July 20, 2018

Facing Reality

Suppose that tomorrow ISIS releases a video to all the major television networks in the United States. In the video we see a man wearing a black balaclava which covers his entire head except for his eyes. Speaking with a slight southern American accent, he reads the following statement:

While many Americans have rejoiced over the war on ISIS in the Middle East, directed by the criminal Donald Trump, you should know that this crime shall not go unpunished. ISIS has recruited over one hundred American young men who are prepared to attack students in schools throughout your country. Their goal is to kill as many students as possible by using guns, knives, or bombs. These soldiers of Allah are already in your schools and have been for years. They may be the class president, the star athlete, or your daughter’s date for the prom. ISIS has already provided them with the weapons they will need to carry out their assignments. They wait only for the appropriate time to strike. Live in fear, America. Allah is great!

Okay, America, what do you want to do? Will you demand Congress pass some kind of legislation to prevent this from happening? What form will that legislation take? Will it declare that attacking students in schools is illegal? We already have a law like that. Will it designate all schools as “gun-free” zones? We already have a law like that in many communities. 

All right, how about having marches across the nation? We can carry signs that condemn Republicans for not caring about children and caring only for monetary donations from the NRA. We’ve already done that. Or we can carry signs that accuse the NRA as having blood on their hands for the deaths of students killed by heinous shooters. Been there; done that. 

Well, if these ideas don’t work, how about we raise the age to purchase a gun or prohibit the sale of certain scary-looking guns, or, better yet, let’s rescind the Second Amendment. Well, we’ve already done two of these suggestions in some locations. 

But all of these ideas seem silly and juvenile given the ISIS statement above, don’t they? ISIS wouldn’t care a whit about laws and marches and certain gun bans. So, where do we go from here?

We go to a place where we realize that school shooters are terrorists. They have the weapons, the access, and the desire to kill. After Parkland, people who are not naive knew that the next school shooter was already out there somewhere. And they were right. According to those who knew the Santa Fe killer, he looked and acted like a normal kid. But he knew he could get his father’s pistol and shotgun whenever he wanted to, and since he was a student at the school, access was easy. All he had to do is pick the day and, as he did, go to school. 

The answer for parents who want their children safe in school is to look at 9-11. After the planes were hijacked and crashed into the twin towers and the Pentagon, what was the reaction? Getting on an airplane became a much more difficult process. Background checks on passengers became more intense and more sophisticated. Passengers waited in long lines, emptied their pockets, took off their shoes, and then went through a metal detector and/or a body scanner or were physically searched. Certain innocuous items like bottles of shampoo were not allowed on board, along with anything that could be used as a weapon. Police with assault rifles roamed the airports, ready for any threats.

In the planes themselves, the door to the cockpit was made virtually impregnable to forced entry or bullets. Undercover armed sky marshals became the norm and are still used today. Pilots who chose to do so were permitted to carry weapons in the cockpit just in case the door was not as impregnable as expected. 

Government buildings allowed access for visitors through only one door and metal detectors were installed. Pockets were emptied and contents were run through a scanner. ID’s were carefully screened. Large cement blocks or cylinders surrounded buildings to prevent bomb-laden vehicles from smashing into the building. And, of course, the number of armed guards was significantly increased, with many openly caring assault weapons.

In essence, the government made it exceedingly difficult for anyone to launch a terrorist attack on workers and visitors. Have you heard a lot of complaints about too much security? Rarely. In fact, most people are grateful for the efforts to keep them safe.

And so it must also happen in our schools. Everything must be done to make each building hardened against an attack. Single entries, metal detectors, the banning of backpacks, armed security (including teachers), quick-locking bullet-proof doors, and other measures. The reality is that each student must be seen as a potential terrorist and act accordingly. 

After all, if such security measures are appropriate for air travelers and members of Congress, they should be appropriate for our children. 

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Written by
Thomas Addis

THOMAS ADDIS is a retired high school teacher and published author, most recently authoring a children's book, A Gift of Light, which is available at Amazon. An M.A. graduate of Oakland University, he is Associate Editor of Catholic Journal. In his spare time, he enjoys reading and cycling.

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Written by Thomas Addis