This weekend as we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, we think a lot about luck. Four-leaf clovers and pots of gold at the end of some magical rainbow, or if you live in Mobile, a tree in Crichton. Most people don’t put too much stock in luck or chance. But as we once again watch our national, state and local leaders do virtually nothing to address mass shootings in our schools, all we can do is pray and hope we are “lucky” enough that it won’t happen here. Fingers crossed — that’s our best policy, it seems. And that is just mind-boggling to me.
Sure, right after a gunman killed 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last month, talks of raising the minimum age for purchase of some types of weapons, strengthening background checks, addressing mental health issues or even just banning the sale of “bump stocks” (which seems like a no-brainer) were talked about. But talk is about all we got.
Alabama State Rep. Will Ainsworth did introduce a bill that would allow teachers who completed a special training course to be armed. The president at one point expressed support for this type of measure as well.
But could there be a dumber idea on the planet? All you need to do is think of the creepiest high school teacher you had. You know the one. Can you see his face? I promise you, he would be the first in line to take the course so he can pack heat at school. I do not want Mr. Creepy McCreeperson packing heat at my kids’ schools on a daily basis. All of the myriad things that could go wrong with that plan are far more frightening than the potential for a mass shooting. Thankfully, talk of that nonsense seems to be dying down. Let’s keep it that way.
But aside from proposing our teachers carry firearms in the pockets of their apple-embroidered sweaters or tight little coach shorts, what else is being done?
State Sen. Trip Pittman (R-Montrose) introduced a bill that would allow the Education Advancement and Technology Fund to be used to fund school security measures. This is about the only measure that seems to have some life still left in it this legislative session, though it is not without its critics. Some Democrats, including gubernatorial candidate Walt Maddox, have said we should not raid technology funds to pay for school security.
And House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) and President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) have called for a “deliberate” approach to school safety measures, which will probably push the discussion into next year. In other words, they “deliberately” don’t want to have to do anything in an election year.
Nationally, you guessed it — pretty much nothing is also being done. The Senate is focusing on banking reform and then will move on to legislation addressing sex trafficking. There is one limited bill in the Senate co-sponsored by John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) that would slightly strengthen background checks. It could come to the floor for a vote but, predictably, both parties are blaming each other for preventing that. But even if it did, critics say, it would do very little to help as all it does is give local and federal authorities more “incentive” to report relevant information to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. As if dead high schoolers in Florida and dead first-graders in Connecticut isn’t enough “incentive.”
Back here in sweet home Ala-bammy, Gov. Kay Ivey has essentially followed the same path as the Legislature, announcing her office will not be doing anything anytime soon as well, as she has formed a “committee” to study the issue. She wants the committee’s report back by April 30, which is after this session of the Legislature ends. So unless they call a special session, nothing will be done until next year.
You gotta love committees. You look like you are doing something but you are really doing nothing. There are many famous quotes on why committees are completely ineffective — most of the time, that ineffectiveness and inactivity is by design — but my two favorites are “a committee is a group of people who individually can do nothing, but who, as a group, can meet and decide that nothing can be done.” Or as crazy Ross Perot once wisely said, “If you see a snake, just kill it, don’t appoint a committee on snakes.”
Hey, can you blame her or the rest of her worthless cohorts on Goat Hill? It’s an election year. We can’t expect them to be worried about the safety of our children when there are fundraisers to be held and lobbyists to be placated.
To their credit, Baldwin County officials decided not to wait on the folks in Montgomery or D.C. and took matters into their own hands. Last week, Superintendent Eddie Tyler unveiled an enhanced school safety plan for its 46 campuses in response to the Parkland shooting. This plan includes heightening security at all of the entrances and exits of the schools and making sure each campus has its own armed law enforcement officer trained to be a school resource officer. Since, by state law, school employees can’t be armed, these officers would be compensated through their departments. Baldwin County Sheriff Hoss Mack and several of the county’s mayors all expressed support for this plan.
In response to the shooting, Mobile County Public School System Superintendent Martha Peek pointed to the school safety plans already in place and the regular drills they conduct to make sure all of the teachers and students are prepared. Peek, along with the director of MCPSS security Andy Gatewood, expressed support for changing the law to arm school resource officers, though they didn’t say MCPSS was actively lobbying for such a change. And they did not express any plan to put more armed law enforcement officers on campus as Tyler said the Baldwin County system would.
Compared to Baldwin’s response, Mobile’s seems pretty tepid at this point. They already had “school safety plans” and drills in place at Stoneman Douglas, too. Is that really the best we have, MCPSS? I know it’s a complicated issue, but can we see just a tiny bit more urgency here?
I hope so. These are our babies. Do something more!
I guess, in the meantime, we’ll just keep our fingers crossed, as that’s about all we can do.