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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • Chris Heitman: How to prevent school shootings

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  • I have worked in law enforcement for over 10 years now, and any crime or victimization I investigate involving a child is the most serious case I can work. It is also the most trying and demanding. Children are among our most valuable, but vulnerable cherished resources. As your Sheriff I feel it is my obligation to protect them at our schools. Evil people will always find a way to hurt others and our schools make an easy target. There will never be a plan that will keep everyone safe. The fact is we need to keep the schools from being an "easy target,” deter crime, and be prepared.
     
    Even though some school shootings are caused because of mental illness, I believe the main causes are: bullying, violent entertainment, the copycat effect from heavy news coverage, lack of parental involvement, drug use, and easy access to weapons. None of these problems have an easy or immediate solution. The government is proposing solutions that involve giving up civil rights in return for a false promise of increased safety. I am strongly against this as it has proven not to work.
     
    One of the most controversial ideas is the arming of “willing and qualified” teachers or administrators. I would support this effort under the strictest of guidelines. I feel if a teacher or administrator is going to be armed that he or she shall be required to have the same firearms training that my Deputies do, along with rigorous bi-monthly training. Teachers, as a whole, are very responsible people. The few who choose to carry would probably seek out the best available training and conduct themselves in exemplary fashion. They would also discretely follow a "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Nobody would know which teachers, if any, might be armed. This is an important concept learned from experience with permits in the general population. It is not necessary for a large percentage of people to be armed in order to provide a significant deterrent effect. I do not think anyone except administrators and law enforcement should know who is carrying a weapon on school grounds. I also feel that the teacher shall go through active shooter training classes with their local law enforcement on a regular basis.
     
    One example, largely ignored by the media, occurred at a high school in Pearl, Mississippi. Assistant Principal Joel Myrick used his handgun to stop the murderous shooting rampage of a deranged student. Unfortunately, the law forced Myrick to keep his weapon locked in his car off school property. By the time he could retrieve it and return, two students were already dead. The concept of giving school employees the responsibility of protecting themselves and the children seems like an obvious way to solve the problem of violent school attacks, but a closer look also reveals many problems. There is no question this would be a huge liability on the school. Additionally, I do understand why some parents would want to have a “Gun Free School Zone” for their child to attend; except that evil person won’t respect our “Gun Free School Zone.”
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    Unbalanced teens who are planning an attack will be deterred for two simple reasons. First, they could get killed. However, for those who are already planning to die, the prospect of having their carefully planned slaughter disrupted would be considered a failure.
     
    Ultimately, I feel the best course of action is to place a School Resource Officer in our Schools. I am proud that the Belle School district is taking the step forward to make this happen and I will assist them in any way I can. Additionally, I hope I am able find federal or state funds to make this happen at the Vienna Schools. Until funds become available my Deputies along with other local law enforcement members will continue to make random checks on our schools on a daily basis. Furthermore, I am planning some training classes at both the Belle and Vienna Schools so that we can remain prepared.
     
    You can help prevent school shootings by encouraging children to stop bullying, and if he or she witnesses bullying to report it. I realize this is a very controversial topic and I hope to work closely with the Maries County School Board’s and Administrators so we can come up with the best course of action to help keep our children safe.
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