Common sense scored a decisive victory Friday morning when a Senate committee thought better and stopped a bill that would have allowed more guns in school.
Lawmakers should be thanked for showing restraint when it came to putting more guns in schools.
When we sat down to think about the proposal to put more guns in school, it didn’t quite make sense. The logic seemed to go something like this: We’re concerned about people bringing guns into schools, so our solution is bringing more guns into schools.
Several bills this legislative session were aimed (if that’s the right term) at school safety. It was easy for Wyoming lawmakers to be thinking along those lines with the events in Connecticut and Sandy Hook Elementary. It wasn’t even a stretch when considering the tragic slayings of Jim Krumm and Heidi Arnold in Casper.
While the need to do something was understandable, we worry that same urge to ensure these events don’t or can’t happen again has brought out some well-intentioned but ultimately dangerous legislation.
A push to have more people carry guns in school is not just some Wyoming twist on gun safety. The notion of arming teachers, residents or putting more law enforcement in school is a movement that’s gained more traction and acceptance nationwide.
We believe putting more guns in schools is the wrong answer to the question of school safety — whether that’s this year or next.
The primary purpose of teachers is education. That is, after all, the primary function of schools. So, trying to make teachers sharpshooters or the “lite” version of a school resource officer seems to be misguided.
Teachers go to college and learn to become teachers. Police go to college or law enforcement academies to learn how to become police. Each job is essential, and each job is unique. Mixing them is asking too much of a teacher.
We also have serious concerns about more guns being in school. We believe that sets up a situation where students have more access to guns. We understand that some teachers could pack heat; others might have a gun safe in their desk.
Any legislation to arm more teachers or residents is predicated on the notion that the “good guy” will be able to access the gun and use it in time to stop a would-be assailant.
More importantly, while the Sandy Hook — or even the Casper College — shootings are high profile, they are not necessarily a statistically significant problem. That is, events like Sandy Hook are so uncommon and horrifying that they cause a sensational amount of news. However, the 24-hour, constant news cycle also has the danger of making folks believe these incidents are more common than in reality. Look at the thousands of safe school days 99.9 percent of students have in America.
We’d posit arming more teachers or even allowing more guns on school is a severe answer to what is in reality a very rare problem.
We believe guns are a possible solution to school safety, they just might not be the best solution.
Instead, if there are problems with strangers entering schools, we believe better security systems may be in order. If the problem is more students with serious psychological problems, the answer may be more funding for school counselors and mental health services.
We’re also concerned about putting more law enforcement officers in schools.
It’s not that it’s a bad idea. In fact, if we want more guns in schools — and that should be a big “if” — then we believe those guns should be holstered on a police officer’s body. Moreover, police officers have specific training in not only firearms, but also how to de-escalate a potentially tragic situation.
However, we’re concerned that more school resource officers might not necessarily thwart another massacre. Here’s why: Take a look at any school; how many square feet of space is there? Unless a police officer is at the right place at the right time, a shooter with an assault rifle could do plenty of damage depending how far away the officers are.
Do we really want armed police in every class?
The answer might be: If it keeps our kids safe.
At least that is what the answer will be until it comes time to funding more school resource officers. Then comes the conversation about how we afford a huge increase in cost of public safety. Are residents really willing to absorb a huge increase in staffing and equipment to have more resource officers? Are residents willing to pay more for a problem that virtually no one in Wyoming will ever face?
The urge to ensure that our kids are safe is absolutely correct.
And that’s why it doesn’t make sense to put more guns in school.