One Nation, Under Guns…

Deconstructing the myth of “hardening” our schools.

Paul Smith
7 min readFeb 27, 2018
Just a group of kids going to school.

Three steps:

  1. The next time you drive by or visit a school, take a moment to stop and look around. Look into the distance and into the windows of nearby buildings. Examine every bush and every hill and ask yourself, “Where could a shooter come from? How exposed are the children? Where would security be to protect this location? How many armed security guards would it take to protect this school?”
  2. Now, recall that the high school in Parkland, Florida had a trained police officer assigned to the school who never engaged the shooter either because he feared for his life, or he didn’t know where the shooting was happening. (We don’t yet know.)
  3. Last step. Imagine now, that instead of one shooter armed with an AR-15, there were two like we saw at Columbine High School back in 1999. Imagine both shooters had bump stocks like the Las Vegas shooter and dozens of magazines; that they were highly trained by their local militia, and had body armor like the shooters in the North Hollywood shootout. (A shootout in open space that lasted 44 minutes, injuring 12 police officers and 8 civilians. Video.)

The above scenario isn’t far-fetched. Those things happened. We could bring in additional full-time police officers. We could allow teachers to open-carry guns at school. Would that be enough?

How are staff supposed to react when an unscheduled fire alarm goes off? Do they wait for confirmation of a fire before instructing students to evacuate?(Seems risky.) What if one of the shooters started a fire?

Should armed teachers pursue the shooters offensively, or should they pull back and attempt to defend their classroom?

Would the school resource officer have had a chance with his handgun? Would any number of teachers with handguns have stopped two shooters with AR-15’s in full body armor?

Perhaps if the teachers were equally equipped and armed:

Attention future mass shooters. Consider yourselves warned!

Let’s take a step back for a moment and take a realistic look at what “hardening” Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School would mean given the very plausible scenario of two shooters with AR-15’s and body armor.

Like many schools across America, the campus and the adjoining middle school campus are designed with open plans with numerous entry points. However, these two schools have the lucky advantage of having a sizable “moat” along two edges of the perimeter, one of which backs up to a busy freeway:

Nevertheless, it is not hard to imagine a student coming in by raft in the dead of night and stowing guns in a bush or sealed garbage bags underneath the water.

Therefore, high anti-climb fencing should be installed around the entire perimeter of both schools along with 24-hour surveillance cameras with heat and motion detection. Live alerts would be sent to a 24-hour security service after hours and to on-campus security during the day.

During school hours, members of a highly-trained, battle-tested S.W.A.T. team should be stationed throughout the campus, outfitted and on the ready with heavy body armor, flashbang grenades, military rifles, and handguns. In fact, we might consider making our schools dual-purpose by locating mini police stations on-site.

Nothing to worry about kids. Go on being care-free and happy children!

There should be a small number of entry points onto campus with locked turnstiles requiring badge-access for entry for each student and staff member who enters. Each entry point must also include metal detectors and body scanners staffed with armed guards to perform bag checks and pat-downs similar to security at airports. Students should not be allowed to wear trench coats or other loose apparel that might conceal weapons.

Entry gate being propped open at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

All doors on campus, both inside and outside should automatically lock whenever closed and only open with a badge reader (similar to what most office buildings use). Classroom door windows should be sealed shut with metal plates. In their place, cameras would broadcast live video from the inside of the classroom to screens located outside each classroom door, to security guard stations, and to school administrators.

Bulletproof windows should be installed on all external windows. External-facing doors and walls should be reinforced to withstand gunfire. Portable classrooms would all have to be replaced with permanent structures designed to withstand gunfire.

There are approximately 300,000 portable classrooms with paper-thin walls in use across America today.

All desks and tables should be replaced/upgraded with bulletproof tops so they can be turned on their sides during a shooting to form a protective shield.

