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FIREARMS Solution not simple for schools

The OBSERVER's view

A significant number of schools throughout the United States have authorized staff members to carry firearms while at work. The idea is that armed educators and school service personnel can protect students in the event of an incursion by someone bent on violence.

But an Associated Press review of accidental shootings by law enforcement personnel raises red flags about that strategy. At the very least, the AP investigation should prompt a re-examination of practices involving armed school staffers.

Since 2012, 1,422 unintentional shootings have occurred at 258 law enforcement agencies in the United States, the AP found. Of that number, 22 accidental shootings occurred at schools or on college campuses.

One of those accidents occurred the day after the mass shooting in 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The day after the massacre, a sheriff’s deputy responded to a report of an armed intruder at a nearby school, and accidentally shot himself in the leg.

In 2016, law enforcement personnel responded to an emergency call at a school in Alpine, Texas. One of them was shot and wounded seriously when another’s gun discharged accidentally.

Law enforcement officers, agents, troopers and deputies are well aware of the need for intensive initial training on how to handle firearms, followed up by frequent practice and refresher sessions.

School staff members are not full-time, professional law enforcement employees. Does that make them more susceptible to accidents involving firearms? Perhaps not, in many cases.

But even one tragic accident involving a teacher or school custodian with a gun is too many.

School officials face difficult decisions all the time. Whether to arm educators and service workers — and how to manage them going forward — is among the toughest.

We do not envy those who have to make such decisions. We do urge them to think carefully and, when the choice is made to arm personnel, constantly, about the potential hazards, however. Minimizing one risk at the cost of creating another one simply does not make sense.

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