Arming teachers, principals won't make schools safer

Our view: Simplistic idea purports to offer answer; prevention needs to be focus
2013-02-20T00:00:00Z Arming teachers, principals won't make schools safer Arizona Daily Star
February 20, 2013 12:00 am

Arizona Daily Star

Legislation that would allow Arizona teachers, staff and administrators to carry a gun on campus confuses taking action with making a meaningful change.

The bill, pushed by Attorney General Tom Horne and Rep. David Stevens of Sierra Vista, would allow school district governing boards to designate employees who would have access to a gun that is kept in a secure firearm locker at the school.

Should something terrible happen, like a shooter coming onto campus, these employees - who have had 24 hours of weapons training on an active shooter scenario, "mental conditioning on the use of deadly force, marksmanship and judgmental shooting" - could get the campus gun and respond.

Horne and Stevens, both Republicans, point out that the decision would be voluntary. Local governing boards would decide.

This is an attempt at school safety on the cheap.

As Andrew Morrill, president of the Arizona Education Association, pointed out in a report from Capitol Media Services, "What I hear is passing the buck on training until we get it down to an affordable model," he said.

This legislation lets people feel as if the community is doing something to keep schools safe. In light of the horrors of the Newtown, Columbine and Virginia Tech gun murders, everyone wants to do something, anything to keep children safe.

But arming teachers and school personnel won't do it.

School resource officers - police officers who worked from schools - used to be common in Tucson districts. But budget cuts eliminated most, if not all, positions. The trained police officers were better used in the community, was the thinking.

Arming teachers, or other school workers, isn't a replacement for properly trained peace officers on campus.

Horne's response that at least with this "if a bad guy gets in and starts shooting, there's somebody there to stop them."

Unless that person is shot first.

A similar unrealistic thinking says that school shootings happen because schools are "gun-free zones" and that's why shooters choose them.

In a logical world, maybe that would make sense. But the mind of a person bent on homicide isn't motivated by common sense - the decision in most mass murder cases is to commit suicide in the most spectacularly awful way possible.

The shooter typically plans to die, at his own hand or those of police, and to take as many people as possible with him.

Knowing that someone on campus might have a gun, or access to a gun, won't stop a person bent on attaining the twisted glory they believe will come to them once they've showed the world what they're capable of doing.

It's not about rational motivation, although actions leading up to the murders may appear thoughtful and planned.

Stopping gun violence and improving community and school safety can't be a make-do effort. This bill, HB 2656, is just that. It offers the comfort of "doing something" while requiring only three workdays of training.

Our efforts should be on preventing attacks from happening in the first place.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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