Sunday, December 23, 2012

$6.66 Billion for NRA School Shield Program, ...
Or 110 Community Service Hours for NRA Members

Wayne LaPierre put forth the National Rifle Association proposal on gun violence in schools on Friday:
"I call on Congress today, to act immediately to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation."
John Boehner sent the House home Thursday, so LaPierre's call for Congress to act Friday was firing an empty chamber. Here's the outline of the multifaceted program the NRA wants to develop nationwide:
1. Armed security
2. Building design and access control
3. Information technology
4. Student and teacher training
Armed security failed at Columbine and Fort Hood, information technology failed at Virginia Tech, building design and access control failed at Sandy Hook, and the student and teacher training at Sandy Hook saved some lives but not the 26 that were lost. That's four more empty chambers.

OK, sure, improvements in those four areas could no doubt be made. Still, it takes a lot of brass to come forward now with a plan to make the NRA the lead consultant on a massive public spending project.

The Sandy Hook tragedy at its root is the story of a law-abiding gun owner, the kind of good guy the NRA likes to hold up as being our first and last line of defense from the bad guys, letting her lethal arsenal of guns fall into the wrong hands. That those were the hands of the troubled son who lived with her and shot her first should give any gun owner pause for introspection, and perhaps a little atonement.

I would have liked to see the NRA speak to gun owners on the need to keep semi-automatic weapons securely locked up and on not keeping guns in your home if you have a troubled member of your household. They could encourage such people to install gun safes at their gun club or rifle range to keep their gun collection there, or forgo owning any guns. That would be helpful and responsible.

Instead, the NRA gave us a "Guns Don't Kill People, Video Games Do" speech loaded with overheated rhetoric like this:
"Our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters -- people so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can possibly ever comprehend them."
Crazy is just not that hard to understand. The NRA also failed to call for the states who are refusing to participate fully in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to upload all their records on criminals and mentally ill. And the NRA failed to call for making it easier to put mentally unbalanced people who haven't been institutionalized on the No Buy list.

That brings us back around to the proposal for armed security in every single school. That's not as crazy as it sounds. A lot of schools have a police presence already. One of my cousins was a Detroit Police Officer for 25 years, and left the force to take a security job at a high school in the suburbs. Currently, these school cops are focused on drug crimes and violence by students, which doesn't seem as necessary at the elementary school level. But the outside security threat may be just as great or greater.

I don't know that it would be so terrible if young school kids had to walk past a nice uniformed policeman several times every day. That might help teach them that cops are good guys, as well as keep them safe. But how much would it cost?

There are 132,183 K-12 schools in the United States (98,817 public, 33,366 private). The average salary of a police patrol officer is $50,406. To put just one police officer in every school would cost $6.66 billion.

Who would pay? That works out to just $1,550 a year for each of the 4.3 million NRA members in the U.S. Or a more affordable $83 per year if spread out across all the estimated 80 million gun owners in the U.S.

The NRA, of course, proposes that taxpayers pay. That would be $48 per year per U.S. income taxpayer. If we stick the top 1% with the full tax bill, that's just $483 per year for the privilege of being rich and the satisfaction of funding safer schools. Well, that's the one policeman cost for 1, I don't have an estimate for 2, 3, and 4.

If we are going to impose taxes, and NRA board member Grover Norquist has a no tax pledge to fight off any talk of that, I'd suggest taxing the $10 billion of firearms sold in the U.S. every year. That would add only $666 to the cost of each gun, raising the MSRP of a Bushmaster Quad Rail A3 from $1,391.48 to $2,057.76. Of course, hunters might feel their breech-loading shotguns and bolt-action rifle which are actually protected under the Second Amendment were being unfairly taxed for the sins of their cousins, so we might want to design a progressive tax that hits the privilege of owning semi-automatics more heavily than protected Second Amendment arms.

To be fair, the NRA is only calling for police officers in schools as a temporary stopgap. After that, the NRA wants to make use of local volunteers:
"The National Rifle Association knows that there are millions of qualified active and retired police; active, reserve and retired military; security professionals; certified firefighters and rescue personnel; and an extraordinary corps of patriotic, trained qualified citizens to join with local school officials and police in devising a protection plan for every single school."
How much volunteer time are we talking about? To provide security 10 hours a day for the 180 day school year, time enough to cover before and after school activities as well as the average 6.7 hours of instructional time, works out to 240 million hours of service annually.

That's just 55 hours of community service a year for each NRA member. I imagine they'll want to do this service on the buddy system, so let's make it 110 hours of community service per year. Now that would be something in the way of atonement.

School is out for the Christmas break, but I can just see the NRA member volunteers huddled in the cold in front of our school buildings in January and February. While they are there, they can answer any questions that parents might have, and I imagine there will be a few parents with a few things to tell them.

But my advice for Wayne LaPierre and Grover Norquist is not to pull their guard duty together. Grover prattling on about how the school shield can be paid for with no tax increase by cutting art and music while Wayne moans about having to amputate his cold, frostbitten fingers would just be too much to take.

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