According to the Gun-Free School Zones Act, possessing a firearm, aside from police and security personnel, on a school campus is unlawful. But El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa wants to include school faculty on campuses as part of that personnel as an opportunity to make schools safer.
This question isn’t just a debate in Colorado – it’s national.
The recent Sandy Hook school shooting served as the primary trigger to a discussion that is now bringing into debate larger discussions over gun control.
According to a message published by Maketa on the county website, those that use Sandy Hook as an example of a faulty gun control system use it “to further their personal agenda and very flawed thought process. Bans such as those that have been discussed and proposed in this state and other states and will not make our schools any safer.”
Maketa is a proponent of arming teachers and administrators. And the community loves it.
“Actually, I would say that there is overwhelming support. Probably to the tune of 350 communications over various forms to 1 opposed,” said Maketa during an interview.
The only thing that would have to be modified in order for teachers to carry on school grounds is the school district’s security program.
Would teachers be qualified to protect your children?
“That would be a discussion between myself and a school district. I would offer suggestions and it would be the same circumstances as if we had hired a law enforcement official… Make sure their motivations are consistent with safe behavior,” said Maketa.
“It takes the schools buying in and becoming a part of the program,” said Maketa.
School districts 11 and 20 already have armed security on campuses.
So does adding more guns to a school environment change the learning experience?
“I’d say there is no tie [between violence] and being raised around guns because I’ve been raised around guns all my life… Most people I know were raised around weapons, and I don’t see any impact,” said Maketa.
On the Colorado College campus, the only personnel that can carry weapons or store them are law enforcement officers, according to Director of Campus Safety Pat Cunningham.
“We’ve got a great relationship with CSPD…as well as Jason, our Campus Resource Officer, to provide the police services on campus. That’s a tremendous relationship and I haven’t seen anything suggesting we would radically change that model,” said Cunningham.
CC English professor Steven Hayward, a father of three children who attend local schools, is not in favor of the movement to arm teachers.
“I don’t think it solves the problem. We need fewer guns in the country, period,” said Hayward.
Hayward feels that the arming of teachers is obscuring the problem. “The availability of so many firearms promotes gun violence,” he said.
“If we were in Toronto right now and you said to me, ‘Let’s go buy a gun,’ I would not even know where to go,” said Hayward, who was raised in Canada.
According to Ezra Klein of the Washington Post, the majority of mass shooting weapons were “obtained legally.”
According to United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute Website, 2.9 percent of citizens have handguns.
“There’s like less than 100 concealed weapon permits in Toronto besides law enforcement. In America, it’s millions,” said Hayward.
Maketa does not recognize Second Amendment discussions on gun control as a “political issue” or a “right and left issue,” according to the message posted on the Sheriff’s website. “This right [to bear arms] among others is non-negotiable.”
As suggested in the message on the Sheriff’s website, banning “scary-looking” assault weapons will do little to prevent an individual intending harm.
The sheriff also sees little improvement from increasing gun control.
“Personally, I have not seen one proposal that would fall under the category of gun control that would make for a safer environment,” he said.
But Hayward remembered a situation on craigslist.com in which a man wanted to trade a firearm for a clarinet. “It’s that moment when you know you’re in America,” said Hayward.
Maketa suggests that gun control, unless armed solely at criminals, simply hurts law-abiding citizens.
“A person driven to take a life has made a plan and part of that plan is acquiring the tools to carry out that plan whether acquired illegally or legally they’re going to do it,” he said.
The process of modifying the Gun-Free School Zones Act is slow due its controversy.
“This same trend [of discussion] is occurring nationwide and per Colorado Springs Police Department General Order 1665, I will not be able to make a comment on this topic,” said CSPD Officer Jason Newton when asked to comment.
Spokeswoman for Colorado Springs School District 11 Devra Ashby expressed a similar reaction to the debate.
“I don’t know how many teachers would want to talk about it right now because it’s sort of a touchy subject. Not a lot of them want to say anything about it right now because currently under state and federal laws we can’t allow anyone except those hired to do security on property with any type of a weapon,” said Ashby.
Since CC is a private institution, it will remain independent of national legislature as long as it complies with federal, state, and local guidelines.
“I can’t say I wouldn’t be grateful [if an armed teacher] protected my child, but I think that’s going about it the wrong way,” said Hayward.
“Like anything else, what works for one school system or community may not work for another. Although it was on a different topic, Amendment 64 was a good example of Colorado taking a different perspective than some others and, when those situations arise, CC assesses and makes a determination what works best for CC,” said Cunningham.
“And it feeds right into a political realm too,” said Ashby.
“Whenever we have a tragedy like this, it’s never the right time to talk about gun control. Well, when will it be the right time?” said Hayward. “That’s a seriously depressing thought about America.”
Deputy News Editor