This blog post was originally intended to be a satirical sendup of Sean Hannity’s televised statement set out below:
“I’d like to see the perimeter of every school in American surrounded, secured by retired police…military …. Add a metal detector …. have one armed guard on every floor of every school, all over every mall, the perimeter and inside every hall of every mall.”
[Sean Hannity, Fox News, following the Dayton and El Paso slaughters]
I was dissuaded by the better judgment of my wife that this was not a time for comedic treatments of the horrors of gun massacres even if satirically directed at people like Hannity.
I will therefore just address the Hannity prescription for solving the gun problem directly. It is a gun problem despite all the Republican/NRA/Trump blather about mental health, video games and all the other excuses. Other countries have all those same activities/conditions in one form or another but only in the United States are high-capacity, military-grade weapons freely available to almost everyone and only in the U.S. are the slaughters of multiple people a daily occurrence. Guns are the root of the problem, regardless of the motivation behind the people who use them to massacre innocent people. Sane or insane, angry or delusional, hurt, frustrated, whatever the “inspiration,” the fact remains that without high-capacity magazines and weapons capable of automatic fire, the death toll would be dramatically reduced.
It is particularly troubling to hear Republicans argue that we need to solve mental health problems in the U.S. first. Virtually everyone would agree that’s a worthy goal, but even if a national program of some type were adequately funded and initiated tomorrow, the problems of mental health are not going to be resolved in any foreseeable time frame. To argue, therefore, that “solving mental health” is the way to end gun violence is to argue for a solution that has no realistic chance to change the death toll any time soon. This argument, like the “restore God to his/her rightful place in society” is a prescription for failure, a program to do nothing while the slaughter continues unabated.
Now let’s look more closely at Hannity’s “solution.” Even though it is so stupid as to defy comprehension, it deserves some attention because Hannity enjoys a national audience from his perch atop the parrot house known as Fox News. Many people actually believe what Hannity says and are incapable, it seems, of thinking through the implications of his commentary.
Stop for a moment then and picture in your mind the school nearest to where you live. Now imagine that the school entry doors are set up like the security areas at the airport. This would be necessary because most of the students typically arrive at the same time to start classes every day. The security system therefore must be prepared to handle a large volume of kids with backpacks, book bags, jackets in winter, and so on, just like at the airport. Hannity’s proposal thus requires x-ray scanners, metal detectors and the security machinery used at airports where similar circumstances prevail.
Moreover, we know from occasional incidents at airports that metal detectors inside the building would not stop an incursion by a student armed with an automatic rifle and willing to sacrifice himself for whatever “cause” is motivating his killer impulses. Therefore, to achieve Hannity’s “solution,” security must be moved out from the school building to the perimeter of the school property. This would keep a shooter as far away from the cover of the school building as possible.
Of course, in both urban and suburban environments, this “solution” would push the security perimeter into the surrounding neighborhood, with untold disruptions to the comings and goings of the people who live or work there. To meet the threat of a shooter with an assault rifle, the people manning these security positions would have to be armed and equipped with bullet-resistant vests.
The space between the security “gates” would, of course, have to be closed off so that no one could evade security by simply going around the gates. Razor-wire coils might work. How is that going to go over in the neighborhood? Moreover, a secondary armed force would be necessary in case someone did find a way into the protected zone. Since Hannity also proposed having armed security on each floor of a school, perhaps those folks could stand watch during the entry period in the morning. But they would actually have to be looking out for incursions all day long, because the reality of school life is that some kids arrive at odd hours, due to medical appointments, cars that don’t start or other interruptions to planned living. At the end of the day, the school would have to be “swept” by the security force to be sure no one remained inside.
I could go on with this, but I think the implications of the Hannity proposal for school security are obvious, unworkable and absurd. His suggestion to convert schools and malls into war zones is just another Fox News attempt to inflame the Trump right-wing political base with a simplistic approach that, upon even mild reflection, cannot possibly accomplish the job for which it is allegedly intended.
It’s actually a good way to complete the destruction of the public-school system that the Trump administration has been working to undermine through the policies of Betsy Devos and, while they’re at it, to destroy the economics of the shopping malls that already face enormous challenges from Internet competition. Maybe in the end all the right wingers want to do is replace all the civilian jobs with retired police and military armed with weapons of war, spending all day waiting for some fool to challenge them. The cost of this would be staggering and the impact on education stultifying. But the National Rifle Association will be happy and, therefore, so will the Republican leadership in Congress that toes the NRA line. If the Republican leadership has rejected Hannity’s insanity, I haven’t seen it.
Hannity’s vision of an America of armed camps we once called ‘schools’ and ‘malls’ should repulse every true American. That vision is not patriotism. It’s the kind of world envisioned by the likes of Adolf Hitler. And, apparently, also by Donald Trump.