After a mass shooting at Santa Fe High School in May 2018, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick responded by suggesting “too many entrances and too many exits” played a role.
Almost exactly four years later, Patrick made the same argument after the massacre in Uvalde, Texas.
“We can do a lot of things, and Texas has done a lot of things after the Santa Fe shooting. Obviously we have to do more. We have to harden these targets so no one can get in ever except from one entrance,” Patrick, a Republican, said on Fox News‘ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” just hours after the elementary school shooting.
“Maybe that would help. Maybe that would stop someone,” he added before he acknowledged that the problem is “really bigger than that.”
But unlike in 2018, many Republican officials now join Patrick in pointing the finger at school entrances.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas did so as he spoke to reporters outside Robb Elementary School, where 19 students and two teachers were shot and killed May 24.
“You want to talk about how we could have prevented the horror that played out across the street? Not having unlocked back doors, including not having unlocked doors to classroom. Having one door that goes in and out of the school, having armed police officers at that one door,” Cruz said the day of the shooting.
The next day, Cruz reiterated the point in an appearance on Fox News.
“Don’t have all of these unlocked back doors,” he said. “Have one door into and out of the school and have that one door, armed police officers at that door.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., suggested Thursday that Covid relief money would be better spent on enhancing school safety, including reducing the number of doors.
McCarthy, a top contender to become speaker if Republicans win the House in November, said on Fox Business that coronavirus funding should be redirected “to allow the schools to use that to have one central point of entrance to protect these kids from a lot of different areas and different items going forward.”
The remarks by some of the most influential Republicans underscore how the focus on doorways has become one of the most common GOP responses to school shootings in a nationwide debate around school security that largely began after the shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, in 1999.
Gun violence experts, however, warn that prioritizing a single point of entry not only de-emphasizes the harm that can come from easily accessible “assault”-style weapons but also presents other challenges.
Philip Cook, a public policy professor at Duke University who has written extensively about the societal costs of easy access to guns, said the “fortress approach” to school buildings has “real consequences for the quality of education.”
Implementing a single-door approach would also present a host of other safety hazards, said Cheryl Jonson, an associate criminal justice professor at Xavier University in Ohio.
“They’re talking about having schools with one door? What do you do if it’s a high school and there’s a chemical lab with your science class? What do you do if there’s a fire? What do you do if there’s a tornado? Or you’re out in the West and there’s an earthquake?” she said.
Jonson, who has researched public opinion surrounding gun control and mass shootings, in which majorities support background checks and bans on assault-style weapons, also indicated that the “too many doors” argument is unlikely to resonate with the broader public.
“That won’t fly,” she said.