Let the committee work

Eagle Point School Board President Scott Grissom started it with his motion to arm teachers. Now he should back off and let the committee his proposal prompted do the job it ought to do.

We have little confidence that Grissom will take our advice, based on the first meeting of the Weapons Safety Committee on Wednesday.

In a School Board meeting June 12, Grissom proposed allowing trained teachers and other staff members to carry guns at school so they could fight back if an intruder began shooting. When other board members were reluctant to adopt such a policy on the spot, the board tabled Grissom's motion and directed Superintendent Cynda Rickert to appoint a committee to research the issue.

In the committee's first meeting Wednesday, Grissom made it clear he considers the decision to arm teachers already made. He told the committee — he is not a member — that their only job was to develop a policy that would allow school staff to carry guns at school.

Anyone unwilling to implement the weapons plan is "on the wrong committee," Grissom said. He declared that the number of school shootings is "trending upwards" and nearing "pandemic" levels.

For what it's worth, Grissom is flat wrong about that.

Mass shootings, including school shootings, actually have declined dramatically in the past few decades, despite a few high-profile and heavily publicized incidents.

James Alan Fox, professor of criminology, law and public policy at Northeastern University and a recognized expert on school and other mass shootings, notes there are more than 50 million children in U.S. schools, making the odds of a child dying in a school shooting about 1 in 2 million.

Grissom also is wrong to insist that the committee's only purpose should be to implement his proposal. The committee includes law enforcement professionals as well as educators, and one retired police sergeant, a former school liaison officer and a use-of-force specialist, said he adamantly opposes guns on campuses.

Other law enforcement representatives also expressed reservations about how effective armed teachers would be in a situation involving an active shooter and wondered how responding police would be able to tell an armed intruder from an armed teacher. Educators worried about students gaining access to firearms, and the traumatic effect of safety drills on students.

These are all valid concerns, and to demand that the committee ignore them is to ask it to do less than a complete job.

The committee should thoroughly explore all the ramifications — pro and con — of encouraging loaded guns in Eagle Point Schools, without letting irrational fear drive its decision-making. Until it has done that, Grissom should keep his thoughts to himself.

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