How Should the 2014 Legislature Respond To Arapahoe?

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(credit: Peter Pereira)

(credit: Peter Pereira)

Dominic Dezzutti By Dominic Dezzutti
CBSDenver.com Blogger
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As the Colorado community reels once again from a school shooting, we must take stock of the situation after the latest incident.

First and foremost, the young woman who is battling for her life in a Littleton Hospital and is in the thoughts and prayers of people around the state and the country is the very first thing we should be thinking about. Claire Davis was an innocent victim of an evil act and her courage and fight should give us the inspiration to do whatever our community can do to prevent anyone else from facing the same situation.

Some of the people that are in the right place to make a difference the fastest are our elected leaders in the Colorado legislature.

In 2013, the legislature reacted to both the Aurora Movie Theater shooting and the tragedy at Newtown by concentrating on gun control laws.

Many can argue that the efforts of the 2013 legislature went too far, and some may also argue that by concentrating on gun issues created a hyper partisan atmosphere that tainted all other efforts throughout the year.

The incident at Arapahoe High School however offers an opportunity to not only address the problem of school violence, but also sponsor an idea that should inspire bipartisan cooperation.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

While Claire Davis’ current battle proves that no solution can prevent all tragic possibilities, it is clear that the quick decision of the Student Resource Officer and the deputy on duty at Arapahoe High School prevented more violence last week.

The presence and training of SRO’s in schools are our community’s best defense against school violence without creating prison-like structures with metal detectors and single entrances.

I believe that one of the very first pieces of legislation to come out of the 2014 session should be a bill asking voters to fund one SRO for every 500 students in every public school in Colorado.

That effort will not be cheap, but as a taxpayer, I want to increase the availability and effectiveness of the one resource that has proven time and again to be one of the keys to limiting the carnage that an armed assailant can carry out.

Chasing down other weapons issues are tantalizing red herrings. If every shotgun in Colorado was in a locked gun safe, the person who went to Arapahoe High School last week to kill people still could have carried out a plan of violence.

What stopped the tragic events of last Friday from becoming even more tragic is the fact that trained professionals acted immediately and were available to intervene quickly. We need to be sure that every school in Colorado has enough SRO’s to be able to provide this kind of security at any time on any day. That is a key reason why we need to be sure big schools like Arapahoe have as many SRO’s as they need.

While this may seem like an easy idea, it could become a partisan battle very quickly. The question of arming SRO’s would quickly place parties against each other. However, that can be solved by simply handing over that decision to each school district or county. If El Paso County wants armed SRO’s in its schools, that should be its decision and Boulder County should have the same autonomy to decide otherwise.

While violence in schools continues to be a problem that nags at the very soul of Colorado, there is something that has proven to minimize the potential scope of a tragedy. Action can be taken immediately and that action could bring political parties together to actually do something about what we all want to stop.

I am not naïve enough to think that this one move will prevent future school violence. And I am not so myopic to think that this is the only thing that should be done. But if we have something that has shown to help, we owe it to the students attending Colorado’s schools to magnify that solution.

It will be tempting to overreact or even underreact to what happened at Arapahoe High School last week. Our elected leaders owe it to the Colorado community to find that difficult middle road to work together and find something that can help prevent further tragedy in the future.

Dominic Dezzutti’s Latest Blog Entries

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here usually every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti is also the host and producer of the Emmy award winning Colorado Inside Out on Colorado Public Television.

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