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From the Daily: Legislative misfire

BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Published February 14, 2013

Gun control has become a legislative focus in past months since the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. President Barack Obama has started pushing through the most extensive changes in gun control in recent decades. He has asked Congress to approve an assault rifle ban as well as background checks on all gun buyers. However, it seems that Michigan’s Republicans have decided to move in a different direction to stop mass shootings and increase school safety. Legislators are proposing a bill that would allow teachers, administrators and other school employees to carry concealed hand guns on school property. Michigan’s schools and legislature should focus on other measures of increasing school safety instead of simply handing minimally trained school officials weapons.

This bill aims to prevent school shootings, which have become a tragic fixture of our nation. Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger, a supporter of this bill, said “I don't think it's a coincidence that such monsters that are carrying these out are going to gun-free zones to do their massacre,” according to an article in the Petoskey News. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed a similar bill at the end of the 2012 legislature, directly after Sandy Hook, citing the fact that schools, day cares and churches have a legal right to ban firearms if they see fit. The new bill would allow teachers and other school officials to carry concealed handguns, but legislators have added a clause that would let schools maintain a firearms ban if they wish.

School safety expands beyond the tragedies such as Sandy Hook, Columbine High School and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. While these are the stories that make the news, they’re extremely hard to prevent with any type of legislation. Mass shootings are the exception, but student-on-student or student-on-teacher violence is the bigger problem in many schools. There are many other measures that could be enacted to increase safety in schools, none of which involve supplying teachers with firearms. Securing exits by requiring visitors to sign in and submit to a pat down is one way of preventing unwanted people or weapons on campus. But, we must remember that no policy, however strict, can prevent every act of evil.

Schools are supposed to encourage learning and the betterment of one’s self. Students are unable to learn in a stressful or unsafe environment. The idea that any teacher could be concealing a gun doesn’t make for an comfortable place to learn. It’s not the job of administrator or teacher to protect students from an unlikely violent attack using a firearm. Their focus should be on education in the classroom, not all the possible threats outside of it. The best way to decrease violence in schools is to increase the student body’s investment. After-school programs, sports and school spirit have all been shown to decrease violence. Investing in counselors and spurring teacher engagement can prevent violence, but is more closely tied to the main goal of any educational institution.

Gun control needs to be addressed, and legislation to reduce mass shootings should be on the floors of Congress. However, there are other and more effective measures than what this particular bill proposes. Snyder’s veto of a similar bill last year shows that he, too, thinks there needs to be a change in how we prevent violence. We shouldn’t be teaching students to fight violence with violence, especially in schools.


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