By now I’d wager most folks are aware of comments Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, made in her Senate confirmation hearings about guns being necessary in a school to protect against grizzly bears when questioned on her stance on guns in schools. If not, here’s the actual video:
Stop with the eye rolls. Stop shaking your head in disbelief. Stop laughing out loud. Just STOP! What if she’s right? Seriously….what if there’s even a smidgen of sanity in what she said?
Even if DeVos didn’t have a clue as to why her statement might have a smidgen of sanity (I don’t believe for one second that she did), the fact is there is precedent.
So, tell me again why we should laugh out loud or shake our heads at the stupidity or do the teenage eye roll. Go ahead. Tell me. I’ll wait.
Still rolling your eyes? Still shaking your head at the stupidity? Still laughing out loud? Well, according to the National Park Service:
“The National Park Service also downplays the danger. It calculates the chances of being injured by Ursus arctos horribilisat in Yellowstone National Park, which has the highest concentration of grizzlies in the U.S., at 1 in 2.7 million.”
Granted, that’s only for Yellowstone National Park and specifies injuries only, but the statistics in North America offer a bit more clarity as to frequency of fatal bear encounters. Bottom line? Bear attacks are rare occurrences. Fatalities as a result of bear attacks are even more rare. So, if bear attacks are so rare, why are we even talking about this? Well, it’s probably because Secretary DeVos said perhaps we need guns in schools to fend off grizzly bears. That’s why.
Truth is, we had a bear on the grounds of an elementary school a couple of miles from us here in Colorado. There have also been bear sightings at other schools in our area, as well. Thus far, none have actually entered a school, but the threat was real. So, do threats such as these merit guns in those schools?
Why is this relevant? Because while fatalities as a result of human encounters with bears are rare occurrences, so are mass shootings….including those occurring in schools. Quite the segue, eh? But that is a statement of fact. Mass shootings in schools are rare, especially given the fact there are well over 100,000 schools in the United States.
Campus Safety Magazine, a recognized subject matter expert publication for all things school safety related, notes mass shootings in schools have some very interesting statistics that everyone should know. Statistically speaking, the odds of a student being killed at school are less than one in a million according to this publication. Those odds go directly to the heart of planning for active shooter events in schools. Yes, active shooter events do occur. Do we, as a society then need to go Rambo to protect our kids from what can only be described as a rare event? Might there be better alternatives to guns in schools? I believe there are, but discussing them will be fodder for a future blog post.
While mass shootings in schools have been steadily increasing in frequency for a while now, the fact remains that schools are still actually very safe learning environments for our kids. That should NOT be taken to mean, by any stretch of anyone’s imagination, that nothing needs to be done to address the possibility of an active shooter wreaking havoc on a school and on those within a school. It simply means planning for an active shooter in a school environment needs to be addressed in a very analytical and pragmatic way. Putting guns in schools is neither analytical nor pragmatic….especially in the hands of untrained personnel.
And that’s where Secretary DeVos’ comments come back around to the point I’m trying to make here. Secretary DeVos very adeptly avoided directly answering Senator Murphy’s question regarding guns in schools with her “grizzlies” remark. I will not avoid answering Senator Murphy’s question….guns do NOT belong in schools except in the hands of professionally trained personnel called School Resource Officers!
Now, if anyone can convince me I’m wrong on this issue, I’m willing to listen. But anyone trying to do so needs to understand I’m an emergency management specialist by profession. I’m also a person who experienced what some have told me is arguably the worst kind of gun violence trauma imaginable…a mass shooting in a school that almost took the life of my daughter. The only thing worse would have been if she had been killed. So, good luck with that!
My two cents.
Clarification: Since I wrote this blog post, it has been brought to my attention the language may be insensitive to those having been directly and indirectly affected by mass shootings. In looking back at the text, I can certainly see how that could happen.
Having been directly affected by one of the more “public” mass shootings myself, I wanted to clarify that in no way, shape, or form was my intent to minimize or dismiss the incredibly traumatic experiences of others who’ve gone through similar, or worse, experiences than what I have experienced.
Mass shootings are, in fact, relatively rare events. In emergency management circles, they are called low probability events. Those kinds of events, however, have immeasurable impacts on, and consequences for, those affected.
In that vein, I offer my sincerest apologies to those folks because that part of my message was not clear in the text of the post.
I hope this clarification helps in some small way to make amends.
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