Meadville Tribune

Local News

January 16, 2013

GUNS IN SCHOOLS: Local officials, educators chime in on divisive issue

MEADVILLE — A 16-year-old student armed with a shotgun and carrying approximately 20 shotgun rounds in his pocket shot and wounded two students in central California’s Taft Union High School in  on a recent morning. School officials told The Associated Press that although there’s usually an armed guard on campus, the guard wasn’t on duty that day because he was snowed in.

A 15-year veteran of the Jefferson County, Colorado, Sheriff’s Office nearing the end of his second year as the school’s uniformed community resource officer was on duty that April day in 1999 when shots rang out in Columbine High School. At the time, the deputy was in a school parking lot, monitoring a popular spot just off campus where students gathered to smoke cigarettes.

However, “historically, if someone confronts a gunman, many times that situation comes to a halt or it gives the first responders time to reach the scene,” says Crawford County Sheriff Nick Hoke, who served as Crawford Central’s official school safety officer during his days as a member of Meadville Police Department.

There is support among both educators and law enforcement professionals, including Meadville Police Chief Dave Stefanucci, for having full-time law enforcement officers formally trained as School Resource Officers on duty in the schools. However, because they also serve as active duty police officers when school is not in session, the cost to a community of placing an SRO in every school could be substantial.

“If you’re going to put guns in schools, I think it has to be with trained guards,” said Conneaut School District Superintendent Jarrin Sperry. “If you arm teachers and administrators, there’s always a probability that there’s going to be an accident.”

If any school is going to have an armed guard, Sperry added, it should be done right. “They should outfit that guard with the materials and weaponry needed to fully defend that school,” he explained. “That means an assault rifle. What we’ve seen with these school shootings is that the shooter comes in with an assault rifle. A guard with a pistol is at a disadvantage against an assault rifle.”

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