The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 23, 2014

Guns in schools

— The House Committee on Education last week approved a bill that would allow security personnel hired by county sheriffs’ offices to carry weapons in public schools.

The bill was introduced by Delegate Linda Sumner, R-Raleigh. It was co-sponsored by Delegate Lynne Arvon, R-Raleigh, and it was greeted with strong bipartisan support within the committee.

“All sides believe (this) is a safe and practical way to protect our children,” Sumner said.

We couldn’t have said it better.

The bill and its supporters are to be commended for common-sense lawmaking that this measure, when passed, will provide.

It is undeniable that gun-free zones have been, disproportionately, the scenes of horrific mass shootings, including the school massacres in Columbine, Colo., and Newtown, Conn.

In Aurora, Colo., a gunman with psychiatric problems was still lucid enough to bypass several closer theaters showing the film “The Dark Knight Rises” to kill movie-goers at a theater that was gun-free. The other movie venues showing that film were closer to where the murderer lived, but had no such rules against concealed weapons carried by valid permit-holders.

And let’s not forget that two mass killings occurred on U.S. military bases at Fort Hood in Texas and at the Washington Navy Yard.

It may surprise those who haven’t served in the military, but bases are gun-free zones, too. Weapons are locked in the base armory, and only on-duty military police are authorized to be armed while on base.

The thing all these mass killers had in common was that they were mentally deranged. Yet it is important to note that each one was aware enough, sane enough, to select a killing field where he knew his victims would be defenseless.

Raleigh County Sheriff Steve Tanner testified before the committee in favor of the bill. He said that in every instance of school shootings from Columbine High in 1999 to Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, no innocent person’s life was lost after an armed law officer arrived on the scene.

He suggested these security guards could be selected from the ranks of retired law enforcement officers.

Tanner says it makes sense to have trained, armed guards on duty at our schools to prevent a terrifying 911 call from ever being made.

Even the teachers union representative, as far as we can tell from his statement, is on board with the idea.

“Most would agree that only trained people should carry guns in the classroom,” said Dale Lee, West Virginia Education Association president.

Sen. Mike Greene, D-Raleigh, has introduced similar legislation in the state Senate, where it is going through the committee process.

We think this measure is a considered, rational response to the unthinkable. We urge that the bill becomes law, and that these security measures be quickly put in place at schools across the state.

We fully anticipate that the notion of schools deploying responsible, trained men and women with pistols on their hips will bring out the usual anti-gun hysteria.

So we’ll make it easy for these critics right up front, and say this measure to protect our kids in schools isn’t about guns at all.

It’s about living in the real world, a world where human beings are not just imperfect, but sometimes evil.