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More Guns Won’t Make Schools Safer

Photo Credit: Fabrice Florin/Wikimedia Commons
By: Donna Lieberman Executive Director & Simon McCormack Senior Writer, Communications

In the wake of the Parkland, Florida school shooting that resulted in the deaths of 14 students and 3 staff members, some politicians have reacted with calls for more police and more guns in schools. 

President Trump even suggested that teachers should get bonuses to carry guns to school.

But as NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman knows, none of this will work.

Lieberman, who is the leading force behind several reports on school safety and the pitfalls of police in schools, explains why these policy prescriptions are flawed and what must happen instead. 

What’s your reaction when you hear politicians, including our president, call for more law enforcement and more guns in our schools in the wake of the Florida shooting?

DL: Ever since Columbine in 1999, the federal government and school districts across the country have responded with a massive infusion of law enforcement and law enforcement tactics in our schools and by “zero tolerance” suspension policies for even minor misbehavior.  The phenomenon is so widespread and the impact on kids – particularly kids of color – so dramatic it’s been named the ‘school to prison pipeline’.

And after years of that, what we’ve seen is more — and more horrific— school shootings. So it’s clear this approach has failed to protect our children and their teachers from this kind of horror.  It doesn’t make our schools safer.

What do you think this tragedy should provoke politicians to do?

DL: Listen to the children. Hear their cries. Feel their pain and ban semi-automatic assault weapons.

Why do you think it’s important that a part of the solution to this problem is banning semi-automatic weapons?

DL: The only point of assault weapons is mass murder. There’s no constitutional  reason for them not to be prohibited. This is not something the Second Amendment protects. No right is absolute, and the government has a legitimate public safety interest in banning these weapons of war.

For those who might be surprised that the NYCLU is for banning these weapons, why is this an important stance to take for the organization, and why does it make sense to do so?

DL: When we allow private individuals to arm themselves with weapons of mass murder, we invite people to take the law into their own hands. That was not okay for the lynch mobs in the South, and it’s not okay for people who, collectively, have murdered hundreds of innocent children.

What has surprised you most about the public reaction to the Florida killings?

DL: How block-headed some of the politicians are who have been bought off by the NRA. I’m also surprised and awed by the courage and strength and beauty of the kids who know what we need to do better than the adults.

How do we make sure that this time is different — That this time, serious action is taken to prevent these kinds of killings?

DL: The kids are not going to let up. They are going to make sure that politicians take action this time. They are not going to be denied. And the adults need to support them. 

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