When the Mississippi State Board of Education voted in September to allow school districts to make their own gun policies, we were anxious to learn how our districts would respond.
We live in a time and place where Second Amendment rights are viewed by many as sacred, even to the point of absurdity, so there was no guarantee our school districts might be persuaded to alter their existing policies, which allow only law enforcement to carry guns on school campuses and events.
The uncertainty over who could legally be allowed to carry guns on school campuses emerged in 2011, when the state legislature passed a law allowing those with enhanced carry permits to carry guns virtually everywhere, including school campuses, a law that defies federal gun-free zones.
So it comes as a relief to learn that Columbus Municipal School District, Lowndes County Municipal School District and Starkville Oktibbeha Consolidated School District will stay the course on this matter and allow only law enforcement to carry guns at schools and school events.
LCSD superintendent Sam Allison and SOCSD superintendent Tony McGee said they have no intention of altering the existing policy. CMSD interim superintendent Dennis Dupree said the CMSD board does not intend to take any action on changing the policy, either, but he and the board members are researching the MDE’s policies to determine the best course of action.
We believe our school districts have made wise decisions on this subject, decisions that keep children safe.
In much the same way that you don’t combat drowning by calling for more water, our schools should not seek to mitigate the danger of school shootings by allowing people with limited training to carry guns. Granted, there have been instances where a private citizen with a gun has intervened to stop a shooter. But there are also instances where a well-intentioned private citizen with a gun has made a tragic situation even worse.
All that is required to qualify for an enhanced carry permit in Mississippi is eight hours of training, far, far short of what is needed to effectively intervene in a school shooting.
Sadly, we have hundreds of school shootings to learn from. In each case, survivors speak of the terror and chaos these events produce. It takes a highly-training professional to respond effectively to these events.
Most police departments have SWAT teams to respond to these incidents because of the advanced tactical response needed. If a patrol officer isn’t fully prepared for these incidents, it strains credulity to suggest that a math teacher with only eight hours of training would be.
We support efforts to make our schools as safe as possible.
Keeping guns in the hands of only well-trained professionals is good common sense and is consistent with that goal. We are pleased to know our school districts agree.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.
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