Wrong idea

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Before we even get into discussing what an enormous mistake it would be for armed guards to be assigned to all of Greenwich’s public schools, let’s make one thing perfectly clear — this idea is going nowhere.

The Board of Education’s chairman is against it. The first selectman says there are far better options to consider. And a selectman with years of experience as a first responder has said in no uncertain terms that there is no proven effectiveness in bringing someone with a gun to watch over our elementary schools. Even Superintendent of Schools William McKersie, while saying that this option will be considered, qualifies that by admitting there are “pros and cons” and that it could well have “minimal effect” from preventing tragedies like Newtown.

After all, there was an armed guard on duty in Columbine and that tragedy still took place.

If in fact this misguided plan were to go forward, who would pay for these guards? The kind of highly trained private guards this would require would not come cheaply. And even if we were to assign existing police officers to the schools, that would come with a price tag, too. Would our Board of Estimate and Taxation say with a straight face, at a time when half of that board’s membership is forcing Greenwich into unneeded austerity measures, that there’s not enough room in the budget for music and the arts and physical education coordinators but there is for people with guns?

We have an extremely effective program in place with the student resource officer at Greenwich High School, but that is a special circumstance, and Officer Carlos Franco is a highly trained Greenwich police officer. We do not need private guards at our elementary schools, and as the Board of Education begins its school security review tonight, this idea should be taken off the table.

For too long we have tolerated, if not outright encouraged, a cowboy culture where we fantasize that a brave gunslinger is going to be there to save the day. After the massacre in Newtown, the most laughable thing said of course came from the mouth of National Rifle Association head Wayne LaPierre, who opined that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

This has been soundly and correctly mocked because only the leadership of the NRA and its more extreme members would believe that the answer to these murders is more people with guns. Even the majority of NRA membership doesn’t agree with this insanity. But adding people with guns to our elementary schools would be doing just what the Wayne LaPierres of this world want by continuing a world where the only answer to our problems is more guns.

Guns are the cause of our problems in cases like Newtown and Tucson and Columbine and all the other violent gun deaths in this country. We’re on the verge of big discussions on a state and federal level about gun violence, and all the causes must be acknowledged, like the failings of our underfunded and ignored mental health system in this country and even how video games and movies can contribute to a culture of violence. But video games and movies do not put instruments of death in the hands of people who want to murder, no more than EC Comics and Elvis Presley led to juvenile delinquency in the 1950s.

Fewer guns is the answer, not more. It’s about making sure there are commonsense laws that respect the rights of responsible gun owners while making sure that all of us are protected from people so twisted that they want to commit mass murder having easy access to the kinds of automatic and assault weapons that are there only to bring about human death.

On a state and national level the time is now for action that will have real impact, not create a false sense of security. This is a wrong plan for Greenwich.

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