One of the main responses to the tragic problem of gun violence in schools within America has consisted of the call for putting armed guards in schools. The present sample essay provided by Ultius will consist of a critical analysis of the relationship (or lack thereof) between the presence of armed guards on one hand and improved school safety on the other. The essay will proceed through five main parts.
- Provide general background context for the issue under consideration here.
- Consider this issue from the objective angle, or what the evidence says about the relationship in question
- Consider it from the subjective angle, or how stakeholders subjectively feel about their own safety in relation to the presence of armed guards.
- Consider the matter from the perspective of civil liberties.
- A critical conclusion against the presence of armed guards in schools.
Background context of armed guards and school safety
To start, current proposals for the presence of armed guards in schools must be understood within the context of the string of school shootings that has plagued America, including the Sandy Hook massacre that resulted in 26 deaths, 20 of which were elementary school students.
“In the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, the National Rifle Association proposed putting armed security officers in schools across the nation. According to a 2013 Rasmussen survey, most Americans agreed with the organization’s proposal” (Barkoukis).
The proposals regarding armed guards have been made in direct response to a perceived threat. It’s fair to ask ourselves if we can we curb gun violence without eviscerating the second amendment. The idea here is that since gun violence in schools has become a serious problem within America, the logical response would consist of having armed guards in schools, so that they can protect students and teachers and retaliate against gunmen in the event that further school shootings are attempted in the future.
Of course, this perspective leaves aside other serious issues surrounding gun violence in America, including the widespread availability of guns and the existence of people who would want to commit this kind of gun violence in the first place. Rather, advocacy for armed guards in schools stems directly from the narrow perception of the concrete school situation, as such; and the idea is that if there would be people with guns who would want to cause harm to students, then there should also be armed guards who protect those students by causing harm to those gunmen. At face value, this would seem to be logical enough, and it is easy to see why people would feel themselves to be drawn to the proposal in the aftermath of tragedies such as the one that occurred at Sandy Hook. It will, however, be worthwhile to delve into this issue in a more critical and less superficial way.
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Having armed guards in schools
Objectively speaking, the case could be made that in terms of the sheer problem of response time, having armed guards in schools would in fact make students safer in the event of a gun violence emergency.
“Response time is exactly the problem. . . . Police and government are powerless to respond to emergency calls in time to protect citizens from criminal violence” (Martin).
If a person with a gun actually does decide to shoot up a school, then local police will likely not arrive on the scene in time to prevent the violence or associated deaths from occurring. Rather, the only logistically feasible way to respond to the gunman within an adequate timeframe would be to have armed guards, or police present on campus itself at all times. In colleges across the country, the debate is being had weather to allow students and teachers themselves to carry firearms.
On the other hand, however, it is worth noting that gun violence in schools is actually a relatively infrequent crime, statistically considered. This would mean that if cops were in schools, not only would their resources be wasted in a low-threat environment, they would also likely become bored (as it were) and begin paying attention to infractions that fall far short of the reason why they were stationed in schools in the first place.
“With the increase of police in schools, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in school-based student arrests, particularly of youth of color. Instead of addressing infrequent, serious threats to safety, police officers in schools often respond to minor student misbehavior by handcuffing, arresting and criminalizing the very young people they are intended to protect” (Advancement Project).
In short, issues that would have ordinarily been treated as disciplinary matters often suddenly become criminal matters when there are armed guards present in schools. It is as though the very presence of the cops inherently raises the stakes of what would have otherwise been treated as far more minor and certainly not criminal misbehaviors.
In this sense, it could be suggested that the presence of armed guards in schools tends to make students inherently less safe. The threat of possible arrest at all times, even for the kinds of disciplinary matters that have always been common within schools, is reflective of a lack of safety. Armed guards surely would make students safer in the event of an actual incident of gun violence. However, this point must be considered with the caveat that gun violence very rarely actually occurs, and in the meanwhile, the armed guards would still be present within the schools. This would alter the culture of the schools by their very presence and diminishing the students’ safety by routinely escalating minor problems to the criminal level, according to Aviva Shen of ThinkProgress.com. Not to mention, of course, that these guards themselves would have guns, which in itself could create a sense of danger within the schools.
Would firearms make our schools safer?
Aside from objective analysis of the issue of armed guards in schools, the issue can also be considered from the perspective of whether the presence of such guards would make the students themselves actually feel safer as a result, or as Brad Pulmer of the Washington Post writes,
“A 2011 study in the journal Youth Society found that the presence of armed guards in schools made many students feel less secure at school. . . . Another journal article reported a few detrimental effects from the presence of armed guards and surveillance cameras at public schools” (Plumer).
The irony here is that although armed guards in schools are there in order to keep the students safe, the students themselves often felt less safe as a result of the presence of those guards. In other words, students perceived the guards themselves as a threat to their general safety, and not as agents who would protect them in the event of an emergency.
