Sunday, December 23, 2012

NRA Advocates safety of Weapons of Mass Murder over Safety of Children

I listened Sunday to Wayne LaPierre on Meet the Press.   He said that he was presenting a plan to make school children safer, but that claim was a gross deception.   He was presenting a plan to save the private unregulated ownership of so-called semiautomatic weapons and large capacity gun clips.  He was advancing a message designed to protect the sale of weapons capable of committing mass murder.   If you read the transcript of his interview, it became abundantly clear, that between the safety of children and the vision of unregulated weapons of mass killing, the children came second.   Repeatedly, Dennis Gregory asked whether the NRA could support regulation of weapons of mass killing and repeatedly LaPierre found ways to change the subject or to answer, in so many words, "No, not even if it would make kids safer."    The weapons are more important than the kids, he said, in all sorts of ways.

You're being unfair, Jerry.  The NRA proposal is a contribution to the safety of children., you say?   How can you be so cynical?   Well let's take a look at some of the problems with the NRA proposal:

  • The NRA proposal isn't designed to reduce mass murder.   Its designed to reduce mass murder when the mass murderer decides to attack children by walking past an armed security guard.  Under the NRA proposal, mass murder can be perpetrated against children, college students, movie patrons, in an unlimited number of ways.   If, using an assault rifle, the murderer picks off the security guard, the NRA proposal is basically worthless.  If the mass murderer waits for an unguarded door to open, he can gain entry the back way and wreak havoc before help arrives.   The NRA proposal does nothing to reduce the weapons of mass murder in our midst: it just creates a false sense of security by putting a single guard in a stationary location in just one of the places that children may be. 
  • The NRA proposal doesn't offer protection to  school children when they assemble in places unprotected by the one guard that is proposed.    Unless we are going to ban recess, field trips, and school buses, to name a few, any mass murderer who wants to access children with  weapons of mass murder, can do so in any number of places that simply cannot be guarded by a single armed officer.   
  • The NRA proposal fails to recognize that one of the reasons that mass murder occurs even when security guards are nearby is that a single security guard has a duty to protect himself so that he can eventually stop the mayhem.    When shootings are underway, a security guard cannot take the risk that he will be killed; his training requires him to take prudent steps to make sure that he can stop the intruder, and that often requires that he not rush into the line of fire without taking precautions.   
  • The NRA proposal doesn't offer a solution for day care centers, libraries, childrens' movies, or colleges and universities, and any number of groups of people who also deserve to be safe.  That's because the NRA proposal isn't about keeping people safe.  Its about calming people down and getting them to do something that will change the subject away from the fact that America allows anyone and everyone access to the weapons of mass murder. 
  • The NRA proposal places a single armed guard in a stationary position against an enemy with superior force and the element of surprise.     The NRA contends that security guards are stationed at all sorts of buildings and schools and wrongly contends that these security guards are posted in order to eliminate the threat of mass murder.  That's completely false.   Security guards are posted at buildings primarily to control the entrance of unarmed or lightly armed persons who don't intend to commit suicide.  You can't expect a single stationary security guard with a holstered gun to overcome a surprise attack from a heavily armed mass murderer who is willing to risk death. The NRA proposal refuses to recognize that security guards can do their job more efficiently if they face an who is unable fire 30 rapid fire rounds before reloading.  
  • The NRA proposal doesn't assure even a single armed security guard at each school; in fact it assures that there won't be constant security protection.  Let's face it folks.  Even security guards have to go to the bathroom.    It takes two security guards to assure that a single security guard is always present at a given entry point.  Not one, but two.   If there is no relief for the security guard, then a mass murderer need only wait until the security guard leaves his post.  Or, he can create a diversion of some kind that causes the security guard to leave his post. You can imagine any number of circumstances that will cause a security guard to leave his post; a student who gets injured, a scuffle in the halls, and so on.    Usually, when police are posted to a school, they serve a variety of safety functions besides keeping mass murderers out of the building.  They engage students in law enforcement discussions; in some schools, they meet with students who are suspected of criminal misconduct; they may collect data necessary for dealing with drugs, or serious harassment, and so on.  The security guards that NRA has in mind won't be able to perform this function, because if they are down the hall, or in a counselor's office, or in a classroom, a weapon designed for mass killing can kill a couple dozen children before the security guard arrives.  
  • The NRA proposal costs billions and still affords no safety.     News clippings are starting to surface with an estimate of the annual cost of providing a single armed security guard at each public school.   In Colorado, a public education official is reported as giving a $181 million cost for posting an armed security guard.  A Daily News analysis argues that placing an additional armed officer in each of the New York City's roughly 1,750 schools would cost about $81 million in salaries alone — plus benefits worth about a third of the yearly pay, for a total annual bill of well over $100 million.  The Daily News says, on a national scale, putting an armed guard in each of the country’s roughly 98,000 public schools would cost over $3.3 billion each year in salaries alone — plus benefits — according to Labor Bureau figures that put the average yearly pay of a a security guard at about $33,840.  

If you genuinely wanted to make public school children safer, you would go to law enforcement for advice.  Or to public school districts--school boards, superintendents and teachers?  Not the National Rifle Association?   The National Rifle Association is an organization dedicated to weapons before school safety.  It is dedicated to solutions that propagate weapons throughout society that are capable of committing mass murder.   Accepting advice from the NRA on how to eliminate mass murder in society is like asking the tobacco lobby to give us advice on how to eliminate cancer.  Its like asking the coal company lobbies to analyze the threat of global warming.   This plan of retaining Asa Hutchinson to create a plan is similarly flawed.    He's being asked to create a plan while on the payroll of an organization that's not willing to discuss solutions, unless the solutions fit within a preconceived set of parameters that put the safety of weapons of mass killing over the safety of children.  

