According to gunpolicy.org, a website that covers "international firearm injury, prevention and policy," there are 270 million privately owned firearms in the U.S.

The U.S. is the world leader in both the number of privately owned guns and, more telling, the rate of gun ownership, which is 88.2 guns per 100 people.

Based on these and other statistics, any discussion of school safety in the event of the appearance of a shooter must include the acknowledgment that the easy access to guns in America is here to stay.

Look at it another way. A prescription from a pharmacy requires the authorization of a person who is licensed by the federal government to issue it, yet, according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prescription drugs kill far more people each year than illegal drugs or deaths by motor vehicles or deaths by guns. Yet, there is no significant call for a control of cars or further control of the prescription drug system. There is no war on legal drugs. The war on illegal drugs has failed and so would the war on firearms, legal or illegal.

The rest of this column is not about whether there should be more control of guns. With the types of numbers we are posting, such a discussion is a complete waste of time. There are a lot of guns in America, too many to "control" with legislation or moral arguments.

Instead of gun control, we must be smarter about protecting our children. As much as we appreciate the open style of some campuses we have a responsibility to our children to secure these campuses and all others to decrease the chances of harm to students.

It is important to note that we can decrease the chances, but we will never fully be able to protect all of our students. There are just too many guns and too many potential shooters to make that a realistic goal. Safety perfection, while admirable, is not likely to result in the swift decision-making we need right now.

One armed officer on a high school campus is not the answer. We should be using technology and the students themselves to help reduce the chances of a campus shooter. After all, we often hear from students after the fact that a shooter was frequently talking about guns or some other violent subject. To use students, we should promote the concept they use to fight terrorism in New York. There, the common phrase is "If you see something, say something." For our purposes, we should encourage students with the phrase, "If you hear something, say something." And who knows, this may also serve as a deterrent to a would-be shooter.

There is no way to fully and completely protect our campuses from an intruder. But we can do more than we are and the school board should take immediate steps to provide a safer environment for our students. Unfortunately, there is no way to account for the value of this investment for we will never know how many campus homicides were prevented by increasing security. All we will have is a track record of safety but that should be enough for all of us.

STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and a freelance writer. Send story ideas to smi161@aol.com.