Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice


I saw this article on the web yesterday or the day before, I can’t remember which. If you don’t feel like reading it, here’s the long and the short of it: a variety of school districts in America have been taking advantage of a Pentagon program to stock up on surplus military equipment, though not all are happy. The Los Angeles Unified School District, for example, decided to return 3 grenade launchers; they are keeping the 60 M16 assault rifles and the armored personnel carrier. Turns out that school districts in a variety of places across the country have outfitted their police forces with spare weaponry from the US government.

First off, let me say that I didn’t even know school districts had their own police forces. Maybe this is a product of where and when I went to school. Compared to where the Catbird is going, my school district was huge, with 8 or 9 elementary schools and 3 high schools. That is tiny, though, when compared to New York City or Los Angeles. Those school districts are like a city unto themselves, and I suppose they need their own security people–but police armed with assault weapons and grenade launchers? It just feels all wrong to me.

We’re living in an ever-increasingly-armed world. Do we need to be outfitting school cops with automatic weapons and grenade launchers?Officials at these schools say they’re doing it to deal with “the worst case scenario.” Said one official, the weapons are “something we need given the current situation we face in our nation.” What situation? Yes, we have situations where kids will sometimes go on rampages in schools. They are terrible, terrible things, but they’re not a recent invention, though they are getting worse in scale. But is the solution really to dump more weapons into the system?
And here’s the other thing: we already have law enforcement. We have county and city and state police. We have paramilitary SWAT teams who are trained for this sort of thing. Obviously, school police forces would be trained, but I have to say I think I a SWAT team a bit more, know what I mean? And unless they’re posting armed rapid response teams in every school–a move I vehemently oppose; schools are already too much like prisons–there’s still going to be lag time between the time an incident begins and the time the forces get into place. Leave it to the pros. Keep the guns and tanks away from the schools.
Regarding the image: If you’re a fan of Malcolm in the Middle you’ll recognize Stevie Kenarban, Malcolm’s very smart friend. The character had severe asthma, which resulted…in him speaking…in…a very halting…way. When I read stories like the one quoted today, I sometimes hear Stevie in my head: “What…the fuck?” It seems appropriate in this case.

5 Responses

  1. Stacey makes an excellent point. All this is going to do is give the next Columbine crazies an idea of where to sneak off to get better weapons than their parent's handgun. Leave it to the pros indeed.

  2. I'm not an NRA advocate or right-winger, but it seems that the new "normal" is people who feel disenfranchised heavily arming themselves and going to places they know to be unprotected and killing as many as they can. Beyond that, they're trying to emotionally hurt as many as possible since they're hurting. This means schools and children. If the schools are heavily armed, they'll be less of a target. Though it seems tear gas and guns should do it, not grenade launchers and tanks… The only other alternative is to disarm the country, like the UK, and Americans will never go for that.

  3. -Stacy–I don't think they're paying a whole lot for these weapons, if anything at all. However, any money at all spent on this stuff would be better spent on teachers or, you know, actual CLASSROOM MATERIALS.

    -Sheena-kay–Securing these weapons so no one can steal them is quite an issue, isn't it?

    -Lexa–I really don't know that arming the schools is a deterrent. I think people who do this sort of thing expect to die doing it; the response time for a team to get weapons and in place still allows someone intent on mayhem plenty of time to kill a bunch of people. Finally, I have a problem with armed guards/cops strolling around school campuses. Maybe it's just me, but I don't find that a comforting thing and I think it would make schools feel even more oppressive than many feel for their students now.

    -Jemi, I hope Canada can steer clear of the madness we have in this country.

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