Days after the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, former President Donald Trump told the National Rifle Association (NRA) convention that fences, metal detectors and guards would stop similar massacres. But Trump didn’t mention Texas has already tried that approach.
Trump on Friday made the remarks during an anticipated speech at the gun-rights group event in Houston. Responding to the outrage from the shooting that left 19 children and two teachers dead, Republicans have argued that “hardening” schools, not gun control, will prevent other massacres. However, after the 2018 Santa Fe High School shooting, Texas embraced fortifying schools, including those in Uvalde.
Trump began his speech somberly, reading the names of each of the victims and condemning the gunman. He then launched into his plan for school safety, calling on Republicans and Democrats in every state “to finally harden our schools and protect our children.”
“What we need now is a top-to-bottom security overhaul at schools all across our country. Every building should have a single point of entry,” Trump said. “There should be strong exterior fencing, metal detectors and the use of new technology to make sure that no unauthorized individual can ever enter the school with a weapon.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said at a press conference earlier this week in Uvalde that he signed off on a package of laws in 2019 that included $600 million for school safety. That money included for “school hardening,” reducing the number of school entrances and adding guards.
The Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, which has over 4,000 students, received roughly $69,000 in funding for enhanced security in 2020, 70 percent of which it had spent, according to a state database.The district dedicated about $435,000 to security monitoring in its most recent budget, more than doubling the $204,000 allotted in its 2017-2018 budget.
A 2019 paper in the journal Violence and Gender concluded that there is little evidence of any programs or practices that reduced violence at schools. Authored by researchers James Price and Jagdish Khubchandani, the paper was based on a review of research from 2008 to 2018 on practices intended to reduce firearm violence at schools.
“Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent to harden schools,” the researchers wrote in the paper. “None of the currently employed school firearm violence prevention methods have empirical evidence to show that they actually diminish firearm violence in schools.”
While school shootings receive extensive media coverage and attention from policymakers, the paper states they are difficult to study because they are “very rare events.”
“School officials should not give in to political pressures to ‘do something’ when that ‘something’ is likely to be ineffective and wasteful of limited school resources,” reads the paper.
In his NRA speech, Trump said classroom doors should be lockable from the inside. He added, “above all, from this day forward, every school in America should have a police officer or an armed resource officer on duty at all times.”
However, multiple studies have found there is no evidence that armed officers deter violence at schools.
A 2021 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found no evidence that armed guards reduce violence, and deaths were even higher at schools that had them.
A 2020 study by the Rand Corporation also concluded that finding evidence-based ways to reduce violent deaths at schools is challenging due to the rarity of such tragedies.