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Parker: School should be treated as target zones. It's time to secure them


At least they’re doing something, which is about the most one can say about Florida’s proposed gun bill.

But doing something and doing something effective are very different animals.

State legislators under pressure to “do something” following the murders of 14 students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, cobbled together a bill that likely wouldn’t do much good.

Though hearts are in the right place, minds are still limited by politics and hobbled by haste. Democrats want more; Republicans want less.

As passed by the state Senate Monday, the bill raises the age to buy a gun from 18 to 21. While this is a sensible move for myriad reasons and, indeed, might have made a difference in the Parkland case (the alleged shooter was 19 and bought his weapon legally), many similar killers have used guns they didn’t personally buy. Even so, the age change, as well as a three-day waiting period and a provision for greater resources for mental health, surely can’t hurt.

To predictable arguments that 18-year-olds in the military are permitted to carry serious artillery, we should never confuse the requirements of combat with the ordinary demands of civilian life. Under my dictatorship, we’d permanently reset the official age of adulthood to 21, which, by most conventional markers of adulthood, is generous in its assumptions. To the pertinent point, most school shooters are under age 20.

Florida’s state senators did not restrict the sale of assault-style weapons, despite the fact that 62 percent of Floridians polled say they would support such a ban.

Instead, the legislators endorsed perhaps the dumbest idea ever to tumble from a U.S. president’s lips. The Republican-majority Senate bill picked up the armed-teacher challenge and proposed arming certain teachers—including coaches, teachers who are current or former law enforcement officers, members of the military and teachers in a Junior Reserve Officer’s Training Corps program. Other classroom teachers would not be allowed to participate in this all-volunteer, school-days militia.

At least we’re no longer trying to imagine Miss Crabtree dropping her algebra textbook and reaching for the Glock in her Spanx waistband. In making his pitch, President Trump suggested that if someone like, say, retired four-star Gen. John Kelly were a teacher, parents might like for him to have a gun. Yes, and I’m thinking that when field generals start teaching math in Miami, I’ll put on my Mary Poppins dress, grab my flying umbrella and a basket of daisy cutters, and report for duty.

Any combat veteran will tell you that you don’t know how you’ll react to enemy fire until you do. Even the bravest sharpshooter may be no match for the overwhelming power of weaponized insanity. How likely is it that a coach, no matter how brave, would prevail over a 19-year-old “with issues” and a semiautomatic weapon?

You’ll find your answer in the armed deputy who decided not to enter the Parkland school.

The real concern, of course, is crossfire—the child straggler wandering the halls, the unintended consequences in a pop-up war. We’re not talking about a Hollywood SWAT team. We’re talking about a man or woman in direct combat, probably with an inferior weapon.

And God forbid a school employee should accidentally kill a child.

This possibility alone should be sufficient to dissuade legislators from engineering potentially worse scenarios. At best, it seems, we should limit any armed personnel to legitimate, third-party operators with extensive training and field experience. Let them bear the burdens of terror and the liability of error.

Andrew Pollock, whose precious daughter was shot nine times at Stoneman Douglas, has argued convincingly that lawmakers should focus first on securing the schools—and bicker about guns later. Rambo-ing the perimeter is only part of the fix. Whither the fob?

Here in Washington, everyone passes through some level of security in the course of a day. Such is life in a target zone. My apartment building has few exterior doors and none are accessible without a security fob.

To reach my office, I have to pass through three checkpoints using a personalized security badge. Most retailers now have a serious-looking security presence.

Given recent history, schools should be treated as target zones, too, and security starts at the door. Converting schools to secure institutions will be costly and time-consuming.

But, realistically, what choice do we have? If maximum security is good enough for Washington, surely it’s good enough for our children.

Guest Views: Time for Hollywood stars to put up or shut up

The most noteworthy event in the film industry in the past year was not a film, a performance or a box-office record. It was the raft of claims against one of the most powerful moguls in Hollywood, Harvey Weinstein, who was accused by dozens of actresses and other women of raping them, groping them, masturbating in front of them and other appalling behavior.

The scandal shattered the Weinstein Company, which had been among the most distinguished studios. Headed toward bankruptcy, it was purchased by an investor group composed—not coincidentally—mostly of females. It spurred other women to come forward to accuse other Hollywood men of sexual assault and harassment. It generated two movements, #MeToo and Time’s Up, aimed at combating such abuses, in the workplace and elsewhere.

The question now is: Will the glossy people wearing buttons and ribbons be up to the hard work of truly remaking the industry? Or is this a passing fad among people who are eager to claim enlightenment but will lose interest as soon as they’re asked to do something concrete?

