Last Updated:October 22 @ 09:16 pm

PA school districts familiar with armed guards in schools

By Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Staff

FILE - (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - The head of the National Rifle Association on Friday said armed police in every U.S. school could prevent the next deadly school massacre, an idea familiar to two Western Pennsylvania schools with armed police and other administrators who said they want to arm officers and teachers.
"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said. "Would you rather have your 911 call bring a good guy with a gun from a mile away or a minute away?"

LaPierre's comments during a 30-minute news conference ended the NRA's silence since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., a week before. LaPierre blamed graphic video games and movies for poisoning Americans' minds with violence and said more must be done to track mentally ill people who could turn violent.

The NRA's wide-ranging statement invited praise and rebukes from gun control advocates, gun owners, school board members and mental health professionals.

"Their answer to anything is more guns," said U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills. "I don't think arming more people is the answer, but I do think we need to have a comprehensive approach. We need to have more access to mental health services, but we also have to take military weapons out of the hands of people." He said he supports a ban on assault weapons and gun buy-back programs.

Shira Goodman, executive director of the nonprofit CeaseFirePA, said the NRA is trying to deflect attention from recent talk by President Obama and others about reinstituting a federal ban of military-style weapons and prohibiting high-capacity ammunition magazines.

"They're completely out of touch with Americans and Pennsylvanians and the conversation about gun violence protection," she said.

Jude Abraham, business manager for Hempfield Area School District, said he would propose training and arming school principals.

"The reaction time of the state police is going to be minutes to tens of minutes. How else do we protect our children, unless we have someone on the inside?" Abraham said.

Hempfield board President Sonya Brajdic said she's not sure arming administrators or employees would help.

"I certainly understand what happened last week is a devastating tragedy. Even having armed guards at every school is not going to stop a crazy person from coming into a school," she said.

Hempfield beefed up security by installing more cameras and an electronic entry system. It hired two unarmed school resource officers to patrol buildings but laid them off to cut costs.

Mark Boerio, owner of the Army Navy Store in Latrobe, said school teachers recently bought handguns at his store.

"They want to be able to protect themselves," Boerio said. "These teachers are good people. I know how important kids are to them."

Butler Area and South Butler school districts received special permission to arm security guards at the schools on Monday, the first school day after the slayings in Newtown.

The guards are Pennsylvania State Police retirees who are allowed to carry personal weapons in school buildings.

Gun owner Brian Egan, 26, of Cranberry said the NRA was obligated to address the Newtown massacre after staying quiet about it for a week. He supports putting armed guards in schools but said they could become targets for a determined gunman.

"The first thing they're going to do is take out any kind of threat, and somebody in uniform would stand out as an immediate threat," Egan said.

Police presence didn't guarantee student safety in past school shootings.

An armed Jefferson County, Colo., sheriff's deputy traded gunshots with one of two gunmen who killed 12 students and a teacher at Columbine High School in 1999.

Nat Pantalone, president of Greensburg Salem School District's board of directors, said he supports arming teachers and administrators as long as they are trained and certified. The identity of a teacher or administrator authorized to carry a concealed weapon would be kept secret, he said. He plans to raise at a school board meeting the idea of arming school personnel.

So does Seneca Valley School Board member Eric Gordon, a gun owner and NRA member. Gordon said under his plan, teachers who receive special training would be permitted to bring personal firearms to school, provided they remain locked in a classroom safe. The guns would be used only if a shooter entered the school, he said. He disagrees with the NRA's proposal to place armed police in every school.

"It's a waste of money," he said. "The cost of it would be insane, and then how often do you actually have to deal with these situations?"

LaPierre blamed violent video games such as Mortal Kombat and Grand Theft Auto for contributing to a "corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells -- and sows -- violence against its own people."

Katherine Biehl, 32, of Monroeville said a relative bought her four children, ages 6 to 12, violent video games including "Call of Duty: Black Ops," a popular first-person shooter-style game, and a Civil War-themed game.

She returned them to the store after the Newtown massacre.

