Martin: Guns in Schools

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(Host)  And now we turn to our Sunday
Essay.  Commentator Mike Martin is a writer and teacher who was shocked
to learn that some staff members in the Montpelier School District will
be carrying guns to school. But this turns out to be Montpelier, Ohio.
The principal of Vermont’s Montpelier High School told him they’ll be
taking a different approach here, one that focuses on community and
common sense.

(Martin) A few weeks ago, I noticed this
unbelievable headline in my Google news feed: "Montpelier School Board
decides to arm some individuals in schools". No way! I thought to
myself, no way can this be true… After all, I know the new Montpelier
High School Principal, Adam Bunting, and he’s a warm, thoughtful,
dedicated educator. I just can’t imagine him working with a
pistol-packing staff. I mean, I picture Adam working in a free-hugs
zone, not a free-fire zone.

Well, it turns out the school
district in question is Montpelier, Ohio, Home of the Locomotives.
Interestingly enough, the school district was working on the policy even
before the Sandy Hook shooting. The superintendent explained it this
way, "Although we felt we were doing a good job with keeping the doors
locked and making the visitors sign in and all that, we just felt as
though it was time to take another step."

Personally, it’s hard
for me to imagine a Vermont school taking that step. The Vermonters I
know think that best place for guns is on the deer stand, in the duck
blind, or at the shooting range, but not in schools.

It’s true
that many Vermont schools have resource officers, but their role isn’t
just about firepower. For example, our Montpelier High School, Home of
the Solons, has a school resource officer who helps with security, but
also with relationships in order to prevent problems before they start.
Principal Bunting put it to me this way, "When I think about armed
teachers, I cannot help but think that we have fundamentally altered our
vision for our schools and children… Giving teachers weapons feels
more like a barrier than an open invitation for a relationship."

putting up more barriers and locked doors may not be the answer for our
schools. For example, in Atlanta’s recent school shooting, metal
detectors didn’t prevent the suspect from sneaking his gun inside.
Principal Bunting doesn’t seem to think the answer is to just get more
hardware either. He recently told me, "As school communities, we need to
focus on developing relationships with our students and their parents.
Knowing one another well, and taking responsibility for one another,
moves us closer to preventing gun violence."

This week Patrick
Leahy, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, co-sponsored a
bipartisan anti-gun trafficking bill, which the Senator said is a
"common sense" approach. If it becomes law, the bill will punish people
who buy guns for other people and make gun trafficking a federal crime. I
guess that’s a start, but we’ll have to wait and see if our elected
representatives – and their constituents – still remember Sandy Hook
Elementary now that four months have passed…

In the meanwhile, I
think Vermonters will stick to their own common sense and community
values. After all, in the current climate of budget cuts and
belt-tightening, there are many things our schools could use – but they
can probably do without more guns.

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