Illustration by Jeremy Kai/Torontoist.
I’m thinking about pulling all of my money out of the bank. It’s not that I’m worried about another economic collapse. I just have serious doubts that banks are interested in protecting people’s money. If you don’t believe me, just have a look around the next time you’re at your local branch—almost no one has a gun.
Banks in Toronto get robbed regularly, so why doesn’t every single branch have at least one armed guard? For all the potential of armed robbery, it’s rare to see an armed guard stationed at a local bank. Aside from the cost of armed security, the desire for comfortable customers, and the fact their money is insured, banks have another reason for leaving out armed guards at all their locations: they know that armed guards make a bank more dangerous than do unarmed ones.
Bank security is based in part on the belief that the more firearms you introduce into an aggressive situation, the more you expose involved parties to potential harm. The implication is that it’s better to get robbed than killed.
I wonder why our local schools and police force continue to contradict this principle by insisting that armed police officers need to be in Toronto’s public high schools.
We do not want young people to bring weapons, especially firearms, to school. An armed robbery at North Toronto Collegiate late last week is a reminder that some youths are still making this unfortunate choice. Even before the media had the correct details of the incident, some were already suggesting it is further evidence that we need armed police officers in our schools.
Initially, the Toronto Star incorrectly reported that the incident took place at Northern Secondary, a school that received plenty of attention last fall for an incident involving a Toronto Police officer stationed there. If past experience is any guide, now that we know the incident happened at a school without a stationed police officer we have to anticipate criticism of the school for its presumed negligence, as well as calls for an officer to be immediately installed at North Toronto Collegiate.
If the armed robbery had occurred in a school with a so-called student resource officer, would the outcome necessarily have been better for the victims? Is the possibility of stopping the theft of, in this case, two iPods, worth the risk of a shootout between a boy and a police officer in a school hallway? Would we accept the potentially fatal consequences of such a set-up, or justify unintended injuries to students or staff in the name of armed school safety?
A weapon in the hands of a police officer has potential to do great harm in a school environment, if for no other reason than the unpredictable nature of an armed conflict. The idea that we’d rather have gun-toting police in schools than gun-toting students is irrelevant. The very presence of any firearms only increases the likelihood that someone will get shot. Only a mythical last-man-standing mentality suggests we can intimidate, injure, or even kill anyone who threatens us without considerably damaging ourselves and our communities. This is not the kind of learning environment we want for our students.
The bank knows that customers who are distracted by the constant threat of violence can’t concentrate on giving up all their money. The bank knows that putting more guns in banks means more people will get shot in banks. They call it customer service.
We know that a student who is distracted by the constant threat of violence cannot learn. We know that the more guns are present in public schools, the greater the risk to the people in those schools and their communities. A firearm has no place in a school, even if it belongs to a Toronto Police officer. If a gun could guarantee the safety and growth of our most valuable assets, no bank would be without one.
A version of this article originally appeared on Desmond Cole’s blog, Cole’s Notes.