I have been mostly silent about what happened in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, when a mentally disturbed man chose to kill two dozen people in an attack on an elementary school. There is very little I have to add to what is a confusing debate with no easy solutions, and I feel disrespectful using this type of an event as grist to make political and social points.

However, recently, a vice-president of the National Rifle Association made a speech, in which amongst other suggestions, he suggested:

“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,”
Source:Washington Post

I do have something to add to this: a brief note on the logistical possibilities of that proposal.

One of the things mentioned in the quote is "appropriate whatever is necessary". This would be a somewhat expensive proposition. There are, according to this document, around 135,000 primary and secondary schools in the United States, including both public and private schools. If we can imagine the salary of an armed guard as $40,000 a year, we get a total expense of $5,400,000,000. That is five and a half billion dollars. It might be a bit less (depending on what salary is going to be paid, although perhaps this isn't the place where you want to trim the costs of employing people) and perhaps a bit more (training and supervision, as well as extra shifts could expand the cost quite a bit), but in any case, anywhere from 3 billion to 10 billion a year is not that great of an amount to spend, with the right political encouragement.

What is a bigger obstacle is the manpower requirements. The United States has, according to this page, around 800,000 police officers. To put an officer in every school, would require expanding the amount of police officers in the United States by 1/6ths. To become a police officer takes training, and more importantly it takes someone of the right temperament, especially if that person is going to be working around children. Finding 135,000 people who can be trusted to carry weapons around children would seem to be a difficult logistical challenge.

This also assumes that we are only talking about one officer per school. Many schools are quite large, and might require several officers. Even a typical elementary school might require two, or three. A large high school might need even more. Also, many schools regularly have extended days for extracurricular activities, meaning that in some cases, there would need to be two shifts. In all, 200,000 new officers would be a not unexpected number, if not more. If in a typical year, 20,000 people become police officers, to carry out this plan in a year, we would have to increase by tenfold the training of people with appropriate temperament to be officers.

As a plan, it isn't totally logistically impossible. However, for several reasons, it does seem improbable, and (if I can permit myself a political comment), somewhat disingenuous of a proposal. Like many proposals from many sides during the past week or so, emotions have seemed to have overridden fairly obvious logistical realities.

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