Opinion

Would more investment in the police have stopped the tragedy in Uvalde?

The sharpest opinions on the debate from around the web

The Justice Department announced Sunday that it would review the police response to the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting, which left 19 fourth-grade children and two teachers dead last week. Law enforcement officers reportedly waited in a hallway for up to 40 minutes while the active shooter continued his rampage.

Three days later, former President Donald Trump insisted at the National Rifle Association's annual convention that the solution to the problem was that "every school in America should have a police officer or an armed resource officer on duty at all times." Trump further called for "every police department in America" to have "rigorous training on active shooter protocols," adding that "we need to expand funding, recruiting, and training for police departments nationwide" in order to prevent further tragedies. Not everyone agreed.

1

Only in America

More good guys with guns wouldn't have prevented the Uvalde massacre, Alec Karakatsanis of the Civil Rights Corps argued on Twitter. Notably, "these shootings happen only in the U.S. despite the unprecedented investment by the U.S. in police and military weaponry," he wrote, adding that it is tantamount to "science denial to think that violence and harm require more police and not addressing root causes like inequality." Jeet Heer likewise described NRA head Wayne LaPierre's now-famous post-Sandy Hook assertion that "the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun" as a "delusion" that needs to be "put out of its misery" in a column for The Nation. Uvalde should be "a transformational event, because … it gives lie to one of the major arguments against gun control," Heer wrote, further citing a study by the Journal of the American Medical Association that found "the rate of deaths was 2.83 times greater in schools with an armed guard present." It should be obvious by now, Heer concluded, that only gun control can solve this problem.

2

How are we supposed to trust the police now?

Americans' faith in the police to protect and serve them has been rattled by the distressing reports that the officers on scene at Robb Elementary handcuffed and pepper-sprayed parents while failing to take action against the shooter. "Some gun-control advocates contend only the police should carry firearms — but a hesitant, risk-averse police force that moves at a glacial pace while children are bleeding to death provides little protection for anyone," wrote the National Review editorial board. Indeed, after police failed to act swiftly during the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School, "police were instructed to prioritize the safety of people under threat, not themselves," Piers Morgan explained for the New York Post — but despite being "literally paid and trained with public money to defend people and tackle criminals," they were "AWOL" in Uvalde. Writing for Slate, Amanda Marcotte mused that "the widespread support for robust police funding is entirely due to the assumption that cops have a duty to rush in and protect people," but now focus will be instead on a little-known Supreme Court ruling from 2005 that found — as Ramenda Cyrus wrote for The American Prospect — "the cops do not have a duty to protect you, or anyone."

3

The police need more support, not less

"Police have been vilified nationwide these past two years for excessive use of force, so there's no small irony in the criticism raining down on police in Uvalde, Texas," wrote the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal. Indeed, now is not the time to give up on the police since it "isn't clear if charging the gunman sooner would have saved lives." Rather, America's police need more "training" and "public support" if we expect them to take heroic risks. For example, "contrast the police officers' apparent cowardice in Uvalde with the first responders on 9/11," wrote Henry Olsen for The Washington Post. "The latter earned our gratitude because they knew they might be marching to their deaths as they climbed the twin towers to save lives." But at the same time, Olsen distinguished that "those who egregiously and catastrophically fail should not be allowed to skate by on other people's bravery" and "we should only back the true blue — the people who fulfill their oaths and deserve our respect."

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