On one hand, many Americans (including this one) are concerned about lunatics who go on mass shooting binges targeting, over and over again, “gun free zones” like public schools. Here in North Dakota we’ve had a debate in two successive legislative sessions about instituting a program allowing the limited concealed carry of weapons on K-12 school grounds (legislation aimed at that goal failed in both the 2013 and 2015 sessions).
On the other hand, many Americans are also concerned with the way we’re arming our civilian police force these days, giving them all the trappings of soldiers.
It is into that political nexus that the this issue falls:
A decision to arm school resource officers in Bismarck with 15 M4 rifles in the 2016 Bismarck City budget raised concern with one citizen Tuesday.
Robert Graham questioned the city spending $9,500 to carry 15 M4 rifles with them in their vehicles. He felt it was something residents, particularly parents of school children would want to know.
School Board President Lawrence King said by phone interview that the school administration and himself have been apprised of the purchase, but the full school board has not been asked to take a stance on the weapons. He added the school district has not been asked to share in the costs of the weapons. “How best to equip officers is their decision,” King said. “That is their expertise.”
Deputy Police Chief Dave Draovitch attended the city commission meeting in Chief Dan Donlin’s absence. “We are still talking with the schools about that,” he said. “We are still working out the details with the school.” Draovitch said the plans are for the officers to keep them in vehicles. “We want our officers to be fully equipped to handle whatever situation they come in contact with. They’re not only at the schools, but all around town. They could respond to any incident that happens. They need to have all of the tools required to safely protect the city to keep them safe as well.”
Two school resource officers have marked cars the others have unmarked cars. “It’s something the SROs asked for and we thought it was a reasonable request. We want them to have all the tools they need to protect themselves and those around them,” Draovitch said.
The opponents of ending the “gun free zone” status of schools, and thus potentially removing them as targets for at least some mass shooters, often argue that they don’t want guns in the hands of amateurs at the schools. Leave school security to the professionals, they tell us.
I can understand that position, even if I don’t entirely agree with it, but I wonder if people on both sides of that debate might agree that 15 M4 assault rifles for cops is a bit excessive?
“It’s something the SROs asked for and we thought it was a reasonable request,” Deputy Chief Draovitch says.
But is it a need? Or is it a want?
“How best to equip officers is their decision,” King says. “That is their expertise.” But that sounds like far too much deference given to law enforcement, who while deserving of our respect for performing an important and often thankless and dangerous job, are every bit as prone to budget padding and bureaucratic empire building as any other branch of government.