Obama school safety plan falls short; Real target is gun control

Posted by on January 16, 2013

President Obama’s plan in response to the Sandy Hook shootings is heavy on gun control and short on funding for school safety, security, and emergency preparedness.

While the Obama Administration, DC politicians, special interest groups, and many media outlets have framed the President’s plan as a “school safety plan,” only three of the 15 pages in the plan released on January 16th actually directly addressed school safety, security, and emergency preparedness.  Almost nine pages dealt with gun control and about two and one-half addressed mental health issues.

Gun control special interest groups and advocates seized upon the Sandy Hook as early as the day of the shootings to advance their agenda. Gun rights special groups followed shortly thereafter, spinning the shootings into a political defense against calls for gun control while proposing arming teachers and volunteers. The remainder of the national discussion has largely been on broad conversations about mental health and violence in the entertainment industries.

The failure of Obama and Congress to immediately address the needs of front-line school principals and safety officials who want to better secure their buildings and prepare for emergencies has been a national embarassment. Obama, with the help of Congress and the groundwork laid by their predecessors, in recent years eliminated the vast majority of federal grant programs for school safety, security, security equipment, school-based policing, and school emergency planning.

Obama’s proposal calls for $150 million for grants to hire school resource officers (SROs) and counselors, fund school security equipment, update safety plans, conduct threat assessments, and train crisis teams.  It also calls for “one-time” grants of $30 million to states to help schools create and update emergency plans.

While the flexibility of how funds can be used is appropriate, the level of funding is a joke. The $30 million to states is a waste and money that should be used to restore the eliminated Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) program eliminated by Obama in 2010.  Send that money directly to local school districts, not state education departments where it will be wasted for administrative costs, a conference here and there, and other bureaucratic uses.

The $150 million is a lot of money if it is in the bank account of an average American, but that amount is a pithy drop in the bucket for what is needed to better support the nation’s schools. At an average of $3 million per state, each state might be able to fund about 20 to 25 school police officers or counselors. That’s assuming hiring was the only way the funds were selected to be used.

Congress has no legs to stand on to claim that restoring and expanding funding for school safety would adversely impact the federal budget.  The first priority of the federal government is the protection of its people.  And according to some media reports, Congress packed their recent “fiscal cliff” budget deal with more than $200 billion in pork.

Our nation’s “leaders” have shamelessly politicized the Sandy Hook shootings and hijacked the concept of “school safety” to advance their own political agendas. They should restore and expand the programs they eliminated for school violence prevention, security, security equipment, school-based policing, and school emergency planning, while adding new programs such as state school safety specialist academies to build local capacity through ongoing training.

Politicians had, and have, an opportunity to do something meaningful to help principals better secure their schools and reduce parental anxiety. Will they continue to screw up the national response to a school shooting that left 20 kids and 6 adults dead?

Ken Trump

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3 thoughts on “Obama school safety plan falls short; Real target is gun control

  1. John Henderson says:

    I agree that restoring the programs that were eliminated would be the best thing to do in the short term, as trying to create new programs with different and likely lower amounts of funding just creates another logistical mess that wastes time and money. I am further amazed by the political rhetoric flying back and forth between Republicans and Democrats as this issue continues to simmer with new shootings being reported across the country almost daily. It’s unfortunate that the proposals are so heavily centred on gun control when there are other issues at play.

    The politics of gun control seem so polarized that nothing will be accomplished. If one looks at other western nations, I can’t think of one that allows military style weapons with large capacity magazines to be possessed by average citizens, and not one of these countries has the same level of gun violence. That kind of weaponry is for the military and police. I do not hear gun control advocates saying “you cannot have a gun”. They are saying that government should restrict the types of guns and create a licensing system that ensures the wrong people do not access firearms. How could that be a problem when we are faced with mass shootings on an increasing basis? It is certainly worth discussion.

    The other often identified issue is how society deals with the mentally ill. Many reports cite that most of these events were committed by mentally ill persons that were not identified or treated for their issues. It is time to look after people with needs for the sake of everyone else.

