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Am I Supposed to Feel Safer With a Police Officer at My Child's School?

Photograph by Getty Images

It's the first day back at school after a looong winter break. (Where did Los Angeles Unified get the notion to give three weeks off in December?) My daughter and I walk to school, I drop her off at the back gate, and the dog and I continue our stroll around the campus. I'm repeating to myself, like a mantra, "Don't stop to chat. You have to get back to work. Don't stop to chat. You have to get back to work…" And that's when I see her: an LAPD cop, standing by the school's front entrance.

She's making small talk with my neighbor, who is helping to run the carpool line, and my first thought is, "Gee, I didn't know one of our parents was a police officer." And then I remember: Oh, right, Newtown.

I am angry that it has come to this, that I live in a nation seemingly more committed to gun rights than my child's safety.

Because we had the aforementioned three weeks off, the shooting in Connecticut happened on the last day before winter break. I heard on NPR this morning that the Los Angeles Police Department would send an officer to every school in the district today. But it's one thing to learn that when your alarm goes off and you're still debating whether to hit the sleep button or not. It's another thing to see the armed stranger in your midst five minutes after you've dropped off your little girl at school.

I guess I am supposed to feel safer with a cop at the school's front door. But instead, I am angry that it has come to this, that I live in a nation seemingly more committed to gun rights than my child's safety in her 3rd-grade classroom.

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And lest I try to kid myself that minds are changing, I was treated to this headline over my morning coffee: "Customers Pack Ontario Gun Show, Fearing Possible New Law." The Los Angeles Times reporter interviewed one determined purchaser:

Ryan Girard, 41, surveyed the crowd at the Crossroads of the West show Sunday afternoon, a box of ammunition in his hands. "It's out of control this weekend," he said. "People are just scared of what could or could not happen."

Girard said he tried to go to the show Saturday but the out-the-door line was more than four hours long. He opted to come back about 6 a.m. Sunday, three hours before the event opened. He said about 500 people already had staked out spots by the time he arrived.

"I'll tell you right now, Obama is the No.1 gun salesman in the nation," Girard said. "The NRA should give him an award."

Just a reminder, folks—this is the same NRA that wrapped up 2012 calling for armed guards stationed in front of every American school, every day. Which, come to think of it, is exactly what our campus got this morning.

Of course, there are other ways to handle it. In 1997, a lone gunman used a semiautomatic to kill 35 people in Australia. The resulting public outcry spurred a slew of new gun laws, including a ban on assault weapons and shotguns and tightened licensing, plus a sweeping gun buyback and amnesty program. The results? Firearm homicides dropped by 59 percent between 1995 and 2006, according to a 2010 study by the American Journal of Law and Economics.

Look, I'm a journalist by training, which means I'm most comfortable being politically neutral, at least in print. But a gal in uniform, ready to shoot to kill, in front of my local elementary school?

This is a madness that's got to end.

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