Las Vegas Sun

October 15, 2018

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Sun Editorial:

Any discussion about school safety must include sensible regulations

In the aftermath of yet another tragic school shooting, the rhetoric coming from gun lobby fanatics would suggest that school administrators have dropped the ball in protecting students and continue to be resistant to solutions that don’t involve sensible firearms regulations.

This is not the case, and you don’t need to look beyond Las Vegas to see it.

Take the demand to harden school buildings. School administrators have actually been at this for quite some time.

In the six years since the Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Conn., building designs in the Clark County School District and elsewhere have incorporated far more features aimed at preventing intruders from gaining access and protecting students in the event that a shooter does get in.

Schools built by CCSD in recent years include such design features as a single public entry point, which allows access only to a secure lobby area. Further access to the building is controlled by staff members working in a protected area, preventing anyone from coming in freely.

Other features include extensive video surveillance systems and classroom doors that automatically lock when students, teachers and staff are inside. At those times, the only way to open the door is from the interior of the classroom.

Of course, most of CCSD’s buildings were built before Sandy Hook, but the district has made security improvements at its older facilities, as well.

Are local schools 100 percent secure? No. But with the National Rifle Association crowd and officials in Texas and elsewhere calling for more hardening of schools, it’s important to note that school administrators don’t bear the blame for the epidemic of shootings.

The blame, instead, lies with the shooters and the gun-rights extremists who have been complicit by resisting any and all gun-safety reforms and helping fuel the glut of firearms in the U.S.

The inescapable fact is that any solution to school shootings — as with all mass shootings — must include gun-safety measures. These include expanding background checks and placing bans on the combat-style weapons that have been used in many mass killings. Bans should also extend to high-capacity magazines and specialty ammo designed to kill soldiers, such as armor-piercing bullets and tracer rounds.

Other measures that must be part of the conversation include allowing the government to better track guns and study gun violence. Until Americans start making it more difficult for the wrong people to get access to firearms, especially civilian versions of battlefield weapons, solutions that involve hardening some targets will only offer piecemeal protection.

And that protection will come at a huge cost. Establishing airport-like security at the nation’s 100,000-plus public schools by installing metal detectors, securing points of entry and adding staff will cost billions on top of what school districts have already spent.

Then there’s the horrific idea of arming teachers, which could exact a different kind of cost. It threatens to make schools less safe, creating the possibility of a firearm falling into the hands of children or being used by an undertrained and overaggressive staff member.

That said, it’s certainly not wrong to discuss school security. Reasonable measures can and should be taken to protect students.

But in terms of reducing school shootings and other gun violence, what’s infuriating about the NRA and its disciples is their insistence on looking at virtually any solution except the one staring Americans right in the face — improving gun safety.