OUR VIEW: Sentinel bill is wrong approach to school safetyWould you trust an armed, minimally trained and potentially trigger-happy volunteer around your children every day of the school year?
By: Editorial board, The Daily Republic
We appreciate that our legislators want to ensure the safety of South Dakota schoolchildren.
But we’re not convinced so-called “sentinels” are the way to go.
Legislation allowing armed school sentinels has passed the state House of Representatives and is headed to the Senate. Support is strong among hardline Second Amendment defenders, but the state’s education establishment appears to be united against the bill.
There have been calls for armed defenders in schools since the tragic Dec. 14 school shooting in Newtown, Conn. We understand the gut-level, emotional reaction from people like the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre, who said “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.”
But we think the impulse to bring more guns into schools is a hasty and overly simplistic response.
Guns, after all, are part of the problem. They’re not the solution.
Don’t get us wrong. We’re not out to repeal the Second Amendment. We hunt, just like many of our readers, and we have no problem with responsible adults legally obtaining hunting shotguns and rifles for safe use.
But guns in schools? Keeping guns out of schools sounds better to us.
For insight on this issue, consider recent statements by Parkston school administrator Rob Munson and state Rep. Tona Rozum, R-Mitchell.
Munson, a veteran of military service in the Middle East, warned of the dangers of placing a weapon in the hands of someone not thoroughly schooled in its use. He said soldiers are extensively trained on the use of deadly force, and they know when to shoot and when to hold their fire. Police, we would add, are similarly trained.
The sentinel legislation calls for some training, but probably not as much as a police officer or soldier receives. Would you trust an armed, minimally trained and potentially trigger-happy volunteer around your children every day of the school year? We’re not eager to send our kids into such an environment.
Rozum, a former teacher, said if she had a gun in a mass-shooting situation, she’d probably just panic and shoot herself in the foot. Her joke raises a serious question: Would the presence of an armed sentinel protect children during a mass shooting, or simply expose them to additional crossfire? Worse yet, would the presence of a school sentinel expose kids to accidental or unjustified fire in a non-crisis situation?
Beyond those concerns, we just don’t see how surrounding kids with more guns will discourage gun violence. We think it could do the opposite, by reinforcing to children the dangerous notion that shooting a gun is a good way to solve a problem.
We should all remind ourselves that under existing South Dakota law, only law enforcement officers can carry a gun on school grounds. There’s a reason for that. Until the post-Newtown knee-jerking began, we all knew that mixing guns and schoolchildren is a bad idea. We allow police departments to place resource officers at schools, not just for protection, but to help investigate crimes on school grounds and to conduct anti-crime and anti-drug education.
Some say the sentinel bill is a good option for schools that don’t have a resource officer. We say there’s probably a good reason some schools don’t have resource officers: They don’t need them.
And if a school doesn’t need a highly trained police officer, it certainly doesn’t need a slightly trained gun enthusiast with a license to shoot.