School Board Mulls Gun & Safety Issues

Los Alamos Police Chief Dino Sgambellone addresses the Los Alamos School Board. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon/ladailypost.com

 

By Bonnie J. Gordon
Los Alamos Daily Post

Los Alamos Police Chief Dino Sgamballone returned to the podium to explain his reasons for proposing the installation of gun safes on the Los Alamos Middle School and Los Alamos High School campuses.

The proposal, made at a Special School Board Meeting two weeks ago, has raised many questions about the proposal by members of the public. One misconception cleared up by Sgamballone and Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus was that the proposal was voted on by the School Board at the last meeting. No such vote took place. No vote is in fact necessary to institute the proposal under current school rules, Steinhaus and various Board members pointed out.

However, the gun safes are not a done deal at this time.

“We feel that we want to proceed with discussions,” Sgamballone said. “We’ve been doing our research, but I have yet to sit down with the superintendent to have this discussion.”

The idea for the gun safes stemmed from a training attended by School Resource Officers from the Los Alamos Police Dept. One of those officers, Christopher Ross, who oversees the five local elementary schools, was at Tuesday’s meeting to talk about what was learned at the training.

“We see this as a proactive layer to limit damage by responding in a timely manner,” Ross said. “Kids have the right to be safe at school.”

Ross sees gun safes as an opportunity to minimize damage and possible injuries during a shooter situation at a school.

Sgamballone explained that officers are already armed with sidearms and have rifles available in their squad cars, parked on the school campuses. The gun safes would insure that officers had more ready access to the rifles and that potential shooters would not be aware of the location of the guns as they are now.

During the public comment period, several parents raised questions about the proposal. One questioned whether students might feel tempted to break into the safes to prove they could. Storing weapons on site over night was also a concern. He also questioned the viability of keeping the safe’s locations secret.

“Kids are going to know where they are within a month,” he said.

Others raised the question of whether having more fire power available might increase the risk of collatoral damage to bystanders during a shooting incident.

Scepticism about more weapons as a solution to school violence was raised by some members of the public and by School Board Member Bill Hargraves that this issue is of much less importance than the addressing of those issues which lead to school violence, such as bullying and  mental health issues.

School Board President Jim Hall called the installation of gun safes “a minor improvement.”

The big deal is alcohol and drug abuse in the student community,” Hall said. “I wish we’d paid as much attention to that issue as we have to this one.”
The Board seemed in general agreement that Superintendent Steinhaus  and Chief Sgamballone should return to the Board when they have discussed the gun safe issue in more detail.

Board members also agreed that they and school staff should spend more time discussing this and other school safety issues in the near future.

Ross sees gun safes as an opportunity to minimize damage and possible injuries during a shooter situation at a school.

Sgamballone explained that officers are already armed with sidearms and have rifles available in their squad cars, parked on the school campuses. The gun safes would insure that officers had more ready access to the rifles and that potential shooters would not be aware of the location of the guns as they are now.

During the public comment period, several parents raised questions about the proposal. One questioned whether students might feel tempted to break into the safes to prove they could. Storing weapons on site over night was also a concern. He also questioned the viability of keeping the safe’s locations secret.

“Kids are going to know where they are within a month,” he said.

Others raised the question of whether having more fire power available might increase the risk of collatoral damage to bystanders during a shooting incident.

Scepticism about more weapons as a solution to school violence was raised by some members of the public and by School Board Member Bill Hargraves that this issue is of much less importance than the addressing of those issues which lead to school violence, such as bullying and  mental health issues.

School Board President Jim Hall called the installation of gun safes “a minor improvement.”

The big deal is alcohol and drug abuse in the student community,” Hall said. “I wish we’d paid as much attention to that issue as we have to this one.”
The Board seemed in general agreement that Superintendent Steinhaus  and Chief Sgamballone should return to the Board when they have discussed the gun safe issue in more detail.

Board members also agreed that they and school staff should spend more time discussing this and other school safety issues in the near future.

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