Opinion » Editorial

Kudos to the Superintendent for a Call to Action on School Shootings

Missing from that call to action? A call to ban semi-automatic weapons

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Tam High Vigil for Parkland School Shooting
  • Tam High Vigil for Parkland School Shooting

In February, yet another massive deadly shooting on a high school campus in Florida.

This past week, the threat of a shooting at Bend Senior High School, on the heels of several other alleged threats at other local schools.

With local students and parents asking themselves what very well might have been this past week, this issue is hitting home.

As we reported Thursday, Bend Police say they arrested a 16-year-old student after confirming the student's alleged threat against Bend High was credible. Officers say they found "the means to complete a shooting" inside the student's home. The teen suspect, according to a call to action written to legislators by Bend-La Pine Schools Superintendent Shay Mikalson, is still in custody—but, he very well could be back on the streets today.

In that letter written to members of the Bend-La Pine Schools community, Mikalson urged lawmakers to: "create a new crime in Oregon of terroristic threat at a felony level" and "fund threat assessment teams to provide threat assessments to youth in crisis" and "extend maximum detention from 36 hours to 10 days for misdemeanor charges filed against youth with weapons offenses or who have made threats against others." In addition, Mikalson reminded the community that Bend Police are offering free cable locks to help families lock up firearms as well as pills to keep them away from children. Mikalson also outlined the district's efforts to create secure lobbies in all Bend-La Pine schools.

While we commend the district for making this public statement in the wake of what could have been a deadly incident, we take exception with several points.

Secure lobbies do nothing to stop a student or other member of the school community from bringing a firearm into a school—unless that secure lobby also includes a metal detector. What secure lobbies do achieve, however, is to restrict undocumented parents and others without IDs from accessing their students' schools.

Also, stricter penalties against those who are identified as making threats are good—and keeping a tighter rein on existing firearms is a no-brainer, but we would have liked to see a statement calling for even stricter gun control in that call to action. Political firebrand for a public figure, yes, but something we believe is still vital from our local leaders.

What could also have been included—and totally appropriate—would have been a nod to the Oregon Legislature and its passage of House Bill 4145—the so-called "boyfriend loophole" law—which made it through the Oregon Senate Feb. 22. That legislation, now awaiting Gov. Kate Brown's signature, allows cops to confiscate guns from stalkers and domestic abusers who are not wed to their alleged victims. While not a direct tie to school shootings, it's an effort to keep guns out of the wrong hands—something we believe we need more of.

In a report in Florida's Sun-Sentinel, criminal justice expert Anne S. Teigen of the National Conference of State Legislatures said the bill appears to be the first gun control law passed since the slayings at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. this February. Good on you, Oregon Legislature.

What should stick with you: Rep. Knute Buehler voted in favor of that bill, while Sen. Tim Knopp, Rep. Mike McLane and Rep. Gene Whisnant voted no. These are our local legislators, Central Oregon—and we believe they should recognize the threat that guns can pose in the wrong hands.

We applaud Superintendent Mikalson for his efforts and his willingness to speak out against threats to the district's children, and to issue a public call to action. We urge readers to remember those who voted against sensible legislation in this year's legislative session, and to speak up for those who appear to be hearing the clarion call for sensible efforts to protect children where they are most vulnerable. This is not about restricting anyone's ability to hunt or protect their home. This is basic public safety.


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