In the weeks following the tragic school shooting in Connecticut and the arrest of a man who allegedly fired 50 rounds into the air at Fashion Island the next day, the Daily Pilot's Forum page has featured multiple letters and comments about guns and school safety. Some folks have called on schools to arm employees who are willing to volunteer for the responsibility.
Today we'd like to add our voice to this important discussion by saying that we do not support arming teachers or other traditional school employees, such as principals, coaches, custodians, secretaries and so forth. Guns have no place in the hands — or holsters — of these employees during work hours.
School personnel come into far too much contact with students and the potential for accidental shootings is far greater than the potential that armed employees will stop a gunman. There is also a great risk that an armed school employee would be overpowered by an intruder or an unstable student. And let's not forget the potential for theft; things go missing from schools all of the time.
That said, there is a place, and it is a small one, for guns in our schools. We feel comfortable with the school resource officers who patrol our campuses while armed, as they are sworn, trained police officers. They not only know how to handle guns but are also given extensive training in how to cope with stressful situations and exercise good judgment under duress. They are more than equipped to protect our most vulnerable. And we need to remember there is quite a difference between owning a gun to protect your home and being permitted to carry one as part of your job. There are reasons police officers are given such extensive firearms training and detailed pre-employment screening.
But police officers are expensive and their services are needed throughout our twin cities. Ideally, there would be enough money to station a cop at every school in Newport-Mesa, but since that is next to impossible from a cost perspective, we are also willing to listen to suggestions about arming carefully selected uniformed security guards who have extensive firearms training and passing scores on psychological evaluations and criminal background checks. We cannot yet endorse hiring such guards, but we believe it's an option that warrants more research and discussion.
In the meantime, only the SROs should be armed. Giving guns to anyone else could have tragic consequences.