Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

December 24, 2012

Shootings should spur a look at school safety

It’s a discussion for all levels of government

INDIANAPOLIS — During a news conference last week, Gov.-elect Mike Pence deflected a question about whether arming teachers with guns might help prevent in Indiana a massacre such as the one in Newtown, Conn.

It turns out, the question was moot. Under Indiana law, if schools designate teachers as school safety officers, they already can bring guns inside their schools.

It’s a route that some Indiana policymakers — state Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, is among them — would like to see the state’s schools choose.

“I will discuss with my Senate colleagues the options schools have by Indiana Code to properly train, certify and arm qualified teachers and administrators to be actual ‘first responders’ to safeguard our children,” he said Friday.

In the wake of tragedy, it’s not hard to see why the thought is on his mind.

During my four years attending Franklin College, a local prosecutor named Lance Hamner — he’s now a Superior Court judge in Johnson County — had a part-time gig teaching a night class that I attended.

This was the year after the Virginia Tech massacre, and that horrible event came up in class one night. Hamner, who worked his way through college as a police officer, told us that he always carried a concealed weapon — and pointed to his briefcase.

As we discussed what had happened at Virginia Tech, it was hard not to wonder if somebody like Hamner had been in the right spot at the right time at that university, whether fewer than 32 lives would have been lost.

That notion, though, carried the assumption that the fight would be fair.

This year, it wasn’t fair.

Not in Aurora, Colo., where James Holmes wore a ballistic helmet, vest, leggings and more, and carried a semi-automatic rifle when he stormed into a movie theater.

Not in Newtown, where Adam Lanza wore a military-style vest and carried semi-automatic guns when he walked into an elementary school.

In a school, the best shot a teacher, who had some training and some practice at a range, could take at stopping this kind of terror would come with tremendous potential for failure and the even greater risk of leaving students without guidance that they need more than ever.

Some experts point out that if handled poorly, arming teachers could bring a whole new set of problems — such as keeping guns away from students who might want to use them to solve personal disputes — that could vastly outweigh the chances that those firearms might be useful.

Still, it’s easy to see why people like Tomes would consider the idea. This is a state senator who has also taken a deep interest in finding better ways for the state to protect children from broken homes. His heart’s in the right place. He wants to keep children safe.

For his part, Pence said he intends to ask state lawmakers to budget money for an in-depth look at the school safety measures Indiana already has in place, as well as what more can be done to keep students safe.

He said that — not gun laws — will be his focus.

“This is not about access to guns. It’s about access to schools,” Pence said.

Pence is right in saying that Newtown slayings should prompt a close look at school safety. Better yet would be a holistic look that also includes gun laws, access to mental health care and more. It’s a conversation that should take place on all levels of government.

The problem is that the solutions such a thoughtful study could produce might carry a political cost.

It could involve higher taxes — or in Indiana’s case, fewer cuts and rebates — to pay for mental health services and new layers of protection at schools.

If what’s necessary are tighter controls on certain guns or ammunition, it could involve overcoming the objections of the National Rifle Association and its many supporters, especially in Indiana.

And even so, there likely is no crystal-clear step to prevent future shootings.

“That school was not inattentive. They had taken a lot of steps and still,” Gov. Mitch Daniels said of the Newtown shootings last week. “When someone is determined to do something as monstrous as that, I don’t know exactly how much money you would have to spend and what kind of precautions you could take to ever have a fail-safe system.”

Still, getting as close to that unattainable goal is worth serious effort. Attempting it from all angles would certainly be worth the price.

Eric Bradner covers state government and politics for the Evansville Courier & Press.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Columns
  • LoBianco: Bigger ethics questions raised in House Turner review

    Members of the House Ethics Committee who will take up Rep. Eric Turner’s case face daunting tasks as they try to answer two questions: Did their powerful colleague violate any ethics rules in privately lobbying against a measure that would have hurt his family’s business?

    April 18, 2014

  • Hicks: Measuring the unmeasurable

    One aspect of economic research I think is especially powerful is the ability to measure or monetize the things that humans clearly value but for which a market price is not necessarily apparent. This is one of the aspects of economic analysis that gives it such dominance over other social sciences.

    April 17, 2014

  • Rob Burgess House of Burgess: Bush presents 'The Art of Leadership'

    On April 5, “The Art of Leadership: A President’s Personal Diplomacy,” opened at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University. The display, which runs through June 3, boasts “portraits of more than two dozen world leaders” painted by Bush, according to the official literature.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bohanon: ‘Economics is fun’ in Vegas or in Bible study

    I am writing this on an airplane to Las Vegas. I’ll be attending the annual conference of the Association of Private Enterprise Education along with two of my colleagues and six of my students.

    April 16, 2014

  • Hayden: Want better teacher ratings? Ask the kids

    The state may be back where it started, encumbered with a flawed teacher grading system, a year after implementing what were meant to be tough new standards.
    That was the general consensus of the State Board of Education days after teacher evaluation data were released last week.

    April 15, 2014

  • BRIAN HOWEY: Mike Pence for president in 2016? Stay tuned Mike Pence for president? The swirl of 2016 national ticket talk surrounding Gov. Pence intensified over the past few weeks. I sat down with the governor in his office on Tuesday to find out what he's really thinking. A few hours prior, the Weekly S

    April 14, 2014

  • DICK WOLFSIE: Such a thing as too much My wife and I went on a binge last week. If you think I'm talking about an eating binge, you've never seen how thin we both are. If you think I mean a shopping binge, you don't know how cheap we are. And if you think it was a cleaning binge, you've n

    April 14, 2014

  • ED VASICEK: Chewing over news in bite-size vignettes Today, I am going to share a few "opinionettes" about current news items. Ready? Let's go! City prosperity The unemployment rate in the United States is down to 6.7 percent. This is its lowest level since October 2008. When I remember government effo

    April 13, 2014

  • MICHAEL HICKS: Finding measure of value One aspect of economic research I think is especially powerful is the ability to measure or monetize the things humans clearly value but for which a market price is not necessarily apparent. This is one of the aspects of economic analysis that gives

    April 13, 2014

  • PUBLIC EYE: Right across the county line

    Grant County has wind problems, and as an editor recently and quite rightly noted, “Wind doesn’t care about county lines.”

    So Grant County’s issues over a proposed E.ON Climate & Renewables wind farm are becoming Howard County’s issues as well.

    April 13, 2014

Latest news
Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Obituaries
Poll
Kelly Lafferty's video on Tom Miller