On Feb. 14, 2018, a 19-year-old dropout named Nikolas Cruz walked into a Parkland, Fla., high school, shot 17 students and teachers to death and walked away.
A month later, students, teachers, parents and politicians gathered in D.C. and on school campuses across the country to protest school shootings and plead for action.
Some demanded tighter restrictions on the sale of firearms. Others pointed out that Cruz had displayed violent tendencies on social media for years but was ignored by local law enforcement and the FBI.
People want to know how the Parkland shooting could have happened. Here’s the answer: students and teachers didn’t die because Nikolas Cruz had easy access to guns. Cruz succeeded because he had easy access to targets.
Cruz walked into the school building unchallenged and remained unnoticed until he started pulling the trigger.
That’s a problem. Most people can’t agree on a solution. I have a suggestion:
Put trained security dogs in every school in America.
It works. Just ask the TSA.
A few months ago I was at the world’s busiest airport getting ready to endure the world’s slowest and most annoying security screening process. The crowd was massive and moods were surly. Everyone brightened up when a TSA employee announced that passengers and their belongings would be screened that morning by a security dog. One dog.
No shoes were removed. No bags were opened. Passengers watched in awe as the dog zipped through the security line in minutes. Flyers were astonished. Government officials weren’t.
A TSA official said recently that “Despite decades of trying, researchers have yet to develop a machine as exquisitely sensitive and discerning as a dog’s nose. Nor can a robot rove with the agility and ease of a dog.”
So, here’s the question: If specially trained security dogs are better than humans at detecting weapons, explosives and drugs, why not put dogs in schools to do the same job?
Students might moan and whine about having to wait in line to go through a single, secure school entrance manned by a security dog, but so what? If airline passengers endure the same procedure to board a plane, kids can handle it.
If other school entrances were sealed, chances are good a gun would never get past the schoolhouse doors. The school security dog could roam the halls all day making sure nothing was missed.
Better yet, once a dog detects a threat, it doesn’t call a superior officer or wait for backup. Security dogs are trained to race toward danger and attack.
If there's a downside to this idea I’m not aware of it. It could even be done without increasing taxes.
Selecting and training a security dog is expensive. Experts says getting a good dog into service requires two years of training and can cost up to $25,000. Keeping the animal in service and cared for costs even more.
But what if those costs were paid by private citizens willing to adopt a security dog and pay for all the dog’s training and ongoing expenses? In return, the person funding the dog would get a 100 percent tax credit for every dollar spent to acquire, train and care for the pooch.
I know plenty of people who would jump at the opportunity. Do you?
What we’re doing now isn’t working. Why not give security dogs a chance? All in favor say “Woof.”
Alex McRae is the author of “There Ain’t No Gentle Cycle on the Washing Machine of Love.” He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org