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Posted 2/28/18 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

Once again Americans have been stunned to learn of another shooting in a U.S. school. Last week, we saw another tragedy in which a former student at a Parkland, Fla., high school killed 14 students, three teachers, and left more than a dozen injured.
Obviously, and correctly, there was a huge outpouring that once again guns were to blame. There is no doubt that a gun was used in the Parkland school shooting. And yes, it was an AR-15.
So no one is going to argue that there needs to be a national dialogue on guns. And that dialogue needs to cover everything that goes with guns from who should be legally able to buy or possess guns, to what kind of firearm training should a person have to complete before they can purchase a gun.
But simply to say that guns are to blame for these school shootings is as wrong as saying that vehicles are to blame for motor vehicle fatalities. Yes a gun was used to slaughter innocent lives. But there was definitely someone who was pulling the trigger of that gun.
As much as we want to talk about controlling guns, as a society, we haven’t been able to figure how to adequately address the people with mental health problems who are the ones who are committing these horrific attacks. In almost every case where there has been a school shooting, there were plenty of warning signs that, if heeded, could possibly have prevented the deaths of innocent students.
In the case of last week’s Parkland school shooting, law enforcement, the school system itself, fellow students as well as many others knew of the issues affecting the shooter. There were plenty of warning signs that the shooter was not only a troubled individual, but what he was planning to do. Tragically, all of these warnings went unheeded.
In addition to a discussion on gun control and banning certain guns, such as AR-15s, there also needs to be a national discussion on mental health problems and how these can lead to school shootings, as well as other violent behavior.
Finally, in order to prevent future school shootings, security must be improved in all of our nation’s schools. To accomplish that, we need to make sure that the entrances and exits of our schools are secured and that access to the hallways and classrooms to people other than students, teachers and school administrators, is severely restricted. We need to ensure that if armed law enforcement is present in the schools that they are trained to properly respond to crisis situations.
Should schools consider arming teachers and administrators to be able to respond to shooting situations like we have seen? That’s a tough question to answer. Most teachers and school administrators don’t go into their professions ever thinking that they may need to carry a weapon to protect their students. But again, this subject cannot be off the discussion table.
The Parkland school shooting has once again thrust the question as to how to protect our students while they are in class to the forefront of public discussion. Now is the time for people to deal with the subject honestly and with an open mind on what is the best way to keep our children safe in school.