The Kentucky Bar Association Annual Convention could not have come at a better time. His focus on the law as an impartial, impartial pursuit of fairness for all provided an oasis of sanity and humanity in the desert of American discontent.
Disasters threaten our nation, but none are more dangerous than denial, indifference, and irrationality.
As I arrived at the convention, an absurdity shot a hole in my soul, my sense of reason, and my lifelong understanding of what America stands for and what it must stand for if we are to continue to crown ourselves as world enlightening leaders. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has just encouraged the arming of teachers in response to school shootings. Bad enough, the new law only requires 24 hours of training. This was consistent with Trump’s push for a federal program to arm teachers and recent calls for teachers to be armed across the country.
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But by militarizing Miss Landers and turning Mr. Rogers into Rambo, the Buckeye governor delivered a bull’s eye to every teacher and student, shattering the rules of reason in the process. The quest to arm teachers stems from irrational, distorted thinking that falls prey to propaganda and pro-gun ideology, not from sound, level-headed analysis.
School security best practices include locking all doors first. But the Uvalde shooter entered the school and then the classroom through unlocked doors.
Second, teachers must feel free to teach, shape, and inspire their students. You should never be distracted by weapons or what to do with them when the rare event occurs. Most teachers will rightly avoid guns, and no amount of training can, will, or should, change that. Even then, unintended consequences will lead to more carnage, more stress and anxiety, and more vulnerability, not less. The mere idea of arming teachers destroys teachers’ peace of mind and thwarts their ability to focus on their heartfelt mission of educating and developing our children. Instead, it places these noble souls in a quasi-military war zone, both literally and figuratively.
Fortunately, Kentucky leaders are not trying to arm teachers. Instead, bipartisan legislation requires school districts to establish emergency plans and procedures, provide mental health services to students, set parameters for training school resource officers, and designate school safety officers. That year, Frankfurt also allowed school districts to set up their own police departments.
Kentucky’s focus on school safety protocols and mental health is well placed. Less important are the measures to increase SROs and create school police departments. First, SROs do not seem to have an impact on school crime.
A 2018 study titled “Kentucky High Schools with SROs and without” concluded that there was no statistically significant difference in the total number of criminal offenses when SROs were present. And the division of our counties’ unified police protection systems is particularly problematic. It will unnecessarily increase costs, scatter efforts, create confusion and conflict, and potentially lead to a balkanization of our “stand together” ethos. We need to see and treat our schools as the sacred places of learning that they really are and not as dens of crime.
The more guns, more places mentality distracts us from true solutions. A reasonable approach must:
- Address the root causes of school shootings (student failure and bullying) by making early childhood education accessible to all (but Republicans remain opposed to universal preschool) and catching failing students early to give them hope
- Ensuring compliance with national security protocols (e.g. locked doors)
- Pass federal gun control laws supporting up to 88% of Americans, including universal background checks (88% support); prevent the mentally ill from buying a gun (87%), establish a federal database (66%), ban high-capacity ammo magazines that hold more than 10 rounds (64%), and ban assault weapons (63%).
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This basic fact is so simple that a first grader could understand it: tighter gun laws lead to far less gun violence and mass shootings. Australia, the UK, Canada, Germany and Norway tightened their laws and saw their prices drop. Australia suffered mass shootings every year before imposing restrictions in 1996 and has only had one event since. The rate of fatal gun violence is 100 times higher in the US than in the UK
But despite the facts, despite the will of the people, and despite their professed devotion to children and public safety, Republicans oppose reform. For whatever reason – fear, pride, loss of perspective – guns remain their obsession and top priority, not our greater well-being.
Rather than surrender to the influence of fear and futility, we must place our faith in the power of truth, reason, and humanity, the qualities that make America “America.”
Appropriately, the KBA featured two Kentuckians famous for promoting these high values. First, Muhammad Ali, whose courageous stand for truth and justice led to his victory in the Supreme Court and equal justice around the world. Ali was famous for boldly speaking the truth to those in power. In it, he echoed another famous Louisvillian, Justice Louis D. Brandeis, who decades earlier said, “If we let the light of reason guide us, we must let our minds be bold,” and that the answer to bad speech is “more speech.” is , not enforced silence.”
So, in honor of the law and these two illustrious sons of the Commonwealth, may we release our inner Ali and champion truth, value reason, practice justice, and walk kindly.
We will pronounce as we must.
Richard Dawahare is an attorney specializing in children’s, elderly, family and veterans’ law.