"There's an age range where you can teach about guns in a safe environment and touch them," Biehl said. "They shouldn't learn about them from a video game when a parent's not even in the room."

LaPierre said resistance to creating a national database of the mentally ill makes it harder for authorities to identify would-be copycat killers seeking the media spotlight.

Mental health advocates say they oppose creating a national database of the mentally ill.

"This would just further exacerbate the stigma surrounding mental illness," said Laurie Barnett Levine, executive director of Mental Health America Westmoreland. "People with mental illness are not criminals. They're more often victims than perpetrators."

Jeremy Boren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7935 or jboren@tribweb.com. Staff writers Richard Gazarik, Bill Vidonic and Bobby Kerlik contributed to this report.

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(c)2012 The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.)

Visit The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.) at www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib

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8 Comments

  1. usafoldsargeComment by usafoldsarge
    December 22, 2012 @ 10:02 am

    LOCKED IN A CLASSROOM SAFE????????????????? Reminds me of being at TAN SAN NUHT AB Viet Nam 1966 when we were infiltrated by VC…. Our M1s were all locked up in a shipping container on the flight line….. All we could do is hide and watch them lob hand grenades into the cockpits of our aircraft! Come to find out our ammo was in another container….
    There is an old GI saying- walk around letting the world think you are stupid- don’t open your mouth and remove all doubt

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    • pebearComment by pebear
      December 22, 2012 @ 11:03 am

      I think the NRA should have kept the stupid talk about video games out of the speech and kept the talk about how horrible the tragedy is but to act in a knee jerk fashion would do no one any good. The idea of arming guards at the school is a better idea than to leave all the schools vulnerable. In the last school shooting, how could you have identified that this young man was about to do what he did? The guy lived his whole life between his ears and never let anyone in. He kept all his cards close to his chest and he had no feeling. It’s impossible to get a read on such a person. Scary thing is there are more out there to take his place.

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  2. Jota_Comment by Jota_
    December 22, 2012 @ 11:42 am

    “The reaction time of the state police is going to be minutes to tens of minutes. How else do we protect our children, unless we have someone on the inside?” Abraham said

    Which shows the hypocrisy of the left. They don’t mind the zone having guns after the fact, it is just before, which offends them.

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    • petersenonmainComment by petersenonmain
      December 22, 2012 @ 1:45 pm

      I think it would be a lot more effective to also keep the names of any shooters confidential and under Court order to not let out any information on the family of the shooters. In other words kill the fame and help stop this BS.

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      Rating: 4.9/5 (12 votes cast)
  3. handymanherbComment by handymanherb
    December 22, 2012 @ 2:26 pm

    Lets end the gun free zones, it has been proved not to work except to keep honest people from carrying their weapons, crooks and crazies love the the sign’s as it means the victims will be unarmed, so it will be a free fire zone for crazies.

    This has been proved twice this year and many times in the past, so when are you going to get gun free zones won’t work and will endanger your life, that’s why I don’t go to places that don’t allow me to carry my CCW weapon

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    • KAHR50Comment by KAHR50
      December 22, 2012 @ 4:20 pm

      And proven again, only days later when a CCW permittee ended the life of another crazy just before he was able to start killing people at a theatre.

      When will they wake up and admit evil exists and needs to be contained by the sane ones?

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  4. crosstownbus1Comment by crosstownbus1
    December 22, 2012 @ 6:05 pm

    The response to the Sandy tragedy is collective hysteria. Arming teachers is a bad idea. Hiring more police officers for the exclusive task of patrolling schools is a much better approach, something similar to transit, or housing cops. Don’t need angry teachers toting guns into the classroom.

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    • petersenonmainComment by petersenonmain
      December 22, 2012 @ 9:50 pm

      I don’t know of any teachers that are so angry as to be a danger to the kids in their care. If you were to pay any teachers that were willing to carry a handgun an extra $1000 a year you would have a lot of them that would be willing to take the extra training that would be required. When you have one or two Cops etc all they become is the first target and the first casualty. If it is unknown who is armed it is a lot harder to eliminate those.

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