Oklahoma lawmaker's school safety proposal merits careful consideration

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: December 20, 2012
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THE horrible events in Connecticut have left citizens on edge, yet the sight of armed men and women near many Oklahoma schools this week has not only been welcomed, but requested. That's because those armed individuals have been police officers.

At schools statewide, officials have asked police to increase patrols. Yet at the same time school officials welcome armed officers, many oppose arming principals or teachers who have police-style gun training.

It's an odd juxtaposition that shows how conflicted our society is over the issue of firearms. We entrust school officials with our children, but hesitate to entrust our children's protection to those same individuals if they possess a gun.

This may be shortsighted. In 1997, Luke Woodham's shooting spree at Pearl High School in Mississippi — he killed two and wounded seven — was stopped when a vice-principal retrieved his own gun from his car. Woodham had planned to drive to the junior high and continue killing.

In many cases, the mere sight of a gun deters criminals. This may be why “gun free” areas appear more likely to become targets. Economist John Lott, who has studied mass shootings, told National Review that all but one public shooting where more than three people have been killed since 1950 “has taken place where citizens are not allowed to carry guns.”

Those factors are a reason state Rep. Mark McCullough, R-Sapulpa, has called for allowing teachers and principals to carry a firearm on school property if they have obtained certification from the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training. The early response of education officials has been negative, citing safety concerns.

Stan Florence, director of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, notes that responding to an active shooter is far tougher in reality than in the abstract. Oklahoma City Superintendent Karl Springer said he would prefer increased funding to boost law enforcement presence at schools, while in Tulsa the district has a campus police department with 23 sworn, certified officers.

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