Guns in schools

The question of whether and how to limit citizens’ access to certain types of guns remains difficult to settle, as smart, reasonable people on all sides of the argument raise valid points around such a ban’s effectiveness – and even how to define “effective.” The debate is unlikely to be settled to anyone’s satisfaction anytime soon, and even if it is, any ensuing legislation will not put an end to acts of horrific violence carried out with guns. What will almost certainly not help curb such acts, though, is intentionally increasing the number of people carrying guns at any given time.

By that broad standard, then, legislation proposed in the Colorado Legislature allowing school districts to grant their permit-holding teachers and administrators the right to carry concealed weapons in school buildings is the wrong approach to a problem that demands some solution. The difficulty is, that solution is neither clear nor simplistic, and Senate Bill 9, proposed by Sens. Scott Renfroe and Ted Harvey and Rep. Lori Saine, attempts to answer a vexing and important question all too quickly – to no positive effect.

Simply put, allowing school personnel to carry concealed weapons is the wrong answer. In fact, doing so raises far more questions than it settles. The scenarios that could unfold in such a situation are virtually endless, but they share the common denominator of being those where an armed teacher, principal, custodian or secretary is less likely to stop a violent event from occurring than adding more variables for potential disaster. Those who carry out the shootings such as that in Newtown, Conn., more often than not are carrying out a suicide mission, leaving a sweeping and tragic wake of homicide. The likelihood that an armed school official would be able to derail that intent is marginal at best. The level of training needed to effectively stop such an incident is intensive and exhaustive, and even those who have had such education all too frequently make mistakes. Adding more guns to already volatile and chaotic situations will not improve them.

SB 9 is unlikely to gain much traction in the Democratic-controlled Legislature, and that is about all the good that can be said about the measure. Nevertheless, marking the debate about how to respond to shootings such as that at Sandy Hook Elementary with such proposals simply escalates the rhetoric and takes us further from meaningful action to address and prevent such tragedies. It may well be true that banning certain types of guns will not get at the fundamental problem that is fueling the rise of school shootings, and that the conversation needs to extend well beyond how to manage the number of guns in U.S. society. However, growing that number is the wrong approach. Renfroe, Harvey and Saine are quite likely as shocked and horrified by the recent uptick in school violence as those who would like to ban certain guns. Their answer, though, is far less practical and appropriate. SB 9 should be scrapped in favor of a larger discussion of how to meaningfully address the triggers of such events as well as the means by which they are executed.

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