Matt Carberry (kingpin248) wrote,
Matt Carberry

Newtown and the NRA, which is more wrong than you suspect

I had a post nearly done about the mass murder in Connecticut nearly two weeks ago. Last Friday's statement fundamentally shifted what I want to focus on. From that post, here are some really good links: Nick Gillespie at Reason, Megan McArdle at The Daily Beast, and Gene Healy at the Washington Examiner.

Healy responded to Wayne LaPierre's statement on Sunday morning in a blog post. He hits a lot of good points, namely that an organization ostensibly of the right has joined the left in hysteria and calling for action without meaningful debate. He blasts LaPierre for succumbing to what I've just now termed the FAZR (pronounced "phaser") - the fallacy of attainability of zero risk. Placing the NRA's plan into effect would impose significant public costs on budgets that are increasingly unable to bear them, and would unnecessarily instill a sense of fear in parents, children, and educators. As Gillespie and Healy rightly point out, it would replicate the TSA model in our schools - and would have roughly the same miniscule effect on their safety.

There's an additional step down this line of argument that I haven't seen anyone else take. If LaPierre's plan for armed police in every school in the nation were to be implemented, and the frequency of the events they're there to prevent holds, these new security won't have much to do approximately 99.99999% of the time. There may come a time when their value in the schools is questioned. I would expect such questions to be roundly dismissed; not only would the officers act in their own self-preservational interest, they'd brand any attempt to remove them as an act that would put "our" children in harm's way. School administrators and parents would join that chorus, as the invocation of "we must protect our children" often acts as a sort of guillotine to further debate, and a "rebalancing" of the liberty and security interests. My own local school board has a recent relevant experience, when it voted 8 to 1 to allow random canine drug sweeps in the high school.

So the police in the schools would remain, and I suspect ways would be found to make better use of their time. What might that entail? A very plausible answer comes out of Texas, as illustrated by Chris McGreal in the British newspaper The Guardian. There, the police in the schools have been increasingly employed in the disposition of seemingly ordinary classroom discipline. The result has been termed a "school-to-prison pipeline." It isn't a concept isolated to the Lone Star State, either. In fact, Washington has taken notice; two days before the Newtown shootings, a Senate committee held a hearing on this very subject. (Here's the testimony of Cato's Andrew Coulson.) Making increased use of the criminal justice system, whether adult or juvenile, to handle minor matters, is a recipe for needlessly making young people's lives harder, to say nothing of burdening the system.

I know there are a lot of hypotheticals in the last two paragraphs, and that the widespread derision LaPierre's statement received makes it unlikely that the NRA's plan is going anywhere. Even so, these are concerns that should be taken seriously, as evidenced by the Senate hearing.

Something only barely tangentially related that should also be taken seriously - David Gregory's actions on Meet the Press. I understand fully that Manhattan and D.C. are entirely separate jurisdictions, but if Plaxico Burress was charged and pled guilty for what he did in November 2008, then so too must Gregory for his stunt on Sunday, especially given that NBC asked the Washington police whether the magazine could be brandished, and were told it could not. I'm fine with Gregory and his lawyers copping a deal that keeps him out of the clink, but the only way he should escape punishment is on a "not guilty" verdict after a trial.

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