Turning Schools Into Bunkers
It's not often that local school construction warrants a write-up in the Washington Post, but the new high school being built in Fruitport, Michigan drew national attention in August for the principle underlying its design. The school will feature remotely lockable classroom doors, hidden panic nooks, and curving hallways studded with cement barriers, all in the interest of reducing casualties in the event of a mass shooting.
Senators Doug Jones (D-AL) and David Perdue (R-GA) seem to think turning schools into bunkers a good approach. Their School Safety Clearinghouse Act (S.B. 2530) proposes we address the country's increasing rate of campus mass shootings by establishing an agency to distribute best practices for building more schools like Fruitport High.
The idea is drawing some support. After noting that the bill ticks several political boxes for Perdue's upcoming reelection campaign, the AJC's Jim Galloway writes, "[L]et us be clear. This is decent legislation that deserves passage." It isn't, and it doesn't. It's a palliative, meant to allow Republicans to feel that they've done enough by merely kicking the can down the road. How far down the road? Well, how often does your district rebuild its schools?
As a solution to the problem of gun violence, the clearinghouse puts the federal government in a strictly advisory role, while shifting most of the costs of prevention onto local governments. Since school construction is an expense that districts can only occasionally afford, it would be years, if not decades, before most districts derive any benefit from S.B. 2530. Meanwhile, the gun death rate continues to climb year over year. Moreover, those benefits are almost certain to be unevenly distributed. Fruitport is spending $48 million on their massacre-proof school. Poorer districts will just have to make do.
As a solution to the problem of mass violence, gun control is not sufficient unto itself. There are also sociological and psychological factors, including the way masculinity is inculcated in American society, that need to be addressed as well. But any solution which does not include some restrictions on gun ownership — particularly of the sort of high capacity, high casualty weapons favored by mass shooters — is bound to be woefully incomplete.