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EDITORIAL

Requiring guns in school might be a step too far

Thursday, April 4, 2013 - 12:01 am

Let districts make their own decisions about safety and security.

Following the horrific Newtown, Conn., school shooting, some jurisdictions have considered the idea of allowing teachers and other employees to arm themselves. Indiana might go a step further. A proposal approved this week by a House committee would require public and charter schools to have an employee carry a loaded weapon during school hours.

If the proposal passes, Indiana will be the first state with such a requirement. Legislators might want to give a second thought or two to breaking this particular ground.

There's nothing wrong with school employees being armed – in fact, it makes a good deal of sense. Proudly proclaiming that you're a gun-free zone is stupidly announcing that you're defenseless. Armed lunatics so often choose schools as their killing fields because they know they're unlikely to meet armed resistance.

But we're inclined to agree with a statement from Gov. Mike Pence's office that “decisions about school safety and security should be made by local schools with support from the state.” As with most other education issues, there are too many variables for a one-size-fits-all edict to be the most helpful approach. Some schools might want to make use of off-duty police officers. Some might want to hire people specifically for safety issues. Some might want to use existing employees. As the meteorologists always say, local conditions may vary.

In any case, requiring that an employee be armed is problematic. One person can't be everywhere and won't be in school all the time. A better plan would be allow any employee to be armed who wants the responsibility and is willing to undergo training for it. If a would-be shooter knew anyone he meets in a school could be armed, he might be less inclined to attack it. That's concealed-carry 101.

Many in the education establishment – probably most, in fact – resist the idea of ending the gun-free-zone concept. Arming school employees would require them to take responsibilities are beyond the basic education mission, and there could be lots of unforeseen consequences with a lot of loaded guns around children. It would also be expensive to make such a program effective.

Those are valid concerns, but they have to be weighed against the reality. Heavily armed bad guys have been invading our children's education spaces, and we know with certainty they will keep doing it. Not having some good guys around and able to do something to stop them would be grossly irresponsible.

Whatever it takes, the goal must be to provide a safe learning environment. That job is not getting done now.