Editor’s note: This editorial was originally published in last week’s edition of Feather Publishing’s Lassen County Times.
The idea of putting firearms in the hands of teachers at our local high school here in Susanville should give every resident pause. That public safety option was discussed at a Lassen Union High School District board of trustees meeting held last month — the possibility of allowing teachers who hold concealed weapons permits to carry those weapons on campus so they could be a line of defense should a person bring a weapon on campus with the intent of using it on students, teachers or staff.
As the debate about the wisdom of arming teachers boils all across the county, the public’s reaction has been mixed.
An Idaho school board member who proposed putting weapons on campus faces a recall election simply for bringing the idea forward.
According to the Daily Journal in Sandpoint, Idaho, Steve Youngdahl, chairman of the Lake Pend Oreille School District board, proposed placing guns in secure locations inside schools and training some teachers, administrators and other employees to use them in case of a school shooting. The guns would use a fingerprint locking system that would restrict their use to those authorized to handle them. Youngdahl said he was concerned that five of the district’s 11 schools are in rural areas where the response time by law enforcement can be as long as 20 minutes.
On the other side, the Huffington Post reports that a school in Colorado allows its teachers to be armed.
Law enforcement officials here in Lassen County expressed their concerns during the Dec. 10 school board meeting, and their voices should be heard.
Susanville Police Chief Tom Downing expressed his opposition to a plan to arm teachers and called for an intellectual study of the issue rather than an emotional response.
Downing, like many in law enforcement, argues that law enforcement officers have the necessary training to use a firearm in a tense and deadly situation — training teachers most certainly lack.
Downing said he thought the best option for the school district would be to find a way to fund a peace officer position on campus.
Lassen County Sheriff Dean Growdon, a sheriff who supports issuing concealed weapons permits to qualified residents, said peace officers are always aware of their side arms, and he expressed his concerns regarding removing the restrictions on concealed weapons permits to allow teachers to take their firearms to school with them. Growdon, like Downing, is not yet ready to support arming the teachers.
While gun rights activists argue the best way to prevent gun violence is to arm more citizens, the dangers of turning our high school into an armed camp should be obvious to everyone.
Our local school board members serve their community well by launching this public debate about keeping our children safe from a gunman on campus who may seek to harm them. Our law enforcement officials also serve their community by expressing their reservations about such a plan.
Our community is well-served by such a public debate, and it should continue because we have an important decision to make on this subject.