Colorado Editorials

The Colorado Springs Gazette: Political class advances more safety for kids

Author: The Colorado Springs Gazette Editorial Board - February 27, 2018 - Updated: February 27, 2018

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In this Feb. 22, 2018, photo, President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with state and local officials to discuss school safety in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. Trump could face a backlash from gun rights advocates who fear he’s strayed from his pledge to be a champion for the Second Amendment by voicing support for gun control measures in the wake of the deadly school shooting in Florida. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump spent more than 10 minutes on school security while addressing thousands of young people Friday at the 2018 CPAC just outside Washington, D.C.

At a convention typically fixated on limiting the role of government, speakers consistently advocated federal solutions to the horror of school massacres.

The National Rifle Association, and an assortment of other voices concerned with school violence, advocate entrance security that would resemble screening points at courthouses, municipal buildings, entertainment venues and airports.

Had Trump taken such advice, he might have announced plans for a new School Security Administration to parallel the Transportation Security Administration created by President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Instead, Trump took a more controversial approach. He made a no-holds-barred pitch for training and licensing 10 or 20 percent of school faculty to carry concealed handguns — a position opposed by the teachers union and much of the rest of the educational establishment. Trump said a security guard who failed to protect students during the Valentine’s Day shooting rampage in Florida only bolsters his position.

“These teachers, and I’ve seen them at a lot of school… these teachers love their students and the students love their teachers in many cases,” Trump said. “These teachers love their students, and these teachers are talented with weaponry and guns . I’d rather have somebody that loves their students and wants to protect their students than somebody standing outside that doesn’t know anybody and doesn’t know the students and, frankly, for whatever reason decided not to go in even though he heard lots of shots being fired inside. The teachers and the coaches inside the building – the dean, the assistant dean, the principal – they want to protect these kids. And I think we’re better with that – and this may be 10 percent or 20 percent of the population of teachers, etc., it’s not all of them but you would have a lot. And you would tell people that they’re inside. And the beauty is, it’s concealed. Nobody would ever see it, unless they needed it. It’s concealed. So this crazy man who walked in wouldn’t even know who it is who has it. That’s not bad, that’s good. And the teacher would have shot the hell out of him before he knew it.”

Trump received a standing ovation.

The president said he will consider eliminating “gun-free zones” on military bases, claiming they leave law-abiding adults – including “world-class marksmen” – helpless to defend themselves against active shooters. He pledged to strengthen background checks, and initiate other measures to keep guns away from individuals suffering mental illnesses.

Nearly every speaker during the four-day event had something to say about the need for better school safety, a few asking the crowd for moments of silence to respect 17 killed by the shooter in Parkland, Fla.

NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre spoke Thursday of the tight security screening and surveillance measures used to protect banks, jewelry stores, sporting events, celebrities and adults from all walks of life as they go through their daily routines. Meanwhile, he said with dismay, society treats children as if they warrant no security. Vice President Mike Pence expressed similar sentiments in a Thursday speech.

Never have we seen more talk among the political class of security for kids.

“In addition to securing our schools, we’re also implementing a strategy for securing our streets,” Trump said. “We want our kids to be safe everywhere they go, whether they’re in a classroom, walking home from school or just outside playing with their friends. Every child deserves to grow up in a safe community, surrounded by a loving family, and to have a future filled with opportunity and with hope.”

Federal efforts to improve childhood safety are overdue and welcome, but state and local officials should take no less responsibility for carrying out the shared vision of love, safety, opportunity, hope, and sanctity of human life.

A Gazette news story Friday explained how Colorado took a big step forward with a state law that began July 1. The Claire Davis School Safety Act eliminates governmental immunity for school districts that neglect reasonable safety measures to protect students from violence. The law empowers victims, or their survivors, to sue for substantial financial reparations.

We are not security experts and will not attempt to advocate precise details of better security measures. We only know children should not be left so vulnerable as those who died nearly 20 years ago at nearby Columbine High School, this month at Florida Stoneman Douglas High School, or in the near dozen mass murders at schools in the past two decades.

Without regard for the tactics he promotes, Trump is right in his vision: Every child deserves to grow up safe, and governments should strive to make it so.

The Colorado Springs Gazette Editorial Board