Thursday, May 16, 2019 1:00 am
Effort to end school shootings falls sadly short
Anita Rogers wrote this on behalf of 22 members of Noblesville Standing Together.
The 2019 session of the Indiana legislature is over, and anyone looking for meaningful action to address the rising tide of school violence is disappointed.
Hoosiers are painfully aware of two Indiana school shootings last year, in Noblesville and Richmond. What people may not know is that since the Noblesville shooting, there have been at least 20 instances where a juvenile in Indiana has either brought a gun to school or unintentionally shot someone.
Noblesville Stands Together was formed by parents frustrated that society struggles to find answers for these events. We quickly learned there are no easy answers, but three things are implicated: building security, mental health and guns. Guns are a divisive, polarizing topic, and we have no interest in furthering the culture wars. We only care about protecting our kids. But the inescapable truth is that all school shootings, by definition, involve guns. We must protect the Second Amendment and keep guns away from dangerous people. So how did Hoosier policymakers respond?
Following the Noblesville shooting, after the customary dispensing of thoughts and prayers from many leaders, Gov. Eric Holcomb issued a report containing a host of recommendations. Our group immediately pointed out this report failed to provide any suggestions on guns. There were, however, numerous recommendations to improve access to mental health treatment and better security in school buildings.
Legislators rushed to deliver on hardening schools – better doors, windows and technology. Even medical kits to stop wounded children from bleeding out. This is low-hanging fruit, relatively free of political risk. They checked the box. But what about the hard stuff?
Even though the governor's report contained the words “mental health” more than 100 times, the legislature largely rejected these proposals. Reps. Wendy McNamara, R-Evansville, and Anthony Cook, R-Cicero, as well as Sen. Mike Crider, R-Greenfield, who are also educators and law enforcement officials, understand the challenges our youth face today. They worked hard to get more resources focused on mental health.
But in the end, extreme ideological interests smothered efforts to identify troubled children and intervene before violence occurs. They did what extremists always do – spread fear. Fear that surveys would promote promiscuity and homosexuality, or that educators would exclude parents from efforts to support students. All of this was, of course, false. But there weren't enough legislators with the courage to tell the extremists they wouldn't be allowed to block action needed to protect our kids.
The story on guns is even sadder. Extremists shut down virtually all conversation about how we might preserve gun rights while keeping guns away from dangerous people. However, the legislature did have extensive debates about pretend solutions, such as spending scarce funds on firearms training for teachers and whether we should shoot teachers with projectiles so when they're confronted by the next active shooter they will know precisely what it will feel like.
Legislators did pass a law allowing more guns closer to schools. Bewilderingly, the governor signed this law in a celebration at the National Rifle Association convention. Yes, Indiana's governor walked onto a stage at the NRA Convention and laid a trophy at the feet of Wayne LaPierre – an act so startling in its lack of sensitivity, it is hard to fathom.
These officials are the same people, though, who thought it was a good idea to bring the head of the NRA to Noblesville for an election rally months after a school shooting. It is as if they are unaware their constituents include parents whose children hid under desks and ran to avoid being shot in a place where they should be safe.
So, contrary to the wishes of most Hoosiers, Indiana's current plan is to live within constraints set by extremists. It is to consider only what we could do if a dangerous person shows up at a school with a gun. That strategy is dangerously short-sighted.
When will there be a plan to actually prevent dangerous people from showing up at a school with a gun in the first place?
There is only one way to change this. Leaders must lead. Large majorities of Hoosiers favor more access to mental health resources for schoolchildren and keeping guns away from dangerous individuals. Hoosier leaders can't continue to let the most extreme elements make the policy on school safety.
We've created a new generation of children who go to school on any given day thinking they may have to find a place to hide if someone comes into their classroom to murder them. That is a failure of our society that should shock all of us. Each day our leaders fail to address school violence is another day that children live in fear. Our kids deserve better.