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Jan. 29, 2023

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In Our View: Without change, school shootings will continue

The Columbian
Published:

On Nov. 8, a gunman killed a student at Ingraham High School in Seattle. A 14-year-old has been charged with first-degree murder, and a 15-year-old is facing related charges.

On Monday, three people were arrested after allegedly illegally entering Moses Lake High School and drawing a gun.

In recent weeks, several false reports of active shooters at Washington schools have drawn a response from police, including in Clark County.

Until this nation gets serious about gun control and recognizing the dangers of a culture that fetishizes firearms, the threat will remain constant. According to Education Week, there have been 35 shootings resulting in death or injuries at U.S. schools in 2022.

That represents the big picture, the concerns that extend beyond schools to the culture at large. But the first line of defense is the schools themselves, with debate continuing about how best to protect students.

In Vancouver Public Schools, according to the district website, all elementary and middle schools have a secure entry that requires visitors to buzz in, and exterior doors are to remain locked. Exterior doors at high schools, however, can remain unlocked. Security officers also are employed at schools.

The Evergreen school district uses similar measures and notes, “Each school in the district conducts numerous drills to practice evacuation, lockdown procedures, and shelter in place.”

When shelter-in-place drills become a part of the school routine, we surely have reached a sad place. This is not a criticism of local districts, but rather a commentary on how gun violence has become pervasive in our society, with schools too often serving as targets for deranged individuals.

And yet the preemptive measures developed by schools here and throughout the country are preferable to many supposed solutions to school shootings.

The Seattle Times recently noted in an editorial that some parents and community leaders are calling for metal detectors to be used at schools. But the Times quotes a study from the WestEd Justice & Prevention Research Center: “While metal detectors may provide a visible response to concerns about school safety, there is little evidence to support their effectiveness at preventing school shootings or successfully detecting weapons at schools.”

Meanwhile, others have promoted specious methods for preventing school shootings. The notion of allowing teachers to carry firearms has some supporters — particularly gun manufacturers — but is an absurd idea. It would take only one teacher to lose control — or one student to seize a gun from a teacher — to confirm the ridiculousness of the plan.

The same can be said about the idea of having only one unlocked door in a school — a proposal floated by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, following the murder of 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in his state. Once an active shooter gets into a building, the sole exit would become a shooting gallery.

Following that carnage in Texas, Congress passed the first meaningful federal gun legislation in 30 years. The Safer Communities Act provides money for school security and community safety while making it more difficult for dangerous individuals to secure weapons. But Congress remains gridlocked on prohibiting the manufacture and sale of assault-style weapons.

In the meantime, schools are left to their own devices in preventing shootings in their halls and cafeterias. And the rest of us wait for news of the inevitable next school shooting somewhere in the United States.

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