Po­lice bet­ter pro­tec­tion than rhymes in school shoot­ings

Boston Herald - - OPINION - Peter LU­CAS

When the next crazed gun­man breaks into your lo­cal school, what would you rather have — some kin­der­garten teacher lead­ing chil­dren in a lul­laby, or an armed and trained re­source of­fi­cer stand­ing out­side the class­room door? No need to an­swer; it’s a no-brainer.

It is a good thing Gov. Char­lie Baker signed the so-called “red flag” gun bill into law. This is the bill, filed by Rep. Mar­jorie Decker of Cam­bridge, and cham­pi­oned by House Speaker Robert DeLeo, that sur­faced in the wake of the grow­ing, hor­ren­dous prob­lem of school shoot­ings. It al­lows for the tem­po­rary con­fis­ca­tion of firearms from li­censed hold­ers con­sid­ered dan­ger­ous, ei­ther to them­selves or to oth­ers. Un­der the law, a fam­ily can pe­ti­tion the courts for an ex­treme risk pro­tec­tion or­der — a “red flag” — if a mem­ber with ac­cess to guns poses a threat. A judge can sus­pend the li­cense and re­quire the per­son to “tem­po­rar­ily” turn in his firearms un­til the sit­u­a­tion is re­solved.

Op­po­nents of the law ar­gued that the Sec­ond Amend­ment rights of law-abid­ing and li­censed-gun own­ers are be­ing in­fringed. Be that as it may, Baker signed it any­way, and it will prob­a­bly be chal­lenged in court. Who knows? Maybe the new law will do some­thing good.

How­ever, what would pro­vide real pro­tec­tion for chil­dren in school is a bill lan­guish­ing in com­mit­tee that would al­low cities and towns to hire re­tired cops as school re­source of­fi­cers. The bill was filed by Rep. James Arciero of West­ford and is sup­ported by West­ford Po­lice Chief Thomas McE­naney as well as West­ford School Su­per­in­ten­dent Everett Olsen. While Olsen and the oth­ers are not in fa­vor of arm­ing teach­ers, they are sup­port­ive of leg­is­la­tion al­low­ing the cities and towns to hire lo­cal, well-trained re­tired po­lice of­fi­cers to serve as re­source of­fi­cers in the schools.

“These are in­di­vid­u­als who have served in the com­mu­nity for years. They know the peo­ple, the neigh­bor­hoods, the schools and every­thing else. They are a valu­able re­source,” Arciero said. West­ford is where a young school jan­i­tor re­cently was found with an un­reg­is­tered hand­gun in the trunk of his car parked in the school park­ing lot. Au­thor­i­ties were no­ti­fied about the sit­u­a­tion af­ter the man posted sev­eral com­ments on so­cial me­dia. If noth­ing else, the bill would be a re­fresh­ing an­ti­dote to the sad sit­u­a­tion where a Somerville kin­der­garten teacher posted an ad­vi­sory to the chil­dren in the form of a nurs­ery rhyme over what to do in the event of a school lock­down. The lul­laby went: “Lock­down, Lock­down,

Lock the door

Shut the lights off, say no more

Go be­hind the desk and hide.

Wait un­til it’s safe in­side. Lock­down, Lock­down it’s all done

Now it’s time to have some fun.”

The teacher was rightly ap­plauded for her con­cern and cre­ativ­ity. Lul­la­bies are fine. But the chil­dren need more than nurs­ery rhymes; they need pro­tec­tion. How much more re­as­sur­ing to the chil­dren and their par­ents it would be if out­side in the cor­ri­dor was a fa­mil­iar re­source of­fi­cer stand­ing by to pro­tect the chil­dren.

While po­lice re­tirees are lim­ited in the num­ber of hours they can work in mu­nic­i­pal or state govern­ment, the Arciero bill pro­poses that the re­source of­fi­cers that are hired be al­lowed to work for the en­tire 180day school year. Un­der his pro­posal, the peo­ple hired would not be com­pen­sated for any ad­di­tional ben­e­fits, such as health care or pen­sions since they al­ready are cov­ered un­der their ex­ist­ing re­tire­ment plans.

Un­for­tu­nately, the bill is stuck in the Com­mit­tee on Ed­u­ca­tion and the leg­isla­tive ses­sion is end­ing at the end of July. Se­nate Com­mit­tee Chair­woman So­nia Chang-Diaz of Bos­ton did not at­tend the hear­ing on the bill, and the com­mit­tee has not re­ported the bill out for House or Se­nate de­bate. This did not stop the se­na­tor from speak­ing out on the “red flag” bill when it was passed by the Se­nate. But, she said, the Se­nate should also con­sider deal­ing with gun vi­o­lence in gen­eral, un­re­lated to schools.

She said, “If all lives mat­ter, we need more so­lu­tions that not only make our mid­dle-class fam­i­lies feel safer, but that will ac­tu­ally de­crease the num­ber of shat­ter­ing calls too many par­ents re­ceive in our com­mon­wealth.”

Chang-Diaz makes sense. But she could be­gin to end those “shat­ter­ing calls” by get­ting her com­mit­tee to re­lease the bill in­stead of sit­ting on it. If she or the com­mit­tee de­cline to take ac­tion, then Speaker DeLeo should get his ma­jor­ity mem­bers to force the bill out for House and Se­nate ac­tion.

Nurs­ery rhymes are nice. Cops — even re­tired cops — are bet­ter.

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