By Dee Rowland
and Jean Hill
In response to the killing of 20 school children and six adults in Newtown, Conn., the National Rifle Association has, with almost unbelievable audacity, rolled out a public relations blitz that proposes to "solve" the gun-violence problem in this country by putting yet more guns and more potential for violence and accidents in our public schools.
The NRA's proposed "School Shield Program" is nothing more than a cynical attempt to play on the fears of the American public to further the goals of gun and ammunition manufacturers and dealers: Manufacture and sell more guns.
A rational, civilized society does not respond to unspeakable levels of gun violence in its schools by posting armed guards at every doorway and escalating the potential for tragic events.
Nor should a rational society accept the proposition that an 8-year-old student can only feel safe if there is a pistol-packing guard standing at every schoolhouse door.
The solution to violence is not more violence. Rather, we must undertake more fundamental, common-sense measures to address this problem. The Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah and other public safety-minded organizations seek solutions designed to prevent rather than to react to gun violence in schools across the state.
We prefer ideas that will not escalate the potential for more tragic events, but address the underlying issues that lead to or exacerbate tragedy. These include school safety plans, bullying and harassment training for teachers and students, and community policing programs.
Any additional plans for gun violence prevention should focus on increasing access to mental health services and promoting sensible gun regulations, such as universal background checks and the restriction of assault-style weapons and large-capacity magazines.
In schools where administrators have determined that a law enforcement presence makes sense, it is important to remember that the officers are trained not only in firearms safety, but in due process, cultural issues, proper investigation techniques to use with minors, and non-violent methods for controlling dangerous situations.
These are not randomly selected individuals, but dedicated professionals who have undergone extensive training, testing and licensing to perform a full range of public safety services.
The reality is that a gun is more likely to be accidentally discharged than used to defend against a gun-wielding intruder in a school.
The NRA's "School Shield Program" would not result in safer schools. It would produce yet more weapons in a society that is already awash in firearms. GVPC of Utah is opposed to turning our public schools into armed camps, for that is the antithesis of how a civilized country should approach its gun-violence problem.
Dee Rowland is chair of the Utah Gun Violence Prevention Center board; Jean Hill is a board member and its government liaison.