By Maren Tarro
— At a press conference in Washington, D.C., today the National Rifle Association broke its silence on the shooting deaths in Newtown, Conn. Blaming the usual suspects—television, movies, video games and music videos, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre called on lawmakers to abandon the thought of gun control through legislation. His solution? Armed security presence in every school.
Having attended a school with armed guards, I couldn’t disagree more.
In 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait, I was a 6th-grader living in Neu-Ulm, Germany, where my father was stationed as a member of the U.S. Army. I was accustomed to guns in our home (my father is an avid collector), and I was used to guns being a part of my father’s line of work. I faced armed military police every time I entered the base or attended a base-sponsored family event. On one occasion, I lined up with dozens of other kids to pull the trigger on an M-16 assault rifle loaded with blanks. The rapid series of blasts left me feeling unsettled and more convinced than ever to stay the hell away from the M-1 carbine under my dad’s bed. I still flinch at every report of a 21-gun salute. As commonplace as these experiences were for me and all the other army brats, there was always a sense that we were separate from these guns.
Arriving to school after the U.S. became involved in Kuwait, I was greeted by military police who made no attempt to conceal their guns—massive, ugly, frightening weapons to my small eyes. It’s an image I’ll never get out of my head. Students gaped, uncertain of what to make of the soldiers. Despite being on a military base, school guards had never been armed before. The police were in the hallways, the cafeteria and the playground. The teachers tried assuring us that everything was fine, it was just a little extra security to keep us safe.
We didn’t feel safe. We concluded that if it was necessary—even if only as a precaution—to have armed guards in our school, there must be some close and immediate danger lurking. Here and there, kids cried at their desks. We were distracted each time we glimpsed a uniform through the window. There was no concentrating on assignments. Again, we were kids used to guns being a part of military life. Just not at school.
LaPierre is not alone in calling for armed school guards. Many have suggested teachers carry guns as well. While it may seem logical to fight fire with fire, consider this: Columbine High School had an armed guard on campus. His bullets, combined with those of emergency responders that included SWAT officers, did not stop the attackers. The armed presence at Fort Hood also failed to deter a gunman.
Schools should be safe places, but inviting guns in isn’t the answer. They won’t make our kids feel safe; they will teach them there is something to fear.