For those at San Bernardino Elementary School in California this morning, tragedy has struck as an unidentified person entered a classroom and opened fire. While few details have been released at this point, news media is reporting that two people are dead (including the shooter) and two others are in critical condition in what appears to be a murder-suicide.
Though occurring in California, this shooting is a grim reminder of the vulnerability of our schools in North Dakota as "Gun-Free Zones". Earlier this legislative session, Rep. Dwight Kiefert (R – District 24) sponsored House Bill 1390 which would have allowed a highly regulated option for local school districts to choose individuals to conceal carry in their schools.
Unfortunately, Rep. Kiefert’s bill was doomed to failure before it ever even left the committee room, as they amended the bill into a pilot program that capped participating schools at ten and made the qualifications to carry even more stringent. The bill eventually ended up in the Senate where it was defeated.
The debate that took place in opposition to HB 1390 was indeed troubling. The arguments made by some Republicans sounded more like something that would come from Charles Schumer or Hillary Clinton than people who are supposed to be members of the Grand Old Party (GOP). At times, the issue was portrayed as more of a Barney Fife meets the Wild West scenario than anything else. Not only was it ridiculous, but it was irrational.
While upgrades to school security systems, counseling for mental illness, and training of staff and administration in recognizing warning signs in potentially high risk individuals is valuable; it all misses the point. What is the point? Once a shooter gains access to a school, NONE of those things matter. At that moment, everyone – especially students – are little more than sitting ducks.
In a situation where teachers and students are locked in their rooms, under current North Dakota law they are to sit and await their doom– should the shooter get through the door. Compare this to a classroom where a teacher could have access to a gun and at least stands a fighting chance in defending their students as the perpetrator comes through the door. Seems like common sense to me. I know which situation I would prefer.
How many San Bernardino’s do we need to wake people up to the fact that current policies are not enough and that the last line of defense in our schools really isn’t any defense at all. A call to 911 typically results in responders cleaning up after a tragedy, not preventing it.
Unfortunately, the public is too timid and the legislature is too gutless to develop and embrace legislation that would truly make our children safer and give them a fighting chance in situations like these. So, should be it be any surprise if a horrific situation – like the one that occurred this morning in San Bernardino – come to a school in North Dakota? Answer for yourself, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all.