Do you want armed guards in Carroll's schools?
It's the National Rifle Association's Big Solution.
And Iowa Department of Education Director Jason Glass says it's an idea worth considering.
We are talking about armed guards in our schools.
"Clearly, an armed presence may have some deterrent value," Carroll Police Chief Jeff Cayler tells us.
We at The Daily Times Herald are experts in pens and paper, not guns and bullets, although we have hunters and gun owners on our news staff. We wouldn't presume to map out a strategy for school security, one we could be sure didn't have holes and gaps to allow spree shooters to strike.
But Glass is right. Armed guards are worth considering.
We should make one major stipulation, though. Any armed guards in Carroll's schools must be members of professional law enforcement organizations - the Carroll Police Department or the Carroll County Sheriff's Office, for example.
"You're going to want somebody there who has some composure, some training," Cayler said.
Paul Blart, Mall Cop, need not apply.
The cavalier notion of arming administrators, who are distracted with a million and one other responsibilities, from curriculum development to negotiating days off with the teachers' unions, is one of the more dangerous ideas we've heard floated in some time.
Same goes for arming teachers.
That nice, nurturing lady who teaches your fourth-graders is just not cut out to pack heat, either. Someone who resorts to tears because of angry words directed to her during a parent-teacher conference is not going to have the right stuff to stand down a killer with an AR-15.
If we introduce guns into our schools as the NRA suggests ("a bad guy with a gun can only be stopped by a good guy with a gun") we must limit the potential for accidents.
Teachers and administrators, well-intended as they may be, are not law-enforcement professionals, and a few days of in-school training, or some after-school gun-range work, isn't going to make our faculties one part "Mr. Holland's Opus," one part SEAL Team 6.
Too many of our teachers already are doing the jobs of parents today. Now we want them to be cops, too? Crime-scene psychologists with guns, making snap decisions about when to pull a trigger? Who to shoot? Why?
Not all scenarios are going to be clear cut. It's not like preparing for the British Army of the 1770s where the enemy marches in red coats you can see for miles with drums beating you can hear from even greater distances.
With armed schools there is enormous potential for accidental shootings, mistaken identification of a prank or quick move or the pulling of a microscope or other object with a gun-like look from a back-pack or a locker room fight as preperatory elements of a school massacre. If we arm all our teachers, or even just a few administrators in our state's K-12 schools, and do the body counts in a decade, the odds are we'll have more dead from bad shoots than good shoots.
We can't do this one on the cheap.
Want guns in schools? Go with the pros.
Washington, D.C. and Des Moines are talking about potential ideas to prevent school violence. They'll get around to armed guards and maybe even metal detectors along with mental health. There will be much grand-standing and press-release issuing on God and video games, too little of one, too much of the other.
We can wait for those debates to play out, see what funding streams develop, what programs emerge.
Or we could act now on the local level.
We could add the personnel needed to protect each one of Carroll's school buildings with an armed police officer during regular class time and after-school activities. Cayler estimates this would cost between $750,000 and $1 million annually.
Cayler has said that police guards could function in a variety of capacities in the schools, serving as resource officers who are involved with improving the life of students in a host of ways.
Another option would be to hire fewer officers and have them randomly patrol the schools, interacting in the multi-faceted manner Cayler suggests.
Or the schools and police simply could use existing resources, something Cayler has had in the works well before the Newtown, Conn., shooting.
Maybe solutions don't involve guns in schools but more mental-health outreach, better techniques and protocols for spotting warning signs and intervening with troubled kids.
This is a conversation we need to have locally.
Do you want armed guards in the schools? Are you, like State Sen.-elect Mark Segebart, R-Vail, comfortable with teachers and principals and superintendents carrying guns?
If so, how much firepower should they possess?
What are the rules of engagement? Can a teacher shoot first? If it's a bad shoot will they be legally immune, morally accepted by the rest of us?
It's ironic. Social conservatives like Segebart are so distrustful of Hollywood, yet so shaped by it. They see the world in black hats and white hats, a place where the bad guys are easily identified, and your average, ordinary, friendly high school chemistry teacher can calmly set down his Bunsen Burner and, Roy Rogers-style, draw a sidearm, and with a single bullet, shoot a criminal's gun from his hand to the ground. I have no doubt this is how Segebart and friends see the situations in their minds.
The reality is, as Cayler will readily tell you, that even the pros make mistakes.
Life is not fair so you sort of have to play the odds. My thinking is the polar opposite of Segebart's. I'd submit the presence of more guns in more hands increases the chances of mistakes in our schools.
I think it's far more likely that with guns in Carroll's schools this newspaper will be reporting about an accidental shooting death, a teacher seeing something that isn't something, than we will be running breathless accounts of a mad gunman being taken out in the Fairview Elementary School gymnasium by a heroic teacher before the armed shooter can get to the kids in the pods.
But I don't have kids. If parents want armed guards in our schools, and taxpayers are willing to foot the bill, let's give them the best we have.
Parents, it's your move. Silence? Or action? Your call.
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