Inside, all classrooms should be outfitted with bulletproof shelters:

Shelter pricing starts at $12,500. Enough money for 30 Chromebook laptops, a MacBook Pro for the teacher, a projector, and enough money left over for a field trip.

Are you getting the idea yet? And like I said, I’m no expert, so I expect there are likely many other items to add to this list in order to properly “harden” a school. It would be very expensive, likely costing many hundreds of billions of dollars, but that’s the price of freedom. That’s the price we are being asked to pay to make sure our kids are safe, but here’s the thing… What happens when the entire varsity football team loads onto a school bus?

A typical school bus can hold nearly 80 people, and though it’s steel body is reinforced to withstand crashes, an AR-15 would punch holes through it like butter and the limited number of exits would make escape slow, especially with bodies piling up. So… Every school bus in America will need to be replaced or upgraded with bulletproof armor and windows. All school busses will need to be staffed with an armed security guard.

“But wait,” you say. “We haven’t had any school bus shootings!” Actually, we have (link). Also, an entire busload of kids was kidnapped at gunpoint in 1976.

Outstanding questions: What about football games, swim meets, volleyball tournaments, etc? Are there metal detectors at the gate/door? Is the area behind and underneath the bleachers secured? How do parents gain access to the school without badges?

Finally, no matter how much we “harden” our schools, they are no match for the TOTALLY LEGAL in 47 states, BMG .50 caliber semiautomatic rifle.

Please watch this video of its armor-piercing capabilities:

Now watch this demonstration of its fire rate:

Here’s a video of some kids goofing off with one (link).

A shooter could position himself hidden in some bushes a thousand yards away from a school and poke hundreds of holes through the entire campus in a matter of minutes. The guards’ body armor would be easily penetrated and once law enforcement arrived, they would be outgunned and soft targets for this weapon which could shoot straight through their patrol cars.

There’s other possibilities. The shooters could have a drone stationed overhead to keep tabs on where law enforcement is approaching. They could strap pipe bombs to remote-controlled cars. They could kick door wedges under both sides of all external doors to prevent escape and entry…

Let’s not have any failures of imagination here! No one predicted Columbine. No one predicted 9/11. We must be prepared for every possible scenario.

In conclusion, we may be able to somewhat “harden” our schools to become dystopian compounds resembling prisons, but they would remain far from safe given the amount of firepower and body armor available to civilians.

So, that’s schools, but what about every other “soft” target out there where people gather: Churches. Theaters. Nightclubs. Outdoor concerts… Office buildings, county fairgrounds, restaurants, hotel lobbies, banquet halls, malls, amusement parks, art & wine festivals, house parties, swim meets, volleyball tournaments, cheerleading competitions… The list could go on and on.

What would the cost of “hardening” all these locations be? Should every building taller than three stories be equipped with metal detectors and armed security for bag checks and pat-downs? Would this include apartments and condominiums? Should every hill with a vantage point be fenced-off and monitored with surveillance cameras? Should civilians carry high-powered, military-style semiautomatic rifles everywhere they go?

Look around your world through the eyes of a mass shooter and you’ll soon realize that no amount of guns — no amount of “hardening” can protect us.

Nevertheless, this is the dystopian nightmare Trump, the NRA, Republicans, and gun-rights advocates wish for America, all to protect their dated and twisted interpretation of the Second Amendment.

There is a better way, of course, and it begins with a ban on semiautomatic firearms with detachable magazines. If all the shooters in these mass shootings had been limited to a revolver, a bolt-action rifle, and a break-action shotgun, odds are there would’ve been FAR fewer casualties. In fact, they might not have been motivated to execute their attacks at all.

UPDATE 2/28/18 — The downside to writing constantly is that one often finds they are behind the news. Stephanie Mencimer from Mother Jones had already written a very good article with quotes from NRA spokespeople, laying out pretty much what I describe for schools. (link) Validating, but wish I could have my day back. 😣



Paul Smith

I write about EdTech and education, but mostly this is where I rant about politics. On Twitter @prsmith2009