Some may argue after the school shootings in Colorado recently, it's not the right time to talk about guns in school.

But as school shootings seem to become more and more common, we can't wait for the right time because we don't believe there will be a time when talking about guns and schools won't be fraught with controversy.

The Legislature had sent a bill to Gov. Steve Bullock's desk that would have allowed marshals with minimal training to pack heat in schools.

This was the epitome of a problem in search of a solution.

More guns in school just ensure there are more guns in school. It doesn't ensure safety.

More guns in school just provide more opportunities for guns to be fired, fall into the wrong hands or someone to be killed because by mistake.

Some studies suggest that less than 20 percent of trained law enforcement officials can hit a target when firing in a stressful active-shooter situation. How much less accurate would a "school marshal" be if they didn't have nearly the training or experience?

We believe that schools across Montana should continue to consider improved safety measures because our state is by no means immune to the violence that other rural areas have seen at school. However, if Montana wants armed guards in its schools, we'd suggest we already have the system in place via school resource officers.

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The barrier to that is cost and time: Training and paying for school resource officers is expensive. But, if school safety really is an issue, then isn't it worth whatever cost to do it correctly?

It seems like some lawmakers want the guns in school, but they don't want to pay the professional training that goes along with it. And if that's the case, then Montana is cheaping out, and making our kids vulnerable.

It's important to note that while the Republican-led Legislature got behind the bill, important law enforcement groups did not. If the people we train and trust with our lives everyday cannot support it, then we shouldn't either. Let the people trained to have the guns, keep the guns. The solution is simple, if we want more trained police officers, let's hire them.

This seems to be more political show than go, so to speak. Most people don't want someone whose only qualification is a series of training sessions carrying around a gun near or by their most precious asset, their children.

Bullock was right to veto the bill. Let's hope that as more and more violence happens, the urge to just add more guns to the mix doesn't grow more and more loud. We have to realize that adding more guns, no matter what that circumstances, will only increase the chance of a firearm being used -- and in a tight, closed space like a school, chocked full of school-aged children.

In many ways, this conversation mirrors the larger gun debate in America. We keep on trying to either legislate guns in or out of situations, all the while refusing to look at the common denominator -- and it has nothing to do with bullets, caliber or model. Instead, the common link seems to be mental illness. Let's face it: It's easy to regulate guns, or arm people trying to be the next John Wayne of the elementary school. Instead, imagine what could be gained by identifying those struggling and getting help.

Unfortunately that solution, while by no means novel, is rarely explored because of the high cost. But in more humane, enlightened world, we would come to recognize the school isn't the problem and neither are the guns. It's a broken system that cannot or will not recognize the great need for mental help and then act to intervene.

Putting more guns in more schools with less training seems to be a recipe for another tragedy.

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The Billings Gazette


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