Hard Choices

Dr. Malcolm Cross

In light of the recent mass shootings, a top priority of America’s schools should be to harden their facilities and premises against future attacks.  Schools should limit access to their buildings and post armed professional security guards to monitor and control access.  Funds to do so are readily available.

There may be no 100% fool-proof way to guard against future mass shootings.  But most of the recent shootings took place in facilities which were unguarded and open to the public.  But what if a would-be murderer trying to attack a school were unable to gain entrance since most of the doors were locked, or what if he met armed resistance from well-trained and well-armed guards?   Would he still be able to do as much damage as the murderers of Uvalde, or the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School in Florida, or the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut?  Would he even bother to try?  

The answers to those questions are impossible to know with complete certainty.  But common sense indicates that if one changes the conditions under which something may happen, one may be able to change the outcome as well.  

So what are the objections to increasing school security?

One critic noted that the store in a predominantly Black area of Buffalo, New York, where a white racist went on a killing spree did in fact have a security guard whom the racist murdered; so much for armed guards.  Another critics have noted that the Uvalde murderer had gained access to the school through a door accidentally left unlocked; so much for locked doors.  A critic has raised the question of whether attendance at schools with armed guards might traumatize the students.  In short, those who argue against increasing school security seem to be saying it’s pointless to do so since it won’t work.  So why even try?

But that doesn’t seem to make much sense.  The fact that one security guard at a grocery store was murdered doesn’t mean that every security guard at schools targeted by mass murderers is condemned to death.  Who’s to say they wouldn’t at least have a fighting chance against an armed intruder?  And just because one teacher in Uvalde apparently left a door unlocked doesn’t mean that this mistake will occur so frequently that one might as well not even try to make schools more secure.  And what’s more traumatic—going to a school with armed guards, or going to one that can be converted into a shooting gallery at some murderer’s convenience?  Who knows? Children may even feel safer if  they can see efforts to protect them.

One suspects that the real reason why critics are objecting to plans to make schools more physically secure is that they think that proposals to harden schools are being offered as substitutes for gun control measures they prefer, including proposals to raise age limits for gun purchases, implement red flag laws, and improve background checks.  But hardening school security by no means prevents he implementation of other proposals as well.  

So while Congress and state legislatures continue to debate background checks, red flag laws, and age limits for gun purchases, America’s schools should retrofit their facilities and hire well-armed professionals to provide enhanced security.  The money to do so is there:  The Wall Street Journal and the National Review report that America’s 90,000 public school systems have a total of $113 billion in unspent Covid-19 relief funds.  Schools to which access is more limited, and which are protected by professionals with guns, may well prove to be safer than unguarded schools into which anyone can enter.  Do we not owe it to our children to at least try?

Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present).  He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014.  He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.


  1. The problem is that hardening schools is being offered as the only alternative. And parents buying bullet proof back packs.

    If you know of a Texas legislator offering something different please share

  2. My wife, who an assistant junior high principal at the time, was involved in school shooting in Arlington about 30 years ago. The shooter, who had already shot the other assistant principal. was physically taken out by a teacher who charged him and took him down. If another administrator was armed and trained it may have been done a matter safer to all. In yet another Arlington school, another assistant principal, who was a friend of ours, charged a student who was shooting randomly at kids and took him down. When I asked what she was thinking, her reply was that “no SOB is going to shoot my kids and get away with it.” Of the hundreds of teachers we have know over the decades most them would have done the same thing.

    I had a cousin killed in the infamous Killeen Luby’s Cafeteria shooting before that. If concealed weapons had been legal back then, the odds are that the shooter would have been taken out before he systematically worked his way around the room executing patrons one at a time. In order to more safely defend our schools, work, and churches, the shooter needs to be taken out from someone already on the scene and knowing what to do. None of these shooters bought their own guns.

    No one thinks twice about multiple armed police officers at nearly all sporting events, so how could anyone complain that schools should not have as much, or more, protection,

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