The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

OUR OPINION: Seeking A Balanced Approach To School Safety


February 23, 2018

Funerals are taking place of students caught in the aim of another gunman.

The location is Florida. The suspect is a recent student who was expelled for behavior issues, a 19-year-old who by news reports had an assortment of firearms.

The sober reality is we are not living in our parents and grandparents time when if two boys had an issue a school yard fight ensued, then ended. In recent years, we have young people with access to guns who created havoc and destruction that shouldn't have happened; not because we are the United States but because some people have apparently lost the value of human life.

The public debate quickly escalates to guns are too readily available, specifically those labeled as “assault rifles.” Debate includes the need for the Second Amendment in the 21st century, does the Second Amendment need tighter restrictions and some have asked if schools should allow all or specific staff members to conceal carry. The critics there question why a school district would buy guns when it won't fully fund a teacher's classroom supplies.

Schools and many places of public interaction such as shopping centers, churches, sporting complexes, are still what strategists would call “soft targets.” They are places virtually unprotected, almost comfortable in their complacency. There are exceptions, but for the number of schools and colleges where assaults have occurred, and how easily the assailants have gained entry, the definition fits.

The reality is curing our ills, that is stopping the number of “mass shootings” will not be done in a day. We didn't get here in a day and it is foolish to think we can correct course in a day. In the meantime, we need to consider our public places and make them less soft and vulnerable. Staff and students at schools and universities need to recognize who belongs and who may not, and how to react if a stranger is present. Schools need to have training and plans in place for prevention and reaction to an incident.

Taking away guns by itself is not the answer. People have already proven when death and destruction is the focus, they will find a way.

It is a sober wakeup call we get too often. We are responsible for our own security individually and as a society. Sidney and Cheyenne County is blessed with a level of quiet safety many communities have never experienced. However, if we sit on our laurels believing nothing can happen, then we become a soft target of our own design.

The argument is right: there is no reason communities should be burying children because of an angry gunman. The lingering question is how do we prevent it without turning society into a penal colony of sorts. Likely the best course of action is threefold, constantly monitored building security, reviewing the reporting agencies and researching what causes a person to seek credit for high body count, and how to correct it.


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