After all, a lot of the support comes from actors, who are masters at pretending to be something they are not. Some now acknowledge they had some knowledge of Weinstein’s treatment of women but kept quiet. Skeptics are entitled to ask if many of the matinee idols are just preening for the cameras—and will lose interest when the lights go off.

Frances McDormand, accepting her Oscar for best actress, ended by saying, “I have two words to leave you with tonight, ladies and gentlemen: inclusion rider.” That term refers to contractual language requiring casts and other workers to meet certain representation goals, such as 50 percent women, 40 percent ethnic and racial minorities, and the like. Big name actors negotiating deals can insist on this sort of provision. If you want Meryl Streep to star in your next movie and she insists on an inclusion rider, rest assured, she can get it.

But will she or other coveted actors actually insist? Contract negotiations being what they are, getting an inclusion rider may mean accepting less money. It may mean alienating studio executives who don’t want to change. It may even mean losing a plum role to another, more compliant performer.

We’re glad to note the signs that many important people are willing to do more than just strike a flattering pose. Time’s Up has marshaled hundreds of actresses, agents, directors and other key players to fight the use of nondisclosure agreements in legal settlements, correct gender disparities in Hollywood and create a legal defense fund to help women in assorted sectors combat harassment.

A number of industry heavyweights, male and female, formed and funded a commission to “lead the entertainment industry toward alignment in achieving safer, fairer, more equitable and accountable workplaces—particularly for women and marginalized people.”

We hope these steps are sincere and sustained. As TV producer Shonda Rhimes said recently, “It’s very hard to speak righteously about the rest of anything if we haven’t cleaned our own house.” Hollywood’s house, which has always glittered on the outside, turns out to have a lot of grime inside. The industry people decrying it should go on speaking, but the real test is in the scrubbing.

—Chicago Tribune

Letters to the editor for Thursday, March 8

Planned march to show support for area kids

I am writing in response to the person whose Feb. 25 Sound Off entry called for “some person or group in Janesville to organize an event to demonstrate that even here in river city, the kids have support.” I want that person and others in the Janesville area to know that there is such a group.

Rock Valley Fellowship of Reconciliation is organizing a march in downtown Janesville at 1 p.m. on March 24. We will be gathering in Courthouse Park by the amphitheater. Our march will end at Congressman Paul Ryan’s office, where we will take a picture of the group which will be sent to the congressman’s office.

We hope the Sound Off caller will join us as well as others who want to raise their voices for common-sense gun control.



Vinehout stands out as best gubernatorial candidate

Now that we have many democratic candidates running for governor, it’s time to start thinking about our needs as citizens of Wisconsin. I have placed my confidence in state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma. She puts our needs first, not power, fame and money.

She is not ego driven.

Kathleen wants change in Wisconsin that benefits working folks and puts our needs up front when it comes to medical care, the environment, criminal justice, education, economy and jobs. Kathleen cares about women’s health, inequality and race relations, incarceration rates and wants to bring local control back to our cities and townships.

She’s upset about Wisconsin sand being carried away in boxcars and the pollution of our farmland and natural water resources being gutted.

She understands the needs of our farm communities and started her own career as a dairy farmer. She knows how hard current immigration policies have hurt our agricultural goals and the DACA folks.

She wants the Department of Natural Resources restored with an independent director who will bring back our scientists.

I have recently heard Kathleen described as “the lioness of the Wisconsin Senate!”

Do you know that she has been there since 2006 and that she writes her own alternative state budget every year? She knows our state budget upside down and backwards! She knows where our tax dollars are being spent, and she knows what priorities our state needs for us. For more information, please go to her comprehensive campaign website.



Trump’s behavior undermining Republicans

I wonder if President Trump is bipolar. He changes his mind from one day to the next. And on the things that really matter, he doesn’t even listen to his own party members who have been in political business longer than he has.

He’s growing Democrats out of Republicans. Hope you’re happy, Donald!



What about metal detectors to improve school security?

Apparently some people have forgotten about metal detectors as a way to keep metal things like guns or knives out of schools. That’s much better than more bullets flying around in there if you ask me. I bet the technology exists to integrate the metal detector to the door locks to keep the threat outside the building.

Once a potential threat is contained outside a building, Cadet Bone Spurs could be called in to handle things. He said he’d charge right in even if he wasn’t armed with any kind of weapon—so let him do it.

It looks like politicians who resist any kind of restrictions on firearms sales might be getting a commission on every sale from the NRA, which is pulling their strings. If the NRA is pulling somebody’s strings, it’s time to throw them out.