Dan Patrick (no, not the ESPN Dan Patrick) has been an ubiquitous presence in my life, ever since the Rust Belt coughed me out after graduation, and the rapid growth zone called “Houston, Texas” sucked me in like a vacuum. That was in 1978. Or thereabouts.
At the time, Dan Patrick was a sportscaster for one of the local TV stations, reporting on a pretty good Oiler team, and a not-so-good Astros team. In those pre-internet days, news junkies had no sources but the papers and broadcast newscasts; so Mr. Patrick quickly became a fixture in lots of homes.
Mr. Patrick, who seems to bore easily, didn’t stay with that gig long; he moved his interests to the rapidly growing talk radio business, and somehow managed to buy/lease/rent 700 AM, moving it to a conservative talk radio format. Much smaller than local alternatives at all-news 740AM and 950AM, he put 700AM on the radio-dial-map by striking up a friendship with, and subsequently syndicating, a talk show host named Rush Limbaugh.
700 AM never did eclipse the listenership of those larger operations; but those were also the days of the “Rush Rooms”, where local restaurants would set aside their banquet rooms for people wanting to have Rush piped in as they lunched. Dan also signed popular shows like Dr. Laura, some local legends not in the talk business, and made a a low-power station based in the remote Houston suburbs a significant presence. I don’t know if he ever made significant money from the deal, but 700AM entered the Houston lexicon.
Dan’s personal focus, however, became local politics, not state or national. He focused in on the Texas property tax situation, which if you don’t know about, you need to know about. Here goes:
Texas has no income tax. However, that does NOT mean that it is a low tax state; expect to pay 2–3.5% of assessed valuation PER YEAR in property taxes. This situation is why Texas never ends up on anyone’s “Best States to Retire To” lists; retirees can control their income — they can’t control their property taxes. Ergo, don’t retire here. The numbers of retirees that have been driven from homes they’ve owned for decades because the neighborhood that was once inexpensive turned toney is legion.
Anyway, Dan teamed up with the Harris County (which is Houston, basically) Tax Assessor, Paul Betancourt, to lobby against state property tax policy, first on the radio,then in person, in Austin. Frustrated by the status quo on the issue (despite the fact that everyone in Austin who matters is Republican) Dan ran for the State Legislature, and won.
However, that didn’t move the property tax needle. Dan after several years of arguing his point, and achieving some concessions in the area of maximum property tax increases year to year, but none in the actual area of property tax rollback, ran for Lt. Governor, which in Texas, is the most powerful person in the State; the Lt. Governor controls the Congressional agenda, not the Governor.
The war against high property taxes continues. It’s not over.
Since winning the Lt. Governor seat, Dan has, unfortunately from my perspective, become a predictable mouthpiece for right-wing priorities,without much in the way of critical thinking which could make those priorities palatable across the aisle. So, it came as no surprise to me that Dan suggested that a way to address situations like the Santa Fe shooting would be NOT to look to gun control, but instead to harden the school buildings.
The reaction from the Left was predictable. Patrick was deflecting, looking for ANY solution which did NOT involve offending the NRA in gun loving Texas. He was an example of how brain dead the gun lovers have become, suggesting the problem was BUILDING SECURITY rather than the lethal weapons used in school assaults. It was stupid, because he was suggesting making schools a fire hazard by locking egress doors, and — good God !— who wants their kids going to school in a fear-filled environment, walking through metal detectors, smelled by dogs, where the OBVIOUS solution is to rip apart the Constitution, removing the right to bear arms from the people, and burying all those lethal weapons in a landfill somewhere, never again to see the light of day?
Well, there’s one problem with those objections. Because whether he meant to be or not……
…Dan Patrick was 100% Correct.
I have a few years working for a physical security consultant, coding and documenting card readers and other control devices which secure ingress to a building. Patrick was right; the consultants at my old company, who have worked on major hotels, international airports, and the Federal Reserve itself (probably the most secure buildings in the USA) would say exactly the same thing that he did.
In “security lingo”, the schools contain a “valuable asset”, that being our children, that we would like secured. If you ask a security consultant to how to secure a valuable asset held in a building, he or she is NOT going to say “Well, let’s arrest all the bad guys before they can cause harm”. That would be insane, because nobody can ever arrest ALL the bad guys. Similarly, they would never say “Let’s just take away all the weapons the bad guys might use”, because a bad guy can always obtain what they need SOMEWHERE, even if the source is illegal.
What they WILL say is “Let’s control what we can control; which is ingress and security within the facility”, in effect agreeing with Patrick. So, let’s step through that what can be easily (and contrary to news reports, inexpensively) achieved:
- Limit ingress to a limited number of ports which can be secured by metal detector (3–5K apiece), video camera (3–5K per facility) and armed officer (annual salary varies, but not cheap.)
- Add mag lock systems to egress doors tied into the fire alarm system, so they all pop open if a fire alarm is pulled. (Maybe a grand a door, probably less).
- Make sure that classroom doors have a steel door deadbolt-into-secure-metal lock from the inside that cannot be kicked in for shelter-in-place. (Most modern schools already have this.)
So, there you have it. You’ve just deterred ALL of the lone-ranger nutcases, and you’ve done it without controversial measures like “arming the teachers.”
Also, we’ve addressed all the semi-rational objections to Patrick’s comments (fire hazard, cost, what happens if the bad guy does get in) except one, which is the least rational of them all, which is the “I don’t want my kids to go to school in a police zone; it bothers me” objection. To which I write:
SCREW YOU. OUR KIDS ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOUR EMOTIONS.
Besides, it’s hypocritical. The exact same objections were raised when we secured the airports after the raft of hijacking in the early 1990s, and where are we today? Tolerating travel annoyance after travel annoyance in the pursuit of safety. We’re already doing it, your kids are already doing it; hardening the schools is nothing new.
Straight up: Let’s agree that we can’t agree on meaningful gun control. However, we CAN agree that we want our kids safe. Let’s do what we can do and put off what we can’t do until tomorrow, especially considering that what we CAN do with gun control (constitutionally) would be unlikely to stem the school violence.
If you disagree with that, then YOU are the one putting our kids at risk, not the NRA.