Last week, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves went on the record to push the National Rifle Association's pro-gun agenda in Mississippi.
In case you missed it, NRA chief Wayne LaPierre announced Dec. 21 that he had the answer to gun violence in public schools: Put armed guards in every one. As the largest representative of gun and ammunition manufacturers and dealers in the United States, as well as the largest provider of gun training, LaPierre kindly offered the services of the NRA to help make his multi-billion dollar program a reality.
On Jan. 14, Reeves proposed allocating $7.5 million in taxpayer funds to begin carrying out the plan. The initial amount, which Reeves wants the Legislature to pass this session, would cover approximately 750 of Mississippi's roughly 1,050 schools. Schools could apply for the funds, and the state would match up to $10,000 that the schools would need to provide.
Simply put, the NRA/Reeves plan would put taxpayers' money into the wrong side of the equation.
Putting armed guards in Mississippi schools, which already have a nationwide reputation for overly harsh discipline--and for running school-to-prison pipelines--will do more harm than good. The state's zero-tolerance policies create a hostile environment for the very children that our schools are attempting to educate. And, as any parent of a 13-year-old will tell you, making enemies of our children is no way to create environments where kids are actually open to learning.
The state's hard-core discipline policies have done far more to alienate students than educate them. Adding armed guards, metal detectors and all the rest of the paraphernalia that comes along with weapons is a drain on the state's economy. Teachers end up being authoritarians instead of educators. Students with multiple suspensions simply get farther behind until all hope of catching up is gone. At that point, dropping out probably looks like a pretty good decision.
It isn't, of course, and these kids don't just disappear. Where they are most likely to show up is on the dole, in the courts or behind bars in a Mississippi prison. Even if they find gainful employment, a dropout's earning power and his or her ability to make a meaningful economic contribution to society is radically curtailed.
Mississippi loses every time the state makes a decision to put money into the situations caused by decades of systemic racism, poverty and the bigotry of low expectations. More black kids are suspended for minor infractions than whites in just about school district--even the ones that are majority white. More African Americans drop out of school, and more fill the state's prison cells.
Mr. Reeves, you could just ignore that NRA campaign contribution. How about trying different tactics now that we know what doesn't work?