It’s a pain Colorado knows too well; families in Santa Fe, N.M. are feeling the same heartache felt 18 years ago in Columbine, 12 years ago in Bailey, eight years ago in Littleton, and six years ago in Centennial.
It’s a pain felt by too many families around the country. It’s time for our elected officials to act — truly act — to make our schools safer.
As Republicans, we have the opportunity and the obligation to lead on this issue. We’ve correctly identified this epidemic as a mental health issue, yet we continually shut down all opportunities to make real change. Killing the red flag legislation this session — without any attempt to improve the bill — cost us much of our credibility in this debate.
If we don’t take the lead, Democrats will; and we know their solution, just look at Boulder. But these sorts of blanket regulations won’t work. Since the Colorado gun laws were introduced in 2013, violent crimes and crimes committed with a gun have only increased.
If we’re serious about protecting our kids, we should do three things:
First, implement a comprehensive school safety checklist. We can ensure that all the base level protections are in place at our schools, from simple things like locking doors, to anti-bullying education, to having school counselors in place. Preventive measures will always be the first step in stopping tragedies, and by having a framework in place, we can help our schools understand where the gaps in their security are.
Second, pass a red flag law that makes sense. The bill introduced in the legislature had a lot of promise. It warranted a couple changes and it seemed there was a consensus on what those should be; narrowing the group that could report someone and ensuring any weapons legally owned at the time of seizure were ultimately returned. It’s absurd that we couldn’t get those changes made and get this law passed. We absolutely should not be passing sloppy, last minute legislation, but as Republicans, we should be leading these discussions, not stifling them.
Finally, we need to ensure that schools have a last line of defense, whether that’s a police officer, a guard, or a trained armed administrator or teacher. When something goes wrong, we have only minutes to respond; especially in rural areas, help is often too far away to be effective. Schools need the ability and flexibility to have someone on location trained to take immediate action.
Instead of reactionary, feel good measures that deprive law-abiding citizens of their rights, we have to be pragmatic and address this issue where it lives: in mental health. For all the talk, we’ve never truly taken action to deal with our nation’s mental health problems; we’ve had guns for as long as we’ve been a country, yet these school shootings represent a new phenomenon. We have to make a fundamental change to the way we deal with safety in our schools. It’s only through thoughtful, pragmatic policies that we’ll end this cycle.
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