Jack Simpson: What are the answers to Newtown?



No question about it. The worst mass shooting in U.S. history is on the minds of everyone. Twenty-year-old Adam Lanza, a disturbed young man, afraid his mother might commit him, reminded the world of how easy access to assault weapons maximizes a person's potential for doing evil. Lanza killed his mother and then forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., armed with a Bushmaster .223 rifle, a Glock 9 mm and a Sig Sauer. He had enough ammo to kill everyone in the school but only managed to shoot and kill 20 children, six adults and himself before police arrived on scene.

Americans have had other shootings in schools in the past. What has been done? Guns, being a part of our culture, have been hard to regulate. President Obama has promised this time to use the power of his office to prevent future tragedies of this nature. This incident has sparked more discussion about gun control, violent video games, mental health issues, background checks, regulations on gun clip size, school safety and other societal problems.

One such discussion involves parents who have children with mental problems. These moms need help and more resources must be developed for them. Society cannot afford to ignore the mentally ill as Newtown is an example.

People are asking why did something so terrible happen in small-town America? It is unthinkable because we expect our schools to be safe places for our children to go. We simply do not think of places of learning to be also places of massacre. No paranoid individual in possession of an assault weapon should be able to discharge it in an elementary school, killing small children and their teachers. Parents and ordinary citizens are not experts on school safety. They can only imagine what this event has meant to those responsible for running our schools and for those responsible for public safety. All over America today people are meeting in the halls of government, in schools, in law enforcement facilities trying to answer the question, "What more can be done to ensure peace of mind about school safety?" How can we protect our children in their schools? Are there enough personnel, cameras, alarms, trained responders? Are there written plans, and are they updated and familiar to everyone in the school? Is there at least one armed school resource officer in the building at all times? Has school security been heightened in expectation of possible copy cats? Have drills been conducted to ensure teachers and children know what to do and where to go in an emergency? Should teachers be armed?

These are but a few of the things now being nationally talked about. How much school safety is enough? Will budgets accommodate updates and changes for more crisis preparedness?

Newtown has reminded everyone that during a major massacre, school safety is not a luxury. As we discuss these and other questions, there is no doubt all responsible for school safety are being more watchful for suspicious persons and activities around our schools. Everyone has a new commitment to keep children safe in their halls of learning. We seek answers to hundreds of questions raised in Newtown, Conn.

Travelling about Newton County, I hear much discussion about Newtown. People do not want to lose rights to gun ownership, but feel weapons of war should not be so easily available to the mentally ill. Local residents are extending their prayers and condolences to the people, families and victims of Newtown. All Americans feel their pain.

Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author and law enforcement officers. His column appears each Friday.