doesn’t Canada have it? What culturally makes this more common?

      1. Fewer people helps.

      2. Simple. It’s too damn cold to go out and shoot anything.

      3. Have what? School shootings are extremely rare in the US. There are tens of thousands of schools in the country and one of these events happens only every few years. (Be careful with the so-called “mass shooting” stats — the definition used is the shooting of as few as 4 people)

        The deadliest shooting targeting children in the last decade was in Norway of course. So it’s not an American problem, it’s merely a freak event.

        1. Well, Germany has had two mass shootings in schools since the turn of the century, despite having adequate mental health services and strict gun laws that have had deaths in the teens (about the same as this one).

          The Erfurt school massacre had 16 deaths (not counting the shooter)
          The Winnenden school shooting had 16 deaths (13 in the school, and 2 (not including the shooter) after being chased down by police

          Can’t link the articles, but google “German school shootings” and you can find them.

      4. For Canada, their brand of socialism isn’t operated by the criminally insane so its doing lightweight damage. Our home grown progs are a far worse breed: thugs, misanthropes, and genocidal types that won’t ever admit their euthanasian fantasies in front of a camera. You know the type – the cult of Margaret Sanger minions married to her plan to put 5 of 6 infanticide centers deep in black communities as a percentage play for white supremacy as the limitations of the Klan became a stumbling block. Some of them put on vagina hats last year as a way of [unwittingly] putting an exclamation point on their insanity. There are some sick pups running public policy for roughly a century. Perhaps that’s why they shot JFK: he was just too… normal.

  17. So they just carry more magazines or even more guns.

    Back in the days of single shot muzzle loading pistols, many people would carry anywhere from 2 to half a dozen pistols loaded and ready to fire. Discharge one and draw the next.

    You can do the same thing with modern firearms. That is in fact what the Aurora Colorado theater shooter did. He had an AR15 with a 100 round magazine, but it jammed before he even got ten rounds out of it. He was also carrying and used two tactical pump action shot-guns (8 round magazines) and at least 4 handguns.

    1. Or they simply ignore the law, like they do with crack and heroin.

  18. I am old enough to remember when poverty, broken families, and systemic racism was to blame for criminal violence.

    When did we realize mental illness was the true culprit?

    1. Mental illness is not the culprit. Guns are. Only guns. Aren’t you even listening?

    2. We have two separate gun murder problems in the country.

      The first is crime based gun murder (which are related to the shooters and victims, for the most part, being involved in criminal life and actions). This has gone down immensely since 1994.

      The second is mentally ill mass shooters (which seems to be pretty constant since 1999 or so).

      1. Gun murder. What a concept.
        There have been zero murders in this country by guns.
        Lots of murders by people using guns, but none by guns.
        If you can’t say that there are bad people in the world, you need to have ‘reasonable controls” placed on your posting. Like a total ban.
        There are lots of online classes in the English language; find one.

  19. In the old days, kids who didn’t like school woukd go do something else.

    Those were the days.

  20. “He had trouble controlling his temper. He broke things. He would do that sometimes at our house when he lost his temper. But he was always very apologetic afterwards.”

    This kid was subjected to ‘treatment’ which teaches the parent, “Never discipline the child” and tells the kid, “Always apologize if you’re naughty.” So basically he took his training to the logical conclusion. They seriously need to find the ‘expert’ who perpetrated this and track down her other victims.

    Czar Bernie 2020 approves this message.

    1. “He had trouble controlling his temper. He broke things. He would do that sometimes at our house when he lost his temper. But he was always very apologetic afterwards.”

      Sort of a male version of Hillary Clinton.

  21. We need soldiers, not police.

  22. I think the problem is competent policing. There should have been a cop or security guard at a school and the moment he hears a gunshot, he should go and try to stop it.

    But they don’t do that anymore. They won’t risk their lives, they wait for the shooting to stop and the SWAT team to declare all clear.

  23. There’s a difference between panicked parents ratting out weirdos and society taking prudent actions on students who are credible threats. Cruz was expelled for threatening students and wasn’t allowed to enter the campus with a backpack. I don’t believe in depriving someone of their gun rights based solely on ideology, but I think Cruz should have been on a watch list, at a minimum.

    The young victims were cut down in the prime of their lives, and I can’t imagine what the parents are going through. Right now I’m open to some reforms that doesn’t violate basic 2A rights. I would cautiously raising gun ownership age to 21-23 and placing limits on bullets. If you want to own 19 guns, maybe you should apply for a separate permit.

    Immigration is a part of this equation too. Because tomorrow some crazed Muslim could kill 10 people with a speeding car. I don’t know what the answer is, but it’s time to think about it.

    A decrease in violent crime does not necessarily mean that society is at peace. I see a lot of division and anger all over, and lunatics marinate in their rage for years witout human connection. The antifa, BLM, OWS, mass shootings and random Islamic terror are not annual occurrences in places like Japan.

