Claremore Daily Progress

June 29, 2013

Guns in Schools: Oversimplification of a complex issue

Ben Sherrer
Special to the Progress


During the last session I personally expended a lot of energy and emotion over the issue of “guns in schools”, as defined in its most general terms.
In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings even someone like me, fairly uninformed and generally not passionate about any gun-related issues, could see that there would be a political push to “do something.”  As a side note, it’s been my experience that when legislators feel the need to “do something” in response to any event it often leads to unbalanced public policy.
That’s why I opposed and fought to reject the State House of Representatives approach which seemed to conclude that arming more teachers would make the school safer because more guns means more deterrence.
In a vacuum with limited-fact scenarios the conclusion might be true.  But on the whole it is an oversimplification of a complex issue.
Here are a just a few of the unanswered issues:
—What policies and procedures would each school district be required to adopt to govern carrying and use of firearms by teachers and schools staff.  Consider the additional training that would/should appropriately be required.  
—What types of firearms (type/caliber) would staff be allowed to carry?  
— Would staff carry personal firearms or school-owned firearms?  
— If personal firearms were allowed, what responsibility would school boards and administrators have for ensuring those weapons were safe?  
— Would annual recertification and training be required?  
— Would each district be required to adopt a use of force continuum and train staff on its application?  -Would staff members carrying weapons be held to the same standards of care as police officers?
These are just a few examples of the issues that policymakers failed to address in the “guns in schools” debate - and I still haven’t mentioned issues regarding weapon storage, retention and carrying; or insurance and liability concerns.
In the end, the State Senate refused to hear the politically expedient bill passed by the House.  Kudos to the Senate for not being myopic.  Instead, both chambers passed legislation that was recommended by Lt. Governor Todd Lamb’s Blue Ribbon Panel on School Safety.
The legislation passed includes formation of the Oklahoma School Security Institute within the Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security for training resources; implementing a Mental Health First Aid Training Pilot Program to develop a program for identifying potential in-school perpetrators;  amending state law to require school intruder drills; reporting of all firearms incidents to local law enforcement for investigation; and establishing a school security tip line in conjunction with the School Security Institute.
This is a tough issue.  But not because of a political debate of guns vs. gun control.  It’s a tough issue because the ramifications are real and the true test of any so-called solution can only occur with the most tragic and horrific incident imaginable.
During the interim I can be reached at my Pryor office: or 918-825-8989; or at my capitol office: or 800-522-8502.  Until next time, God bless you.
Ben Sherrer is state representative for District 8.