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Arm educators with resources, not guns

Campus shootings and potential solutions are more than a gun issue.

As someone who is both directly and indirectly responsible for safety and security on a K-12 and higher education campus, I have been amazed at the idealization of unrestricted gun rights and the rally against the so called “gun free zones.” This is another issue that has polarized our nation and led to inaction while disproportionately impacting the safety of our youth and young adults.

I am perplexed that even after so many significant tragedies like Columbine, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech and many other campus shootings that there are still allegiances to the misguided belief that only the other side must concede to any changes. Therefore, after considering this issue, I am left with several observations and concerns.

First, although one student killed or injured on a campus is one too many, it is not the actual depiction of the horror of gun violence as they account for less than 3 percent of the victims of gun violence. There is no documented information that supports the notion that campuses are selected because they are considered easy targets. Most of the “so-called” manifestos or other plans reviewed indicated that the campuses were chosen due to the shooter’s connection, such as a employee, student or former employee/student, and/or for some perceived grievance associated with the campus.

Regardless of the selection reasoning, students are relatively safe and campuses are still one of the safest places in regards to gun violence as the overwhelming majority of multiple-victim homicides occur at private residences, with children and women being the majority of the victims.

I have reservations regarding the advocacy to arm professors and teachers and allowing unrestricted concealed carry on campuses. The majority of active shooter incidents occur at businesses, commerce or other open spaces that do not have gun restrictions. Also significantly more people are killed annually by accidental shootings. In addition, locations such as churches, hospitals, malls and restaurants are often the target of mass shooters.

Do we honestly believe arming our nurses, pastors and waitresses is the best response? Will more guns result in more gun-involved activity/crimes on campuses? Will more guns increase accidental shootings and suicides on our campuses? Will more arguments or dating and domestic violence incidents on campus now include gun violence? Will guns in classrooms stifle the educational process by deterring some individuals from participating in passionate debates on controversial topics?

Lastly, I submit that campus shootings and/or the significant gun violence is not just a gun problem. The issue includes drug and sexual abuse, poverty, mental illness and the pervasive culture of violence promoted by the gaming, movie and the television industries.

If we intend to arm our educators, then we should arm them with adequate capabilities, resources and training to respond appropriately to the issues of addiction, bullying, child abuse, emotional and psychological issues, poverty, drug and sexual abuse, and other social problems plaguing our campuses and nation.

Russell Dove is chief of police at Central Virginia Community College in Lynchburg and chairman of the Prince Edward County School Board. His email address is russell.dove@pecps.k12.va.us.