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No clear answers in keeping Washington County schools safe

December 21, 2012|BY KAUSTUV BASU | kaustuv.basu@herald-mail.com
  • The National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, speaks during a news conference in response to the Connecticut school shooting on Friday, Dec. 21, 2012 in Washington. The nation's largest gun-rights lobby is calling for armed police officers to be posted in every American school to stop the next killer "waiting in the wings."
AP Photo/ Evan Vucci

The National Rifle Association on Friday called for armed police at every school, but some Washington county residents and officials said the NRA’s suggestion might not be useful when it comes to mass shootings.

Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s vice president, said at a Washington, D.C., press conference Friday that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

But Washington County Sheriff Doug Mullendore said the idea of armed guards at schools wasn’t going to work.

“Any armed shooter is going to know about the presence of an armed guard,” Mullendore said. “The real answer might be is that we as a community look more closely at mental health issues.”

Mullendore said it was extremely difficult for an uninsured person with a mental health problem to get any kind of treatment.

“We have to address that issue,” Mullendore said.

He said it was time to have an open conversation with professionals who deal with the issue every day, including law enforcement officers.

Richard Wright, spokesman for Washington County Public Schools, said that the school district had no current plans to add armed guard at schools.

“We will work closely with local law enforcement for the safety of our schools,” Wright said.

Bill Lang, a Boonsboro resident who has five children in elementary and middle schools in the school district, said he agreed with the NRA that more gun control might not necessarily lead to a less dangerous situation.

“It is about the value of life. It is about parents teaching their children that every individual is important,” Lang said.

As for gun control, Lang pointed out that Connecticut had some very strict gun laws.

“When you have a mentally ill person, there is not much you can do,” he said.

Lang wasn’t sure about the NRA’s idea of armed security guards.

“What if this security guard is on the other side of the building when an attack happens?” he asked. “How are we going to afford more security guards? I’m constantly hearing talk of the government cutting back.”

Lang said he felt frustrated as a parent.

“It is not more gun control. It is not about video games. It is about those who are mentally unstable,” he said.

Kelley Seiler, a Hagerstown resident, said that as an NRA member he felt nervous when people talk about more gun control.

“They [gun control advocates] just like to blame the NRA,” he said. “Banning weapons won’t do anything. ... If not a gun, they will find another way of doing it.”

Seiler said he wasn’t sure if armed guards were necessary at every school.

Amanda Krehbiel, a senior at North Hagerstown High School and a student member of the Washington County Board of Education, said she did not think it would hurt to have security guards at schools even though she feels safe at her own school.

“It could deter a shooter,” she said. “It is going to be expensive but keeping our students safe is our first priority.”

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