As we exited the Thanksgiving weekend and began the rest of the holiday season we were shocked, but not surprised, to learn of yet another school shooting, this time in Michigan. Despite the almost immediate response by a sheriff’s deputy assigned to Oxford High School, it took a 15-year old sophomore less than five minutes to take the lives of four fellow students and seriously injure seven others, including a teacher. This time, the weapon of choice was not an AR-15, but a semi-automatic handgun recently purchased by the shooter’s father.
On Tuesday, Dec. 7, our local school board will once again consider and, no doubt, approve Rule CKA, allowing inadequately trained school employees to conceal carry handguns in our schools. Despite the clear evidence that putting guns in the hands of minimally trained school employees will make our schools less safe, our local school board (one of only four school boards in Wyoming embracing this rule) has stubbornly pursued this approach for the last four years — only to lose multiple legal actions brought against it over this rule and waste hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars that could have been spent addressing the root causes of the epidemic of gun violence as it relates our schools. Having armed school employees is not a tool that needs to be in the school’s safety toolbox.
When, as a society, will we learn that throwing more guns at the problem of gun violence is not a solution — it simply exacerbates the problem? The attack on “gun free” zones will continue, especially in Wyoming where there are more guns per capita than anywhere else in the country – an attack that some of our local school members say they fear. Soon, if some members of the Wyoming legislature have their way, including at least one of our own local representatives, there will be no remaining “sensitive places” (used by Justice Antonin Scalia in describing the
places where there have been long-standing prohibitions against guns) such as schools, churches and government buildings.
It is our civic responsibility to maintain our schools as “sensitive places” where guns are prohibited, except in the hands of trained law enforcement, while at the same time protecting the safety of our children, grandchildren and school employees. This can be accomplished without arming inadequately trained school employees with guns.
We can support appropriate risk assessment programs and other safety measures in our schools. We can insist on and enforce reasonable gun regulations, and safe storage and biometric trigger locks for all guns, without running afoul of the Second Amendment. But first, we have to recognize that gun violence, especially in our schools, has been and continues to be a public health crisis of the highest magnitude.
Do not let the radical positions taken by various gun rights organizations or the voices of a vocal minority cloud our response to this crisis. I pray that common sense and rational thinking will eventually prevail.