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School safety: Utahns talk campus restrictions, tougher gun laws


Nearly one-third of Utahns say restricting access to school campuses is the best way to make schools safer, though nearly one-quarter say they favor stricter gun control laws, according to a new Deseret News/Hinckley Policy Institute poll.

The poll of 808 registered voters in Utah was conducted June 16-29, just weeks after a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that left 21 people dead — 19 of them third- and fourth-graders and two teachers — and 17 wounded. others, including three. officers.

Among Utahns who responded to the survey, 15% said putting armed guards in every school would be the best way to increase security. Another 13% said schools should arm teachers, and 15% said otherwise, without specifying their answer.

Utah State Education Association President Heidi Matthews said the survey results reflect an urgent need to do something. She noted that only 2% of those surveyed said “nothing needs to be done.”

She said reducing or stopping school shootings requires a multi-pronged approach.

“What is the best way? Well, there is no better way. We learned that if there was a better way, this wouldn’t be happening. We wouldn’t want kids being killed in our schools and at our Fourth of July parades, you know, people just being senselessly killed,” Matthews said.

In addition, mass shootings occur in places other than schools, as evidenced by the recent attack during the Independence Day parade in Highland Park, Illinois, which left seven people dead, or the mass shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York. York, May 14. where 10 people died.

“This is also a problem of society. This is not just a school problem. Community safety is school safety,” Matthews said.

As for arming teachers, Matthews said it’s “beyond the purview of what any educator is trained to do.”

“It’s hard for me to say that lives will be saved,” said Matthews, who has been an educator for 30 years.

“Should the unthinkable happen in our Utah schools, we want the adults in the schools to be 100% focused on protecting the children. Doing this at the same time as potentially asking to speak to the perpetrator is just asking too much. The potential for mistakes and more lives to be put at risk is too great,” she said.

Only 11% of female respondents chose arming teachers as the best way to increase school safety, while 15% of male respondents preferred this option. Support for gun teachers was highest among respondents who identified themselves as “very conservative” or “conservative” at 20% and 19%, respectively, and those who identified as Republicans at 17%.

After school safety, the poll answer with the second highest level of support was for stricter gun control laws.

Recently passed federal Bipartisan Safe Communities Act aimed at improving school and community safety. It provides billions of dollars for innovative programs that help stop tragedies before they happen, including through investments in mental health, school safety and public crisis intervention programs.

Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton, said there is little appetite for gun control measures in the Utah Legislature. Handy is featured three times red flag legislation that allows a family member or someone in law enforcement to petition a court to take away a firearm from a person in crisis who is a danger to themselves or others.

After pushback from the gun rights lobby and Second Amendment enthusiasts, the measures never came up for a vote.

“I have no intention of doing this. It was an idea that was not even voted on. I could never get any support or traction. I was there by myself. I got beat up a lot and I shouldn’t have,” said Handy, who lost his nomination for a Utah House seat at the GOP convention earlier this year.

Ardent gun rights advocates called the law a “gun grab,” Handy said.

“It’s not a gun grab, because then the guns are never fully removed. It’s just a pause button to allow the person to get the mental health care that everyone in the community knows is needed,” he said.

Unfortunately, mass shootings happen frequently, and statistically speaking, there’s no reason to think Utah is immune, he said.

Handy, a gun owner who says he respects the Second Amendment, said he doesn’t want the government to take away his guns either. He introduced the proposal after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, 2018, when a teenager was killed by a gunman. 17 people and another 17 wounded.

“One of the things that people have failed to understand is that it’s not just the police running in and taking someone’s gun away. This is a temporary stop by the judge based on the standard. In my attempts to do this, we could never get to the comfortable place of due process. I don’t know that we’ll ever do that in Utah in the foreseeable future,” he said.

Although 23% of respondents to a Deseret News/Hinckley Institute poll said tougher gun control laws are the best way to make schools safer, Handy said he has no intention of bringing back the proposal about the red flag.

“I don’t see the political will in the Utah Legislature to continue this,” he said. “I just don’t think there’s a pull.”

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