    #Metoo is actually starting feel like yesterday’s news, and yet a similar scandal would seriously damage the economy of many other nations. The economy is rebounding but we’re declining culturally incrementally every year.


    Why don’t they have mass shootings like this in Israel? Plenty of murderous loonies there, but they don’t kill as many people per event, because they don’t use guns. Why not?

    Oh, I remember now why not. It’s because….

    * In Israel, civilians must obtain a firearms license to lawfully acquire, possess, sell or transfer firearms and ammunition.

    * Only a small group of people are eligible for firearms licenses: certain retired military personnel, police officers or prison guards; residents of frontier towns; and licensed hunters and animal-control officers.

    * Firearm license applicants must pass a background check (criminal, health, and mental history), establish a genuine reason for possessing a firearm (such as self-defense, hunting, or sport), and pass a weapons-training course.

    * Around 40% of applications for firearms permits are rejected.

    * Those holding firearms licenses must renew them and pass a shooting course every three years, and undergo psychological assessment at least once every six years.

    * Applicants must demonstrate that they have a safe at their residence in which to keep the firearm.

    * In Israel, total population is more than 8.5 million; of whom fewer than 400,000 own guns.

    1. A country in which most citizens can’t own guns doesn’t have many mass shootings. OK, got it. Kinda like Japan not experiencing many Islamic terrorism, and that’s also because they make immigration to their nations extra hard.

      Unfortunately in the US, the second amendment allows for more gun ownership and the country is like 100 times the size of Israel. The government can’t be all like “if you have no safe you can’t own guns” because that might be “infringing” on their rights. So apples and oranges. I suppose if the entire country resembled Montana or something, we’d have way less shootings.

      1. Indeed. Japan does not have open borders, or hacks doing violence to their laws/language by disneyfing illegal aliens with the soft label of “dreamers”. That alone protects their hindu/buddhist culture from the political threat of Islam.

  25. “Plenty of murderous loonies there, but they don’t kill as many people per event, because they don’t use guns. Why not?”

    Because their loonies prefer explosives.

  26. “The school resource officer?the law enforcement agent who works in the school?wasn’t able to stop the shooter from killing people. Would even more guards make a difference?”

    At this point it sounds like the school resource officer wasn’t on campus at the time. A school resource officer who is on campus probably is a lot more likely to stop the shooter than one who is not. And some degree of redundancy avoids coverage gaps (if there’s only one, he’s occasionally going to have sick days, vacation days, bathroom breaks, etc.).

    From the police report, Cruz was SPOTTED entering campus by a campus monitor, who radioed in an alert but there was no response from the SRO before the shooting happened. If there had been an armed SRO watching the gate rather than an unarmed campus monitor, it seems quite likely that the shooting would have been prevented, or at least stopped before 17 people were killed.

  27. The ineffective media reactionism continues to persist after awful events like this shooting. This is a major cultural problem that pervades the aftermath of a wide array of events, and is instructive to show how badly the US media and political system reinforce the public’s false

    Politicians will posture for their electorates, and will disappear after the country’s short attention span moves to something else (see bump stocks). People naturally want reassurance this won’t happen again or that we can control events that happen. So of course, that’s easily exploitable by the political class in Washington and big media. Unfortunately, waiting until people are in the most irrational phase to discuss these issues isn’t going to help anything.

  28. The title of the piece says quite alot. It begs a question too: is something wrong with our educators? Not the classroom per se, but as an insitution/administratively. Go check up on your local schools “plans” for fire and emergency. They all have one common thread: call somebody else, and then…hope. For fire, that makes sense – getting students out of harms way comes first, and that keeps teachers hands full. Outside of that, are schools equipped to do anything at all? Floods, earthquakes and tornadoes come to mind – and when it’s big, the ‘first responders’ are overwhelmed: people need a little something to do for themselves. But what of Florida, and the clever but evil use of their installed fire alarm as a method to flush targets out from what could be locked doors? Our safety systems used against us means training needs adjustment, and perhaps building codes are defective/part of the threat and in need of emergency review. For a school, this once naughty fire alarm prank is now a major threat – we need time delays where the initial alarm sounds at a local manned space with a 2 minute delay before latching in; that allows for a quick investigation for threat assessment. Instant fire alarm capability should only be possible from the central station by manual control and all staff should know how to operate it.

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  30. Calling the Cops Every Time a Student Seems Sad, Angry, or Lonely Isn’t Going to Stop Mass Shootings

    Correct, it is going to lead to more mass shootings by cops responding to snowflake hysterics.

  31. Wouldn’t it be cheaper, and more in line with the constitution to just eliminate public schools?

  32. But if said depressed individuals acquire a lot of guns and express a desire to use them in a mass shooting, shouldn’t there be a law to petition the courts to remove the guns from said individuals, like the law that was passed in California in the aftermath of the UCSB shooting?

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