EDITORIAL: Law that regulates armed school security seems like reasonable measure

York Dispatch
On Tuesday, July 2, Gov. Tom Wolf, seen here in a file photo, signed a bipartisan bill that clarifies the requirements for security personnel in Pennsylvania schools to carry firearms, despite pressure from gun control activists to veto the measure.

Sandy Hook. West Nickel Mines. Marjory Stoneman. Virginia Tech. Columbine.

The mere mention of those names can bring chills and tears to even the most hardened individuals.

They are just some of the seemingly endless number of school shootings on American soil in recent decades.

For just as long, there’s been a heated nationwide debate going on about how to stop more tragedies from happening at our institutions of learning.

The debate, of course, reaches into our own region. The West Nickel Mines shooting happened in next-door Lancaster County in 2006, claiming the lives of five children.

The Red Lion School District here in York County saw a junior high principal, Eugene Segro, killed by one of his students in 2003. The student then turned the gun on himself.

Naturally, for folks in this area, this debate has added meaning.

So, what can we do to end the violence?

There is no single answer.

A small step: Recently here in Pennsylvania, however, we may have taken one small step to help stem the tragic tide.

On July 2, Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bipartisan bill that clarifies the requirements for security personnel in Pennsylvania schools to carry firearms, despite pressure from gun control activists to veto the measure.

Wolf signs bill regulating armed school security over calls for veto

The Democratic governor said his administration worked closely with the Legislature to ensure that SB 621 would not allow teachers to be armed.

“This bill will make training requirements for armed security stricter, more comprehensive and based on modern practices for security, trauma and other essential skills and knowledge for security personnel," Wolf said in a statement.

State Sen. Mike Regan, R-Dillsburg, was the bill's primary sponsor.

Under the law, in order to carry a firearm, school security guards must complete rigorous training, be properly licensed and pass a state criminal background check.

Common-sense measure: Look, no one is thrilled about the need for armed personnel in our schools to protect our children.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in a world where tragedies occur on an all-too-regular basis.

So, we need to do what we can to protect our most valuable resource — our children.

Having armed security personnel, who are properly trained and carefully vetted, seems like a common-sense measure.

Some oppose the law: Opponents of the law, however, worry some school districts will use the law as a back door to arm teachers in the classroom.

That’s because SB 621 amended portions of Act 44, a 2018 school security law. One sentence in Act 44 defined a school security guard, in part, as someone who "is not engaged in programs with students at the school."

That phrase was removed in SB 621 — and this could potentially allow teachers, who are technically engaged in programs with students in school, to qualify as security guards and carry firearms, said Shira Goodman, executive director of CeaseFirePA, a gun control advocacy group.

The phrase was removed because lawmakers found there were some school entities that wanted their security personnel to be involved in safety and security programs with students, said Erin Marsicano, legislative director for Regan.

"It was a simple matter of … recognizing that school security guards are not necessarily just standing at the door," Marsicano said.

Reasonable explanation: That sounds like a reasonable explanation and we’ll take Marsicano at her word. Even Goodman said she realizes that Regan and the governor are not trying to find a roundabout way to arm teachers, but she worries some school districts will exploit the bill's language for that purpose.

Hopefully, that will not happen. Armed security personnel is one thing. Armed teachers is another matter entirely. We’ll be watching closely to make sure that doesn’t happen.

For now, however, the new law seems like a reasonable remedy for an unreasonable situation.