Letter to the Editor

Schools should have guns

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Dear editor:

Thank you for continuing the conversation about armed self-defense in our schools.

The Idaho Statute concerning armed persons in schools will soon become a bit less obscure. The Idaho Republican Party has recently approved a resolution calling on the Idaho Superintendent of Education to proactively inform and educate every educational institution in Idaho as to its constitutional authority under Idaho Code 183302D(4) -- the law that enables the board of trustees of a school district to authorize a person or an employee of the school or school district to carry a firearm on the school premises.

I disagree with your footnote comment on my earlier letter, where you questioned the value of arming teachers or other persons to defend our children in the schools. The horrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut took place in a school that was only 2.3 miles away from the city police station -- and it took 20 minutes for the Newtown Police to respond to the shooting. When the police arrived, the murderer was already dead -- along with the innocent children and the staff and teachers who died trying to protect their students.

Wouldn't it have been better if some of those heroic teachers and staff had been able to carry a truly effective means of defending themselves and their students -- a handgun? Don't forget, the police who respond to such tragedies would never go into an "active shooter" situation disarmed. Why shouldn't we give our teachers and school staff the opportunity to decide whether or not they would like to be able to effectively defend their students, rather than die in a futile effort to save them?

We trust our teachers to shape the minds and morals of our children: surely we can trust them, with proper training, to be able to use a firearm safely to protect the children from evil people.

It may be instructive to look at school districts that have already taken this effective step to protect their students. Many states have laws similar to Idaho, allowing firearms in schools only with the written permission of the school boards. Harrold, Texas, is 30 minutes away from the nearest sheriff's office. In 2007, the school board in Harrold voted unanimously to allow employees to carry weapons to protect the students.

After obtaining a concealed-weapons license, each employee who wants to carry a weapon must be approved by the school board based on his or her personality and reaction to a crisis. Employees must also undergo training in crisis intervention and hostage situations, and use bullets that minimize the risk of ricochet and penetration of walls. The Harrold school employees have not needed to use their firearms, but they may be confident in knowing that they have an effective response better than hoping the police will arrive.

Recently, the Montpelier, Ohio, school board voted unanimously to allow four maintenance personnel with concealed carry permits to carry their own guns inside the school.

These school employees have volunteered to take a two-day training course set up by the Montpelier Police Chief, at a facility which has trained school resource officers for several years.

The State of Utah concealed firearm permit allows an individual to carry a firearm fully loaded and concealed, and also allows an individual to carry a firearm into public schools. (Utah Dept. of Public Safety web site on concealed carry permits -- http://publicsafety.utah.gov/bci/FAQ.html.) There have been no school shootings in Utah schools reported by the media, so it seems evident that concealed carry in their schools is safe and effective.

I believe it is time for the residents of Elmore County to have a serious discussion about many different methods of helping to ensure the safety of our children in the schools. These methods may include better access control, armed police resource officers, stronger internal door locks, and qualified, trained armed school employees or volunteer parents.

I strongly recommend that Elmore County's parents, teachers, school employees, school boards, county and city elected officials, our county sheriff, and our city police get together and decide what steps they want to consider in protecting our children.

These steps may well include authorizing and training volunteer school employees and parents to carry concealed handguns in the schools, providing them with an effective means of immediately responding to any attempted shooting by a deranged individual.

I doubt that one solution will work in every school in Elmore County. The smaller rural schools will have different law enforcement response times than the city schools, and some schools will need more physical improvements than others.

Rather than wringing our hands and waiting for a tragedy, or waiting for the federal or state government to tell us what to do, it is time for the serious adults of Elmore County to take responsibility for the safety of our own children.

-- Peter Humm