This morning I’ve been formulating a post about the American culture of risk assessment, the individual as capital and the television show Dollhouse.
Then I saw this story in the USA Today, and lost the impulse:
“A new Kansas law allowing gun owners to carry weapons in public buildings, including schools, has thrust a major Des Moines-based insurer into the national gun control debate. The EMC Insurance Cos. insures 85 percent to 90 percent of all Kansas school districts and has refused to renew coverage for schools that permit teachers and custodians to carry concealed firearms on their campuses under the new law, which took effect July 1. It’s not a political decision, but a financial one based on the riskier climate it estimates would be created, the insurer said…”It’s one thing to have a trained peace officer with a gun in school; it’s a completely different situation when you have a custodian or a teacher with a gun…That changes the risk of insuring a school and magnifies it considerably.”
On its face, arming teachers, principals, or staff in our schools is a stupid idea. Not because these teachers and others might not be trained on gun use. They could be gun experts; that’s not the point. I know how to drive a car; I could not race F1. Teachers are not trained in armed protection and security. Knowing how to use a gun does not equal knowing how to react to a man with an assault rifle. The difference between a teacher and a police officer is not a gun. It’s an entire life of education, experience, training, poise.
The point of this story, however, is not guns. It’s risk management. Insurance and liability. Run the numbers, assess the dollar values, and determine whether a teacher with a handgun is deemed acceptable risk. Is there a policy to be written for a school whose custodians carry brooms and bullets? How much should that policy pay out when that gun eventually goes off? Or a student dies because of that gun?
I understand the need for such human calculus. And it’s coming out correctly, in my view. We need protection from ourselves, and this company just might provide it. Insurance companies could save us all through their number crunching and risk management, be it high-school football or climate change. Still, it’s a cold calculus, and a sad realization, that our salvation may come from companies assessing individual deaths as too expensive for compensation.