This Unholy Mess


School Safety, Texas Style

Here we are again. Another horrible school shooting, and in Texas, too, a state that’s had more than its share. Everyone is shocked and saddened, of course, not just by the frequency of these tragedies but also by the lack of preventive action by our leaders.
So who has the big idea, the solution to this terrible scourge? I’ll tell you who: Dan Patrick, Lieutenant Governor of Texas. In a May 18th statement, he demonstrated the kind of dynamism and original thinking that make us all proud not to be Dan Patrick. In perfectly simple-minded English, he explained how to avoid school shootings in the future, steering well clear of any actually viable ideas currently being called for by substantial majorities of Americans, ideas like comprehensive background checks, closing the gun show loophole, funding more complete school counseling programs, or studying ways to reduce gun violence.
His idea? Designing schools with fewer entrances.
Sheer genius.
It’s a notion that has security experts and school officials slapping their foreheads. In disbelief? Frustration? Hard to say. But with only a few entrances, Patrick points out, schools can eliminate the unrealistically costly step of arming absolutely everyone, and implement the kind of effective surveillance and security that will foil the efforts of the increasing numbers of enraged and alienated teenagers bent on carrying out mass murder.
The only problem with Mr. Patrick’s plan, as I see it, is that it doesn’t go far enough. Since it’s apparently useless to talk to Texas officials about the ready availability of military grade weapons, about bump stocks or large-capacity magazines, or the three hundred million guns already rattling around in this country, we obviously should be talking about other, even more creative modifications to school buildings. Modifications that Mr. Patrick would certainly endorse as perfect for stymieing just about any shooter.
Once we have limited the school to two or three entrances, as he suggests, how about moving on to the issue of hallways, which today offer shooters far too many target opportunities? What we need are zig-zag corridors, ones that will interrupt the shooter’s line of sight. Ideally, they will be only 30” wide, offering the double benefit of reducing visible targets and restricting the shooter’s movements.
Then, for even greater security, schools will be advised to keep all corridors and classrooms in pitch blackness at all times. Though this might make the learning experience a bit more challenging, it will effectively prevent the shooter from seeing anything at all, unless he is wearing night-vision gear. In locations where this seems like a possibility, schools should be prepared to keep their premises at a steady 34 degrees Fahrenheit. This will induce violent shivering in the shooter, making his aim faulty. Schools will also be required to install a backup “stink bomb” function in their air circulation systems. Once triggered, this will drive even the most determined shooter off of the premises so that learning can continue undisturbed.
No doubt there are many other similar school design modifications that can be put in place to provide our children with the secure environment they need to grow and learn, but I hope these few modest offerings represent a start in the effort to reduce gun violence without actually talking about guns and how to limit their availability.
Next up: a discussion on how to end world hunger. It will focus primarily on the optimum size of a dinner plate.

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