The sharp sounds of the latest school shooting had barely stopped echoing at the Sparks, Nevada middle school when the debate over how to best protect students from gun violence once again topped the news. Math teacher and two-tour Afghanistan veteran Michael Landsbury was unarmed when he was shot and killed after stepping between the shooter and other students.
According to witness statements reported on local and network television, the shooter’s weapon identified by Sparks acting police chief Tom Miller as a Ruger 9mm semi-automatic handgun, appeared to run out of bullets after shooting Landsbury and then some classroom windows. He remained outside the school building where he allegedly threatened students who had seen him shoot the teacher by shooting out the windows. This gave him time to possibly reload and fatally shoot himself. The student never entered the building.
Washoe County School District, where this latest shooting occurred, has 38 resource police officers on the district staff to serve the more than 62,000 students in more than 90 schools. None of the staff officers was on the middle school campus at the time of the shooting. According to the web site of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) the U.S. average is 1.8 officers per 1000 persons. The 38 officers of the Washoe County School District force is certainly within that national average. The school district’s police chief, Mike Morris, reported that nearly 200 officers from as far away as 60 miles responded to the scene.
While the details of why this school shooting happened are being collected, the debate about how to protect students and staff is once again taking center stage. No doubt the words of NRA executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre, will be repeated as often as they were after the Sandy Hook shooting of last year. LaPierre stated, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
Earlier this year one program to protect schools was debated in the Indiana state legislature and on May 7, 2013, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a bill titled SEA 1 establishing a grant program to assist schools in enhancing their security. The bill provides $50,000 for larger schools and $35,000 for smaller schools to hire resource officers. These armed officers will have arrest powers.
The Debate Club, a feature of USNews.com, is a team of writers debating popular issues and tracking the pubic responses to score the writers. The position argued by Erich Pratt, director of communications for Gun Owners of America, is to train and arm teachers who wish to do so to be prepared. Mr. Pratt received 87% more approvals than opposition by those responding. Arguing for the opposing position that providing armed security of any kind won’t stop gun violence was Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, co-founder and CEO of MomsRising. Rowe-Finkbeiner’s position was opposed by a staggering 293% more than those who supported it.
If the results of this example of the gun control debate are any indication of the public’s concept of how best to be prepared to respond to school shootings, those teachers and staff who wish to be prepared will certainly receive parental support.
Additional support and resources for school districts can be found through FEMA’s Homeland Security Grant Program. This program can be used for planning, purchasing equipment, training, and other efforts to support school security.
The Department of Education has teamed up with the U.S. Secret Service to establish The Safe School Initiative (SSI). This program focuses on prevention and behavior of students who commit acts of targeted violence in our nation’s schools
The Department of Homeland Security web site also list several resources. These include:
- School Transportation Security Awareness, designed by TSA for school bus drivers, administrators, and staff members, focuses on terrorist and criminal threats to buses.
- Understanding and Preparing for School Bomb Incidents, available online from the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, provides awareness-level training to firefighters, law enforcement officers, emergency medical technicians, and school employees.
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance includes funding, training and exercises, equipment testing, and Citizen Corps. FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute offers free online courses to train school officials to prepare for and manage emergencies.
Private agencies too are entering the growing industry of school security. One agency, National School Safety and Security, proudly reports the company established a resource for school security web site the afternoon of 9/11/2001.
Clearly, based on the growing involvement of government and private resources for dealing with or preventing school shootings, the debate over gun control in and around schools will not soon be settled.
by Marcus Murray