by Jeff Hartline
In the aftermath of the Florida School Shooting last week, the handwringing continues. Why didn’t the FBI do their job? Why didn’t the adults in the shooter’s home sense a problem? What drugs was this kid on? Who was monitoring his social media?
Why didn’t local Law Enforcement do its job?
Law Enforcement has much to answer for, but they almost always come in after the fact and mop up the carnage. These good men and women can’t be everywhere all the time. But responsible adults in the schools can be present and ready to respond.
In my last Commentary, I suggested that the simple solution to these type shootings was to immediately arm willing and capable schoolteachers and staff. I suggested rather than blame the NRA, we need to focus the blame on elected officials, school boards and teacher organizations for their refusal to eliminate schools as “soft targets” and remove the stigma of “gun-free zones” from them that make them such enticing targets for people bent on harming our most vulnerable.
In Tennessee, there have been some encouraging signs. In 2015, Rep. David Byrd (R – Waynesboro), offered a bill in the Tennessee Legislature to allow teachers and staff in Wayne County to be trained and armed to protect students in county schools. Byrd, a 33-year veteran teacher, had just completed a stint as Wayne County High School Principal when he won the District 71 seat. The TEA and all the “Usual Suspects” opposed making this a statewide law. Byrd was forced to amend his bill to only include specific rural counties, including Wayne County.
While numerous Tennessee counties have placed Sheriff’s Deputies in their schools, Wayne County did not have such available funding. Reason prevailed and Byrd’s bill passed both Houses despite the “Usual Suspects.”
The plan was for local Law Enforcement to offer advanced training to any school employee who wished to be the first line of defense (Remember, when seconds count, Law Enforcement is only minutes away.) in the event of a school shooter. School employees would not be required to be armed nor would the identity of those armed be a matter of public information. But those desiring to be that first line of defense would have the training necessary to defend our children.
By advertising this new policy, any individual bent on harming students would know that someone or “someones” would be firing back. (This is why violent gun crime decreases with more liberalized firearms laws. Every. Single. Time.)
Sounds like a plan coming together, right?
Wayne County teachers and staff are still not armed. You may ask, “Is it because local teachers objected?” “Is it because the School Board put their foot down and said no?” “Is it because the Superintendent convinced his constituents that Byrd’s bill was a bad idea?” “Did Wayne County students and parents pitch a fit?”
The answer to every question above is “NO”! You see, the “Usual Suspects” are back.
When he was approached by school officials, did the local Sheriff cave under intense pressure from the Tennessee Sheriff’s Association and opted not to train school employees? Not sure, but, they are not conducting any training.
When they were approached by local school officials, did local Police Departments hesitate, citing concerns about too much liability to them in case someone they trained accidentally shot a student or shot a student while defending students against an active shooter? Not sure, but they are not conducting any training.
Is it possible that the very people we depend upon to provide protection for us against the bad guys appear to be refusing to respond to State Law and train first-line responsible adults how to effectively use a firearm to defend innocent students and teachers against an active shooter?
We sincerely hope there are other, unknown reasons for their delay in getting this training done. The bottom line is that Wayne County school officials, teachers, staff, and parents are waiting.
To Byrd’s credit, he has not given up. He and Senator Joey Hensley have proposed HB0409/SB1151 which would amend the current law to allow outside approved vendors to provide the necessary training for school staff since those previously approved refuse to provide it.
You can bet your bottom dollar that the “Usual Suspects” will be opposing Byrd’s bill in committee. You can bet that Col. Trott of the Tennessee Department of Safety (Safety, really?) will be in full dress uniform in the committee room staring down committee members. You can bet Jim Wrye of the Tennessee Education Association will be present applying pressure to lawmakers. You can bet Terry Ashe of the Tennessee Sheriff’s Association will be burning up the phones on Capitol Hill. You can bet Maggie McClain of the Tennessee Chiefs Of Police Association will be making the rounds prior to the bill’s hearing.
These “Usual Suspects” constantly block every attempt by Lawmakers to give Tennessee citizens their full, undiluted 2nd Amendment rights.
This whole affair mirrors the mess at the FBI, NSA, IRS, CIA and Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. Just like these organizations, Tennessee teachers, deputies, officers, etc. have our children’s best interest at the top of their priority list. It’s patently obvious the people at the top do not.
When will these people be held accountable for their breach of fiduciary responsibility? That, my friends, is up to you parents, you teachers, you community leaders, and, especially, you local police officers and deputies, many of whom have children in these schools.
Let’s be clear. In America every year, responsible gun owners thwart over 2,000,000 attempts by evil individuals to harm the innocent. Why, then, do we refuse to arm responsible teachers and staff, thereby continuing to allow our schools to be killing zones?
Enough of the handwringing and pontificating. Let’s solve this problem!
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Jeff Hartline is the Executive Director of Tennessee Spotlight