If the NRA wrote an article about the characteristics of the 9mm Glock 19 semi-automatic pistol that Jared Lee Loughner used to shoot Gabrielle Giffords, or the Ruger Mini-14 rifle that  Anders Behring Breivik used to murder 77 in  Norway,   or the Glock 9 that Seung-Hui Cho, used a to murder 33 students at Virginia Tech, well I'd be inclined to take notice.   They know something about guns. But why would anyone take the NRA's advice on how to make schools safe?   If the NRA were genuinely interested in safe schools, it would have consulted with the people who run schools, and the people charged with helping us keep them safe, before it launched its proposal to put a gun-carrying guard in each school in America.  In truth, the NRA's proposal has nothing to do with saving schools; its a proposal to save automatic and semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity gun magazines.     Why won't the NRA plan work?  Because at its core, the plan isn't designed to work; its designed to give its allies in Congress something to say that doesn't make them sound like they are insensitive to elementary school murders.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Strive Comes to Minneapolis and St. Cloud

  A Minneapolis group called Generation Next  has just announced a public-private coalition designed to foster a Strive-like initiative.    Learn more about Generation Next by clicking here.  With a bit less fanfare, the St. Cloud community has been working for over a year to develop its own strive-like initiative called "Partners for Student Success."     These efforts are part of a growing network of Strive initiatives which promote community based "cradle to career" civic infrastructure to support student success.  These initiatives are loosely based on Cincinnati's groundbreaking initiative called  "Strive Together".  

Minneapolis's Generation Next
aspires to foster a community wide commitment to "closing the achievement gap among Twin Cities’ low-income students and students of color..... an unprecedented partnership of key education, community, government and business stakeholders dedicated to accelerating educational  achievement for all of our children – from early childhood through early career."  St. Cloud's Partners for Student Success  "unites Central Minnesota parents, businesses, community organizations, and the St. Cloud Area Public Schools to support student success."  

The Strive idea is coming to Minnesota.

The first Strive network,  Cincnnati Strive Together is a regional network that strives to assure that all children in the Cincinnati region are successful "from cradle to career."   The thrust of the initiative is to marshal community assets in a coordinated way.  The assets are families, faith communities, non-profits, public and parochial schools, seniors, the business community, technical colleges and universities.  The phrase cradle to career, doesn't mean that the government takes over the rearing of children, or that family responsibilities become government responsibilities.  On the contrary, the idea of success "from cradle to career" is to use existing resources, public and private, more wisely, with more accountability, targeted to clear measurable objectives.

Across the country, a variety of urban regions are adopting the strive model for reviving, restoring, and preserving their most precious resource -- the next generation.  Cincinnati Strive Together writes:

Education is perhaps the most important engine of economic growth and individual financial gain, and there is little doubt that our success in growing a stronger economy and lifting incomes will depend on getting better results in education, cradle to career.  To achieve these results, for every child, every step of the way, from cradle to career Greater Cincinnati leaders at all levels of the education, nonprofit, community, civic, and philanthropic sectors are working together as part of the Strive Partnership to tackle some of our most pressing challenges, and to take advantage of some of our biggest opportunities.
As such, the Strive Partnership serves as a catalyst for working together, across sectors, and along the educational continuum, to drive better results in education, so that every child is Prepared for school, Supported inside and outside of school, Succeeds in school, Enrolls in some form of postsecondary education and Graduates and enters a career. 

The Portland area has adopted the Strive model as well.  "A broad coalition is coming together across Portland and Multnomah County to create an accountability framework known as cradle to career. Portland State University is leading the effort with the Leaders Roundtable, cabinet members of Mayor Sam Adams and County Commission Chair Jeff Cogen and others to replicate an approach first developed in Cincinnati.  Portland Strive's first Commmunity Report, issued in November of 2010 explains:

A community with high levels of educational attainment provides far-reaching social, cultural, and economic benefits. Evidence is clear that a better-educated population reduces unemployment, crime, welfare dependence, and the need for costly interventions and incarceration. Educational success also contributes to quality-of-life advantages such as the arts, civic engagement, and vibrant urban neighborhoods. Some of these benefits can be quantified by dollars. For example, increasing the number of individuals who earn a two-year or four-year degree by age 24 by 1 percent is estimated to boost thelocal economy by $1.6 billion annually.

The Community Report continues:
We have come together to develop a comprehensive and data-driven strategy to analyze both our educational and our social/community indicators so that all students can succeed. We are laying important groundwork so that decision making by parents, educators, government policy makers, business leaders, and others can be based on evidence. Data and analysis help leaders support programs and practices that work and help them reject those that don’t.
In Cincinnatti, community leaders came together to form an executive leadership team, representing university, non-profits, government, business, and K-12  education.   They agreed to focus on three key student success indicators and to prod all elements of the community to work to lend their efforts to improve performance in those areas.

Cinncinnati had a very strong parochial school system that prided itself in delivering quality education to minority students.  Partly as a result of its traditional commitment to minority education, the Catholic diocese joined with the Strive effort building on over two decades of support for improving educational results in the community. At one time, parochial schools in southern Ohio had been regarded more as an escape from school integration.  But Archbishop Joseph L. Bernedin believed that Catholic education must be a part of the effort to end the cycle of poverty in Cincinnati.  He argued that the cycle of poverty could only be broken through education and made it his mission to help children coming from disadvantaged households.   In Cinncinnati, Catholic education is an integral and formal part of the community initiative. 

Strive initiatives involve the entire community in a concerted coordinated effort to support the success of young people.  They are ambitious projects.  To be successful, they will require resilience, persistence, and active involvement of community leadership.