Psychologically speaking, it is easy to understand why this would be the case. For one things, again, these guards have guns, and the presence of guns tends to move any situation whatsoever in the direction of diminished perceived safety. It is also worth considering the basic fact that the implied need for armed guards would clearly make students feel that a gun violence emergency could actually erupt at any given moment. This is a perception that is not congruent with the extant evidence on this subject. Evidence which indicates that incidents of gun violence, while very tragic when they do occur, are very much the exception and not the norm considered from the perspective of everyday life in almost all schools.
Students would thus be likely to perceive the guards themselves as primarily agents of intimidation and violence. In the absence of an actual objective threat to the physical safety of the students, the guard themselves may become a perceived threat to psychological safety. Perhaps, to physical safety as well, in the event that guards decide to get rough with students over minor disciplinary infractions.
Civil liberties at risk
Whenever an event similar to the Sandy Hook massacre occurs, there are always two polar opposite opinions on what to do. Turning to the civil liberties angle now, the main question that can be asked is whether students ought to have the right to not be patrolled by armed guards at all times (which again is to what the situation really amounts, in all but highly exceptional events of actual gun violence within schools).
“Civil rights groups have long complained that cops in schools actually makes safety worse for many children, increasing the likelihood that students will end up severely disciplined for minor infractions and in trouble with the law” (Toppo).
The armed guards could perceived be an actual threat to the civil liberties of the students, and not the protectors of the students’ right to life and safety. Again, this is the case because the average school, on almost all days, is not a war zone, and the presence of armed guards would thus almost always have no justification whatsoever. The very presence of those guards with guns could shift the everyday culture of schools in the direction of greater authoritarianism, presenting a serious threat to the civil liberties of students.
As with many issues, then, the issue of armed guards in schools can in a way be understood in terms of the conflict that exists between the value of liberty on the one hand and the value of safety on the other. On the balance, it is not clear that the threat posed by armed guards to a general culture of liberty is outweighed by the protection that those guards can offer to the students at the level of safety. Among other things, most discussions of this issue would seem to neglect the statistical fact that gun violence in schools is in fact very rare, which would make calls for armed guards in all schools something of an overreaction at best. This is especially the case when one bears in mind that there are several other sensible policy imperatives that could be taken in order to address the issue of gun violence within the nation in general and schools in particular.
The critical conclusion that can be reached is that armed guards in schools make students neither objectively nor subjective safer, and that the guards also present a serious threat to the civil liberties of the students. As Ashley Lauren Samsa of the Guardian argues,
“the presence of armed guards in schools will only add to a culture where guns are commonplace, making them part of everyday life rather than weapons to be used only when absolutely necessary.”
It is, of course, precisely that culture that gives rise to gun violence within schools in the first place. This can be seen in any meaningful comparison between gun violence in America on one hand, and other developed nations on the other. In short, there is every reason to believe that the presence of armed guards in schools will not actually address the issue of school safety in a meaningful way but rather simply exacerbate already-existing problems by insinuating that more guns are the answer.
Ultimately, if schools really wanted to make students genuinely safer, then they may consider supporting initiatives for more effective gun control within American society as a whole. Among other things, the obvious point could be made that there would no need for armed guards to protect students from gun violence if it were not so easy for deranged people in society to access guns in the first place. It may be an arguement best left to states themselves, as gun laws can vary from state to state.
The argument in favor of armed guards in schools generally tends to neglect this macro-level perspective altogether, assuming that gun violence in schools is a kind of inevitability, which in turn produces the further inevitability of needing armed protection against such violence. The more reasonable perspective to take, however, would entail challenging notion that gun violence is in fact all that inevitable, and likewise focusing on creating a general culture in which neither gun violence nor armed guards would any longer present a threat to the safety of children in schools. We hope you enjoyed reading this sample essay from Ultius, and data suggests reading it, might even help make you a better writer, yourself!
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Advancement Project. “Putting Armed Guards in School Is Wrong Answer.” Author, 15 Jan. 2013. Web. 6 Sep. 2016.
Barkoukis, Leah. “Armed Guards Ended School Shooting in Oregon.” Town Hall. 11 Jun. 2014. Web. 6 Sep. 2016.
Martin, Maureen. “The Truth about Armed Guards in Schools.” The Daily Caller. 10 Jan. 2013. Web. 6 Sep. 2016.
Plumer, Brad. “Security Guards in School: Kids Feel Less Safe, Unclear Effect on Crime.” Washington Post. 21 Dec. 2012. Web. 6 Sep. 2016.
Samsa, Ashley Lauren. “Say No to Armed Guards in Schools.” Guardian. 20 Feb. 2013. Web. 6 Sep. 2016.
Shen, Aviva. “The Dangers of Putting More Armed Guards in Schools.” ThinkProgress.com, 17 Jan. 2013. Web. 6 Sep. 2016.
Toppo, Greg. “Civil Rights Groups: Cops in Schools Don’t Make Students Safer.” USA Today. 28 Oct. 2015.
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