In light of the tragic events that occurred at Sandy Hook, every corner of our nation has been calling for new policies to prevent the omnipresent mass shootings that plague the United States. From the more reasonable bi-partison pleas to renew the ban on assault weapons (granted that we are able to define precisely what classifies as an assault weapon) to the more extreme ideas on both sides, everyone agrees that the status quo will not cut it as a response this time around.
However, one suggestion that was made by National Riffle Association executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre has me scared for my peers and, evidently, mayors are calling it a "dumbass idea." To punctuate his "more good guys with guns" solution, LaPierre suggested that their should be armed guards at schools. While plenty of people have already obliterated this proposition, including the fact that there were armed guards at Columbine High School when the 1999 tragedy occurred, I wish to add another concern to the fray, and that's the issue of racial profiling. Increasing the amount of armed guards in our schools is all but guaranteed to intensify the police state epithet that permeates inner-city communities. By equipping guards with the same objects that so many campaigns work tirelessly to keep away from schools, the NRA would be effectively breading more hatred and misunderstanding between "the protected" and those who are presumably paid to protect them. As policies like stop-and-frisk demonstrate, the autonomy that is granted to authoritative figures comes at the expense of black and brown youths' right to feel unwatched and clocked by the second ... or even a fatal outcome.
In New York City, the tension between the NYPD and young black and brown men is palpable. Since 2002, 4 million New Yorkers have been stop-and-frisked; nine out of 10 of them were innocent (meaning they had no drugs or weapons on the persons, nor were they engaged in any illegal activities). Right in line with previous years, approximately 55% of those who were stopped and frisked in 2012 thus far were black males, at least half were between the age of 14 and 24. As I have preached and advocated with the Police Reform Organizing Project and the Campaign the to End the New Jim Crow over-and-over again, the NYPD is clearly targeting black and brown youth under the pressure of lieutenants to meet precinct quotas. The abject failure of the autonomous liberty the NYPD has in stop-and-frisk has given me ample reason to be pessimistic about giving "protectors," who partake in racial profiling more often than not, that much power over our youth.
But the obvious counter-response is how do the follies of stop-and-frisk correlate with armed school guards? For starters, many inner-city youth view both the church and school as safe havens. These are the only places where they can claim sanctuary until they step outside. What lies outside are bad influences ... presumably people who either use or inhibit the use of objects that plague the community.
Now consider the message that is sent when a young man who is relieved from the eyes and equipment of the NYPD is suddenly confronted by the same police state presence in his school with the same objects that he sees rallied against by community advocates like "ManUp NY."
Should we be surprised if there's a sudden shift in mentality when the same things these kids were once able to escape by going to school are now in the hands of the people who have power over them? Should we be surprised if more altercations occur that result in fatal outcomes? These aren't tasers (which also have no business in a place that is conducive to learning); the consequences are far more costly. If you don't understand where I am coming from, try visiting a school that is a little out of your element. Altercations between security and students are common. If you add a gun to the dispute, then the next thing we will hear from LaPierre is to get more guns in the hands of good kids, good pastors, or, well, everyone!
The willingness of citizens to understand and respect such policies is contingent upon that individual community's sense that it aligns with their social values. Nine times out of 10, guns in schools won't get a thumbs up anywhere.
Of course, my argument leads us right back to square one. Everyone can shoot down and criticize an idea, but we seldom offer solutions. But in all honesty, the suggestion of adding or subtracting more guns is emblematic of the laziness of both sides to think more critically about the intricacy of gun control in our country. An issue that calls for a long overdue sit-down and review has constantly elicited posturing, symbolism, and politicizing. When everyone agrees that some guns just don't belong in civilian hands, that some civilians just should not be able to get their hands on guns so easily, that perhaps we should broaden our definition and treatment for mental illnesses, and that guns aren't as essentially "American" as some people make them out to be, then maybe we'd be able to make more room for rationality. In many ways, the issue with gun control mirrors the ignorance of the big government v. small government debate. Why does the size or amount of laws and government control warrant a conversation? Why not talk about the effectiveness of each independent law and agency on a case-by-case basis? If we quantify our gun laws, we have more than enough. But if we were to look at the quality, a policy like arming school guards would instantly exploit the ignorance of measuring effective gun laws by the quantity. Giving school guards the authority to carry guns to school daily doesn't shield the community from outside violence; it perpetuates internal conflicts.