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School resource officers not the answer


Date published: 2/25/2013

Del. Beverly Sherwood (R-Winchester), in an announcement to appropriate more funds to pay for school resource officers, used as justification the recent shooting at Price Middle School in Atlanta, which was, according to Sherwood, "stopped by an off-duty school resource officer" ["More dollars to go to security? Feb. 2].

Before Sherwood uses this incident as rationale for allocating taxpayer dollars for new resource officers, she should get her facts right. The resource officer did not stop the shooting. Shooting stopped when either the assailant's single handgun ran out of bullets, or he stopped shooting of his own volition minutes before the resource officer arrived.

If the assailant had been armed with an arsenal of weapons like that used at Columbine, Sandy Hook, or Virginia Tech, the minutes it took the resource officer to respond would have been too late to prevent loss of life. This is the problem with relying on a resource officer to prevent these incidents: assuring that the officer will be at the right place at the right time to intervene effectively. The money used to hire resource officers would be better used to build physical security into schools themselves, analogous to efforts over the years to make schools more fire-resistant.

According to FEMA, each year an average of 5,500 structure fires occur in schools, but cause fewer than five fatalities thanks to efforts over the past 40 years to make schools more resistant to fires. There is no reason this same strategy cannot be used successfully as it relates to gun violence in our schools. Build security into the schools themselves. This will be much cheaper and our schools will be much safer. To remind Del. Sherwood of a favorite gun-advocate mantra, "When seconds count, the police may be minutes away."

It appears this was the case at Price Middle School. The only sure way to stop this shooting would be to deny the assailant entry to the school while armed with a gun in the first place.

L.A. Bibbs

Spotsylvania