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Arming school officials won’t make campuses safer

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By Tim Brennan

In his guest column printed Saturday, Andrew Rothman provided no statistical data to defend his argument that only law-abiding, background-checked, licensed and trained teachers, principals, janitors and even fellow students be allowed to carry guns in a school to defend against mentally deranged gunmen. Nor shall I. I shall only offer my humble dissenting opinion, as one such educator he wants to see armed.

Except for the Lancaster, Pa., shooting, every example of violence Mr. Rothman points to as an example neglects to point out that the shooter was a student at the educational facility where the unexplainable happened.

Each shooter had familiarity with the building and grounds, security patterns, and each was also in possession of an anger and sickness that would have found an avenue for violence, no matter if I had a gun or not. The next time it will be a grenade. Or worse. More guns are not the answer.

I lied. I am going to quote statistics. There are 75.5 million children in our schools from preschool through college. I’m including college-age adults as children since everyone is someone’s child. The students at Virginia Tech were.

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If one counts all the people who work at these schools, the numbers rise to close to 90 million. My question to Mr. Rothman would be: How many more guns would it take to satisfy his level of safety to prevent more violence?

Out of millions of students, Mr. Rothman points to five deranged people and violent episodes without mentioning that many "checkpoints" put in place by the Virginia Tech system were working to identify the shooter’s sickness.

People knew about him — teachers, doctors, even the police. What’s tragic is that no one followed through and button-holed this sick person. Everything was in place. Everything was working. Red flags were popping like red spring tulips. Sadly, there was no follow through.

In every example pointed out by Mr. Rothman, the same pattern exists. What needs our immediate attention is why this is allowed to repeatedly occur.

Existing gun-purchasing laws contributed to this tragedy, but Mr. Rothman is apparently satisfied with them. His response: Allow licensed staff and students to carry firearms into any educational facility for the purpose of preventing more carnage. As long as these people follow all the rules and have access to more guns for defensive purposes, people will be safer.

The issue of school safety is a worthy goal and worth pursuing. I’m in a classroom. We had a lockdown drill last week at my school. Reactive responses such as these are necessary, as are security cameras and security guards. Do I feel safer because of these "recent" policies? Probably as much as knowing I have safety belts and an airbag for safety purposes in my car. We do what we can with available technology, and we live with other drivers, much like we do when we enter a school and live with the people who exist there.   

Cho Seung-Hui was a student. He was licensed to carry those guns. I assume he was trained because he was highly efficient. I also assume he was background-checked to obtain his guns. That’s how it works. He was even law-abiding up until killing 32 people plus himself.

The checkpoints used to ensure such behavior do not work with a person bent on destruction (please note the Johnson Space Center shooting, a facility with abundant armed security guards), and having more people, no matter how well-intentioned, carry more guns to prevent it, is not the best course of action.

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I agree with Mr. Rothman that something needs to be done. Now. But what he wants is to prevent more violence while it is actually happening, not before. The Virginia Tech tragedy is one of epic proportions. It makes me sad that Cho Seung-Hui was apparently identified as someone who needed help and no one followed through to see he was helped.

Imagine what we could accomplish in our schools and our society if someone could figure out how to do that. Before, not during, which is what Mr. Rothman is proposing.

I appreciate Mr. Rothman’s sincere offer to train me to carry a defensive-only firearm. I assume he would also teach me how to use it. He is correct in saying students are worth protecting. However, simply repealing policy forbidding more guns in schools is not the way to do it.

Tim Brennan is an English teacher at Southland High School in Adams.

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