    This is a non-partisan issue that the ambitious and self-righteous are turning into a political battle between left and right. Until the two political parties can somehow put aside the political battles, people will continue to be slaughtered in these mass shooting events. I also agree that hiring 20 police officers per state would have little impact other than to help local police forces start to catch up on regular policing business. Putting one extra officer on each shift state-wide would not impact the mass shooting problem at all. Further, putting armed guards in schools will just ensure they are the first ones taken out by a shooter. School based policing is a much better approach as officers become intertwined with the school community and know what is really going on and who could be sliding toward trouble.

    Prevention, access control and law enforcement planning with the school districts is the key to efficiency and progress. I completely agree with Ken that restoring what the Government started and building from there by addressing the real problems and causes would be the most effective way to move forward. Gun control is a massive issue that will not be solved overnight. In the short term, we need to stop intruders from accessing schools so easily and improve the identification and treatment of individuals likely to commit such violent acts.

  2. Todd says:

    Israel, Switzerland and perhaps a few other western countries do in fact allow civilians to possess military battle weapons including those with full auto capability. Yes they are former military and they are expected to use those weapons in defense of their country. The worst attack on an American school was perpetrated by a school board member and he did not use a firearm. He used dynamite. Andrew Kehoe in Bath Michigan. There were no cries to outlaw dynamite. Political parties did not use the tragedy to further their agendas. The 2nd amendment was and still is a military amendment creating an army out of every citizen, capable of stopping a newly formed federal government from usurping total power from the states. If there had been so called assault rifles when the Bill of Rights was being written, the 2nd amendment would have included a provision preserving the right of the people to keep and bear assault rifles. Whatever was start of the art military at that time. It is dishonest to ignore history. The authors of these documents wrote exactly what they intended these provisions to accomplish, one only need read them. To suggest that one is outdated is to suggest they are all outdated. A seasoned, highly skilled and trained police officer in a school would be a formidable foe for the typical shooter. He or she might not be much of a match against 5 terrorists who are well trained but the officer could buy some time. A “guard” whether armed or not without the proper training is simply another feel good measure. Even Fort Knox itself can be breached in time with resources provided there is no armed human response to the attempt.

  3. Another excellent argument Ken. The first thing we seem to cut from federal budgets are the unheralded, low profile programs that actually do a lot of good. It’s only when a national tragedy takes place that people even notice such vital programs have been cut but before anyone can even have a sensible debate on bringing them back the hysteria and polirization takes over and we end up like kids in a play ground shouting names at each other.

    So first priority needs to be finding the money to restore the programs that have been cut. Seconly its vital that the likes of you Ken are supported in getting your message across. You write about and work in this field year in year out and yet the second something as appalling as Sandyhook happens suddenly everyone’s an expert in the medias eyes and your message gets drowned out. So I think there needs to be more support and awareness of the considered opinions of us in the school security business.

    On the issue of gun control I think we need to also be addressing the moral breakdown of the average family unit. And the necessary school personal to recognize problems before they happen. Its sad to say but if you are a kid and you want to find a gun you will get your hands on one. If you want to do harm then you will find a way to do that and so we need to correct the real problem at hand at its root and provide more help for kids with psycholigical issues intent on doing harm.

    Spending more money on looking for the potential harm before it happens is better then trying to clean up the mess after something goes wrong.

    There is so much violence in the world today from the daily news showing killings to violent video games that kids play in which they try to kill each other it’s no wonder their some minds are warped and things like the Sandy Hook shootings take place. We are just setting ourselves up for more and more crime and violence to come.

    I think we need to take a hard look at what our kids are looking at and start to teach them right from wrong and the gun issue would not be an issue. You cannot stop the crime by removing guns as that would take generations so we first need to change the mind of those that want to do harm.

    A multilayered and nuanced solution is needed which incorporates mental health, school security, early intervention, non violence programs, counselling, gun control and more.


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