(This Op-Ed, by yours truly, appears in today’s issue of Florida Today newspaper, 4/30/2018)
I’m a supporter of Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey. We are lucky to have such a capable and dedicated law enforcement leader in our midst. That doesn’t mean I agree with everything he proposes.
I oppose the arming of staff within our public classrooms. It’s a bad idea. There are other solutions. If educators are armed statewide, it would increase the incidents of deadly encounters particularly with violence-prone students in volatile venues. Increasing the presence of firearms, en masse, inside school walls increases risks and could cause more problems than it solves.
This is not only my opinion and that of many others. A recent Gallup Poll showed:
- 73 percent of teachers oppose teachers and staff carrying guns in schools
- 58 percent feel that carrying guns would make schools less safe
- Only 18 percent claim they would be willing to carry guns in schools.
In Brevard, classroom teacher could not be armed because their union-negotiated contract doesn’t allow them to carry firearms.
My opinion is based on experience as a 30-year law enforcement veteran in Miami-Dade, as well as an involved citizen, father, and grandfather who has seen hundreds or thousands of incidents of violence, many of which would not have taken place if it weren’t for the presence of guns in the workplace to begin with.
I am not anti-gun, far from it. I support the Second Amendment, the National Rifle Association and most (not all) of firearm proposals that cross the spectrum. However, we certainly can do a better job of limiting and/or banning certain types of weaponry from sales in gun shows, stores, online and, worst of all, in private.
We continue to digress from the basic issues in dealing with school violence. Mostly, it’s the same problem dealing with psychos that run people over on sidewalks, who shoot people in movie theaters and rock concerts, and yes, in schools. It’s a problem our esteemed leaders and representatives, are unwilling to face: identify and legislate solutions. The primary focus should be mental derangement.
It is the common denominator centered in most of these incidents, including Gabby Giffords’ shooting in Arizona, the Aurora movie theater massacre, the killings at Virginia Tech, the Sandy Hook school, the recent Parkland school shooting, and etc. A February article in the L.A. Times cited a study that revealed at least 59 percent of the public mass shootings that have taken place in the U.S. from 1900 to 2017 were carried out by people who had demonstrated signs of serious mental illness or had been diagnosed with mental disorders. Other studies report similar results.
So, what are we, the people, doing about it? What are our lawmakers doing? Answer: Zilch. Nada. The problem is huge and we’re virtually ignoring it. Instead, it’s all about guns, guns, guns.
Sure, some revised laws are needed. However, improving background checks, raising the purchase age to 21, and outlawing bump stocks is like curing cancer with Band-Aids.
Because we can see and touch guns we’re focusing on the wrong problem. It’s far more complicated to tackle severe mental illness and to develop laws and mechanisms by which to diagnose and isolate dangerous people before, not after, they hurt others.
If we were to get serious about protecting people from violent psychos, then we need to upgrade our mental health laws and programs, start dealing with people who obviously suffer degrees of insanity and develop facilities where they can be treated or housed. In America we wait until a crazy person commits a violent crime and only then are they removed from society into facilities called prisons.
Security systems similar to airports and government buildings, with metal detectors and undercover marshals are worth considering for schools. Capital layout would be costly, but it’s better than arming teachers.