Thursday, April 4, 2013

Better a Fortress than a Funeral

Better a Fortress than a Funeral
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
April 4, 2013

As a strong proponent of armed security in America’s public, private, and charter schools, the juxtaposition of the news article written by Eric Weddle and Mary Beth Schneider, “School gun bill raises concerns,” and the letter to the editor penned by Charles Murray of Carmel “Proposal to arm school staff members has flaws,” both appearing in the April 4 Indianapolis Star, raises good points and questions that can be resolved forthwith.

Addressing Mr. Murray’s last question regarding the consultation of educators in the composition of the proposal for Indiana to mandate that one in-house staff member be required to carry a firearm, while I cannot answer his question, as someone who has taught in suburban and inner-city public and charter schools in New Jersey, Baltimore, and Washington, DC, my experience dictates that such a proposal is a step in the right direction.

I would offer an amendment to the mandate portion of SB-1, which was initially designed to “provide grant incentives for school districts to hire resource officers,” (The Indianapolis Star, p. 8, 04/04/13). The amendment, offered by State Rep. Jim Lucas (R-Seymour) mandating the armed in-house employee, should allow for such action to be taken, but the decision should be left to the individual local schools.

Should such a mandate pass, Indiana would be the first state in the union to have such a requirement, should Gov. Mike Pence sign the bill into law. As an aforementioned supporter of firearm toting security on school campuses, I am not squeamish about a mandate. Giving the option to the local school districts presents a greater opportunity for such a bill to pass with wider support.

To alleviate some of Mr. Murray’s legitimate concerns pertaining to who should be the school employee to carry a firearm, what about that person’s absence or eventual retirement, and what about that person’s close proximity to students in a classroom, I envision security personnel being an off duty police officer, retired military personnel, or a member of the Reserves. This is a cadre of available human resources.

As for the cost, another legitimate issue raised by Mr. Murray, police and Reserve personnel are already paid for by their respective employers and this would be seen as an extension or continuation of their duties. The salary of retired military personnel could very easily be absorbed by eliminating a mid-level administrator.

This is a feasible plan that within SB-1 would set the parameters of training requirements and the certification of the armed personnel just as teachers and other educational staff have their certification requirements. While a rush to judgment to pass any bill simply for the sake of enactment would be irresponsible by the legislature, so to would not adopting a law that would provide for the safety of Hoosier children.

While no plan is perfect, nor can one armed security staff member be in all places at all times, this plan is certainly better than no plan at all. We are not going to curse the darkness when we are able to at least offer a flicker of light.

Another point in favor of armed security would be the potential to reduce home grown or in school violence such as bullying or worse. Mr. Murray indicated that Columbine had an armed guard and that did not prevent the heinous mass shooting that occurred there on April 20, 1999. While Mr. Murray is correct, that should not rule out passage of an amended SB-1. One failure should not dismiss the potential for myriad successes in preventing bullying and/or a home grown catastrophe especially with prior disasters as examples from which to learn and be better prepared.

Securing all entrances and exits along with increased camera presence will also help prevent another Newtown, CT.

For those who object to passage of SB-1, remember, banks have armed security guards. Why not where our most precious of resources spend the majority of their days? Parents should not have to worry whether or not their child will return home safely at the end of the day.

And for those who object to seeing schools resemble an armed fortress, better a fortress than a place where memorial gardens are planted.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.

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