Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and other Republicans resisting calls to toughen gun laws after the Uvalde school massacre think they have identified the real issue behind the rise of school shootings: too many doors.
Cruz in interviews this week repeatedly called for schools to install armed officers even though the 18-year-old Uvalde shooter “outgunned” three armed officers before killing 19 children and two teachers. Cruz then argued that law enforcement could have stopped the gunman if there was just “one door.”
The shooter “entered through an unlocked backdoor,” Cruz told reporters on Wednesday, adding that the best way to “harden” schools is to have “one door that goes in and out of the school [and] having armed police officers at that one door.”
The gunman, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, reportedly entered through a side door after being confronted by a school police officer. It’s unclear if the door was unlocked or if Ramos forced his way in. The school officer and two armed Uvalde police officers exchanged gunfire with the shooter, who was armed with an AR-15-style rifle, but were unable to prevent him from killing 21 people. People later begged police to enter the school while they gathered around outside as the shooter rampaged for up to an hour.
Cruz repeated his call in a Fox News interview later in the day.
“One of the things that everyone agrees is don’t have all of these unlocked backdoors,” Cruz said. “Have one door into and out of the school and have that one door, armed police officers at that door. If that had happened… when that psychopath arrived, the armed police officers could have taken him out.”
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a fellow Republican, also echoed that line in an interview with Fox & Friends on Thursday while discussing the need to “harden” schools.
“There should be one entrance in and one entrance out in all of our elementary and all of our middle schools,” he said. “They’re small enough to do that. There should be only one way in, and that should be a well-protected entrance.”
The calls were limited to officials in Texas, where lawmakers have repeatedly responded to mass shootings by inexplicably loosening gun laws even though research shows that the U.S. is an outlier on gun access rather than mental health and school security.
Trump-endorsed Ohio Republican Senate candidate JD Vance issued a statement condemning those grasping for “easy solutions” before similarly calling to “create single points of entry for schools along with armed guards.”
There are some obvious issues with the proposal, not least of which is that multiple armed officers failed to stop the shooter from entering the school. For one, having only one exit would be a serious fire hazard, especially in larger schools. Schools also have other access points, like windows. And, as MSNBC’s Steve Benen noted, some schools are “made up of several bungalow-style buildings, with students walking outdoors between them,” making the one-door solution impossible.
But there are larger problems with their proposal: experts say it could get more children killed.
“The ‘one door’ theory of schools is not how we think about education or design, but it’s also not how we think about security,” tweeted Juliette Kayyem, who served in the Department of Homeland Security under Obama and now teaches security issues at Harvard. “It actually is bad safety planning. A ‘psychopath’ would then just target the kids backed up in line and waiting for this ‘one door’ to let them through.”
Blake Herzinger, a Navy veteran and security adviser, wrote that the proposal would effectively create a “fatal tunnel.”
“Sure, a shooter can only enter through one door,” he tweeted. “Where do evacuating students and teachers egress in the event that someone pulls a fire alarm inside? Yeah, same door. Not that I think the GOP is serious about keeping school kids safe, that’s clearly not their priority, but this is an idea that will probably kill more kids than it ever protects.”
Virginia Tech, the deadliest school shooting in American history, was so deadly because “the shooter chained the doors shut,” noted Eli Savit, a Michigan prosecutor and lecturer at the University of Michigan.
“It’s not a hypothetical. Creating a single point of entrance and exit makes it more likely that more people will die in a mass shooting. If you cut off chances to escape, that makes it deadlier,” he wrote. “And it ups the ability to inflict mass casualties at, say, dismissal.”
Having armed officers at the door is unlikely to help, he argued.
“There were armed guards at Oxford, Uvalde, Buffalo. Didn’t stop it,” he tweeted. “This fantasy that anyone with a gun can stop mass shooters is definitively disproved.”
Cruz was challenged on his opposition to tougher gun laws by a British journalist after the shooting. Cruz called the reporter, Sky News’ Mark Stone, a “propagandist” for calling mass shootings an example of “American exceptionalism” and argued that the United States is the “freest, most prosperous, safest country on Earth.”
Stone continued to press, asking Cruz why mass shootings are so uniquely an “American problem.”
“You can’t answer that, can you?” Stone asked as Cruz fled the interview.