Just say no to dubious idea that guns make schools safer

Florida legislation allows school personnel to carry firearms

March 20, 2014 

Greg Steube TIFFANY TOMPKINS-CONDIE/ttompkins@bradenton.com

TIFFANY TOMPKINS-CONDIE

The safety of children in Florida schools is a paramount concern for all of society. Once again this legislative session, bills to allow certain school district employees to carry guns on campuses are advancing, and once again Rep. Greg Steube, R-Manatee/Sarasota, is sponsoring the House version.

There's a stronger solution to improving school security than arming teachers with only a modicum of training.

Under Steube's legislation, HB 753, superintendents and school principals could grant gun-toting duties to any district employee or volunteer who holds a valid concealed-carry weapons permit, completes a training program and passes a background check. The training would include active-shooter situations as well as other firearms instructional work.

The Senate version, SB 968, differs by restricting permission to only current or former members of the military and law enforcement.

What kind of message does this send to students? That concealed carry in schools is a good thing? That weapons provide the ultimate safe environment? That they, too, should carry weapons outside school grounds, or, heaven forbid, inside?

Are teachers expected to dash out of classrooms to confront a shooter -- with adrenaline pumping, no doubt? Will that aim be true and end an incident?

What happens when a high school student overpowers and disarms a gun-toting classroom instructor or hall monitor?

Or will all of this create a false sense of security?

Things do have a way of going awry.

School boards, district administrators and parent organizations are not lobbying for firearms in schools, and the state teachers union objects to this as well.

A far more sensible policy would be state funding for active-duty, uniformed law enforcement officers stationed in every school.

These resource officers are highly trained in the use of firearms and controlling tense situations -- with far more expert experience than the 40 to 60 hours of school safety and other firearms training can provide under current legislation.

Another strategy should be employed, too -- mental health screening of students. And educating school staff about the warning signs of a troubled student.

In the aftermath of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary massacre in Connecticut and other disturbing school shooting sprees, school safety has risen to the nation's conscious. We can do better than making schools armed camps.

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