OPED: Still heartbroken post Parkland

Mayor Shawn Mauck
West York

Threats at our schools and continued tragedy happen daily. The debate on guns is polarized and cripples our communities. Meanwhile, we are left wanting action. Families are still fearful and school officials are on the edge due to threats. The special interest groups stoke the discord and don’t offer any solutions. We can do better, Right?  

Gun violence has got the attention of the private sector and a few of my fellow politicians. Our nation’s businesses are changing gun sale polices. Our Auditor General, Eugene DePasquale wants to sharpen the focus of school audits.

There is hope, students are creating the dialogue on guns! They’re speaking out to advocate for change. Organizing to march and protest peacefully. It is encouraging!

The Gun Violence Initiative in the City of York is bringing people together to end the violence. With that said, I am proud of the efforts of my own West York PD in reducing crime and changing hearts and minds. It works!

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With all the good, there is always the bravado and baloney. One example, the unconstitutional idea providing the death penalty to school shooters without due process. I understand the senator’s anger. However, do something instead of bloviating. We need leadership that doesn’t leave us angry and fearful. Senator, even Republicans in Florida moved reform in a pro-gun state.

Next, the proposed measure putting more guns in the hands of untrained teachers than we have in law enforcement. It’s a horrible idea! Just last week in Georgia, a teacher with a gun was the problem. Please, reject this ridiculous notion in the legislature. Teachers should educate our kids not be their armed guards. Kids should focus on their future not weapons in our classrooms.

I ensure the public safety as West York’s mayor working with our police department and other agencies. I am proud of my work for the auditor general conducting school audits. It has allowed me to see safety successes and opportunities. My work in emergency services gives me a unique perspective on the topic. As a father. I have three students in my household. One in college and two starting kindergarten this fall. These are the experiences that help me see the opportunity for change.

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I believe through a 360-degree analysis, we can create better communication, policy, legislation, and training for schools and law enforcement. Action that can cut through the debate. Legislation such as the elimination of bump stocks and high capacity ammo magazines.

We implemented the Brady Bill in 1998, but we need to tweak the current law to allow for better protections, and notification in mental health cases and temporary domestic safety threats. We had the Federal Assault Weapons Ban adopted in 1994. It was allowed to expire in 2004. Clearly, protections and legislation did not take your guns away. My family of avid hunters and gun enthusiasts did not have to turn in their weapons under the law. Let’s get to work fixing the current laws.

We can do more:

  • Municipalities and school districts must unify and work together. It saves money, and it allows us to build better schools and communities. It cuts government’s size and stops the waste of taxpayer’s money. It breaks down those pesky imaginary boundaries that divide us. We only need to look to the Commonwealth of Virginia for a solution. We can find ways to cooperate, unify, and share services. In doing so, we can reduce turf wars and bureaucratic redundancy. We need to have the conversation and the courage to do it.
  • We need unified law enforcement measures, operational cooperation, communication and training. I say this not as criticism or to diminish the brave work of our law enforcement departments. I applaud their work!
  • It is however, important to conduct after action plans that create a better policy. We need to create a countywide strike-team to handle all school related violence and gun crime. Eliminate breakdowns in communication to stakeholders and the public during a domestic threat. We need the swift ability to address the threat anywhere the second it is established. Technology is the key to do surveillance off-site at all county schools at our county Public Safety Answering Points and Emergency Management Offices to monitor suspicious behavior with existing law enforcement agencies.  We need new legislative requirements to harden our schools when they are being planned and built with the appropriate technology and safety measures. This must be a funding priority at the state level. These initiatives can keep our schools safe without turning them into prisons. I would make this a legislative priority in the state senate.
  • We have underlining issues with mental health in our homes that we have failed to address them without scapegoating people in need. We can provide better case management at our health and human service agencies to address people’s emergent needs.
  • We need better safety training for school administration, teachers, students, and families. We must aid law enforcement to have reliable funding sources for training and operations. It is not just a necessity for our communities but also for the safety of our officers.
  • We must ensure our schools have trained mental health professionals to look for early warning signs of violence, depression, and anxiety. Professionals with the capability to work with families on life changing strategies with additional resources outside the school system. We can’t rely on training teachers alone. We know that many times the victims of gun violence are our teens who commit suicide. Better resources for at-risk students will save lives!

Violence in our neighborhoods stems from our failure to address the root causes like access to healthcare and failures in education, community, and family. We know poverty and economic stress is the largest cause of divorce. Divorce complicates problems for our kids. Poor economic and education opportunities are the fuel of crime and despair. Unaddressed health issues and a lack of prescription drugs causes additional underlying problems. The combination is troubling for our modern society. Yet, we do very little to address income inequality, college debt, access to healthcare/prescription drugs, and our other pressing societal issues such as our failed drug policies. We must focus on the street dealers of lethal drugs and end the focus on marijuana. We need criminal justice reform that focuses on rehabilitation and prevents a repeat cycle of incarceration and allows people to be productive citizens.

Let’s slow down. Our “fast food society” is a problem. We need to spend more quality time with our kids, family, and neighbors. This will re-establish the roots of our families and neighborhoods. When we spend more time on what matters, we can understand what is really going on at home and in our neighborhoods. Knowing the who, why, what, when and where, helps us formulate a plan of action and how to change the negative to a positive. It’s a game-changer!

Our failed leadership cannot continue. It makes the above root causes untouchable. We must return to representative government that serves the people and solves problems. Government many times is the problem must be re-energized by the people and not the powerful special interest that pollute it. We need leaders that don’t grandstand and scare people for political points and power-plays. Then and only then, will we see real change. Let’s end the failed policies of the past and promotion of anger and hate. Let’s extend our hand and come together to work on the problems. Our American future and our Commonwealth depend on it!

— Shawn Mauck is mayor of West York and a candidate for the state Senate, 28th District.