Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

Guns in schools

 

OUR OPINION: Bills to arm employees are abominable; Legislature should reject them

HeraldEd@MiamiHerald.com

The same body of lawmakers in Tallahassee that approved Florida’s infamous Stand Your Ground law has come up with another reckless, irresponsible and dangerous idea: Teachers packing heat.

A Senate panel approved SB 968, allowing designated school employees to carry concealed firearms. A companion bill is pending in the House.

Other than offering a great marketing opportunity for gun manufacturers, the notion of arming teachers has no justifiable reason to become law. Teachers don’t want it, nor should they be allowed to become part of a school’s security team, ready to shoot it out with an armed attacker at a moment’s notice.

Indeed, there is no evidence that allowing teachers and staff to carry personal weapons would reduce or deter gun violence in schools. On the contrary, introducing more guns into school buildings would create additional opportunities for all kinds of awful occurrences, from nonfatal accidents to tragic deaths. Don’t think it wouldn’t happen.

Such a law would carry an ominous underlying message to students — that the only answer to violence is more violence. And it would encourage kids to do the same (which might be why the gun industry favors such proposals).

The fantasy that an alert, quick-drawing teacher can prevent a massacre would run into the reality that guns are rarely used to kill criminals or stop crimes, according to the Violence Policy Center. Carrying weapons, according to available evidence, does not reduce violent crimes. Rather, as with Stand Your Ground, laws that encourage the use of guns to tame heated encounters actually lead to increased shootings. Student safety aside, imagine an argument in the teachers lounge veering tragically out of control.

Neither teachers nor staff would be capable of confronting or firing at armed suspects without putting their charges at risk by getting caught in a crossfire. Police are trained to hold their fire when innocent bystanders are nearby. Would teachers with relatively minimal training be capable of such discipline?

Gun violence in schools is a real problem. There have been more than two dozen school shootings since Newtown in 2012. If the Legislature wants to safeguard schools, however, there are better — and safer — solutions than expecting teachers to strap on guns and become the first line of defense.

The first step would be to hold adults accountable for failing to prevent their children from having access to guns in their homes. Keeping guns secure is fundamental to gun safety at all levels.

If a child takes a weapon to school, even just to show it off to peers, the parents should be accountable by law.

In Connecticut, legislators provided millions of dollars in infrastructure grants and tightened state law covering guns in school. Some of the money was used to hire school resource officers, cops posted at schools. The law states that only active or retired law-enforcement officers can serve as armed guards.

Other states responded by funding emergency planning and school-safety grants. Of course, all of this would require Tallahassee to come up with more money for schools, far less likely than simply following the NRA’s dictates.

Teachers, school staffers and parents, who are certain that their sons and daughters would not be safer in schools that have turned into armed camps must let their legislators know that they have some dictates of their own.

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