The target remains blurred 
as we aim for safe schools

“For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat and wrong.” ­— H.L. Mencken

We’ll see tonight, when District 51’s school safety committee presents its recommendations to the Board of Education, whether reason trumps emotion, whether our kids get “simple, neat and wrong” measures to ensure their classrooms remain safe or whether the complexities of accomplishing that are acknowledged.

But not before a preliminary bout organized by folks with competing visions of what it’ll take. The school board meets at 6 p.m. at the Basil T. Knight Center. Competing rallies are scheduled for 5:30 p.m. by the Mesa County Patriots and Grand Valley Peace and Justice, groups with decidedly different views of what needs to be done.

While the many facets of this issue are likely to bring about wide-ranging recommendations from the 25-member committee, there’s just one that prompts the competing pre-meeting rallies — any effort to arm teachers or use armed volunteers in our schools. It won’t be surprising to hear more about slogans than safety from either side.

“Our major obligation,” journalist Edward R. Murrow once said, “is not to mistake slogans for solutions.”

The Mesa County Patriots know what they want.

“If we wish to maintain the same peaceful atmosphere we currently enjoy in our schools,” they say on their Facebook page, “we must arm properly screened volunteers, teachers, or administration with discrete, difficult to access, concealed handguns to stop a murderous rampage.”

The other side wants exactly the opposite.

“Grand Valley Peace and Justice is adamantly against arming civilians in our local schools,” said the group’s notice for its rally.

As people read on the front page of Sunday’s Daily Sentinel, the safety committee has examined proposals ranging from panic buttons, special locks and more surveillance cameras, to strengthening student contacts and expanding anti-bullying and suicide prevention efforts, as well as adding more school resource officers. 

Flash points, it seems, are proposals to arm teachers and allow armed volunteers to patrol the hallways and grounds.  Emily Shockley reported Sunday the district had received 90 email comments on school safety, 80 of them from folks opposed to allowing volunteers, teachers or administrators to carry weapons. Gun-rights activist David Cox, a safety committee member, offered a very different perspective, suggesting teachers carry a gun in their crotch, upper calf,  bra or on their hip.

Not much common ground there, it appears.

Another committee member, former police officer Rich Bacher, is among those promoting armed teachers and the use of gun-carrying trained volunteers. His stance is not without some noteworthy irony.

We all recognize that accidents are just that, unexpected and uncommon. But having as a principal proponent of gun-toting teachers and volunteers someone who, despite more firearms training than most volunteers might ever hope to get, was involved in the accidental shooting of a fellow employee at one of the community’s most respected firearms outlets doesn’t offer much reassurance to parents and students that turning schools into armed camps won’t bring its own perils.

Clearly, the District 51 safety discussion is one element of the bigger picture, part of the overall effort to get our heads around appropriate reactions to far too many national tragedies involving gun violence. Battle lines extend well beyond the parking lots at the Basil T. Knight Center or the room inside where the school board will meet tonight to hear committee recommendations.

Whatever perspectives we bring to this issue, we all want our kids to be safe and our schools to be secure.  Decisions would be easier if outcomes were as assured as some would have us believe.

But do we really want to add firearms training to the continuing education requirements for our teachers and concealed carry gear to their equipment lists? Is it truly smart to put the security of more than 20,000 students in the hands of folks who, like me, may have drawn down on Bambi in the peaceful solitude of the great outdoors but have no clue what it’d be like to look down their sights in a chaotic situation and see a weapon pointing back.

I don’t think so.


Jim Spehar writes as a gun owner married to an educator and a parent whose kids attended Wingate and Pomona, West Middle School and Grand Junction High School. Your comments are welcome at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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