One of Kentucky's best known elected officials weighed in recently on how the state should prevent massacres like the one in Newtown, Conn. Sen. Rand Paul's ideas were characteristically bold, but also off the mark.
Paul told a group of Oldham County business leaders last week he believes teachers and principals who obtain licenses to carry concealed firearms should be allowed to do so on the job.
It’s not surprising that Paul, a patron saint of the Tea Party who has garnered support from many with Libertarian-leanings, had no qualms about walking out on what would be a political limb for others.
That limb is a sturdier branch, with ample political footing, because of a core constituency who will likely deem this another example of his purity. It's discouraging, though, that his powerful voice isn't proclaiming or calling for proposals that might actually be considered, let alone work in reality.
Regardless of how one feels about gun control, or the motives of those clamoring for stricter laws in the aftermath of a tragedy, arming teachers and other school administrators should sound alarms.
Sensational mass shootings are a valid reason to debate, and even act in the interest of preventing similar incidents in the future. Every variable in a mass shooting — mental health, school readiness and weapons to name a few — should be on the table for discussions about stopping other catastrophes.
However, most educators will tell you — and did tell this newspaper — adding deadly weapons to classrooms and campuses has as much potential to cause or exacerbate spontaneous acts of violence as it does to stop premeditated ones. Schools can be volatile places where students and occasionally school personnel have emotionally charged confrontations with one another.
Throwing more guns and ammo into that mixture sounds like a recipe for disaster.
It should be noted that in his Oldham County remarks, Paul acknowledged the potential for collateral damage, but he apparently believes it’s worth the risk. The stakes are far too high for that kind of a gamble.
Questions remain about how cost-effective it is to hire school resource officers for every school, but educators say they are proving their worth in local school systems. They not only deal with emergencies, but also make their presence known at each school on a regular basis, forming relationships with students.
In addition to beefing up security, there is a need for all schools to better define their emergency protocols to account for the many school-day scenarios. There must be prparation for more than students just sitting in classrooms when a gunman enters the building.
Schools also can have a vital role in identifying and treating the kinds of mental illness too often manifested in heinous crime scenes like the one in Newtown.
Steps must be taken to help protect innocent children against violent acts. Authorizing a random and dubiously prepared group of educators to police our state’s schools is stepping too far out on the limb.
Even for Rand Paul.