While some of the discussion has been less than civil at times, one thing that cannot be denied about the aftermath of the horrific school shooting in Florida is that we're having a robust conversation about gun violence and school safety in our country.
The unanswered question is whether all of this dialogue can lead to meaningful and effective change that helps prevent mass killings in the future.
We view some proposed reforms as especially needed, such as a federal ban on semi-automatic assault weapons that are designed to kill large numbers of people as quickly as possible. But we also urge people to avoid the trap of arguing for or against a specific suggestion as being the sole solution. The reality is that there's not one change that will fix this problem.
One such example is the idea brought forth last week by the New York State Sheriffs' Association for the state government to provide funding for an armed school resource officer in every school building. It's not a perfect solution (a single officer can't be at all access points of a school building or property), but it sure could help.
The New York State Sheriffs' Association has a proposal aimed at boosting security in schools.
Several school districts in the Cayuga County area have had SROs in their buildings, and their value in providing a safe environment has been demonstrated. There's the obvious benefit of having a trained law enforcement professional on site should an emergency happen. But there's also the relationships that these officers build with staff and students that help them spot potential conflicts and deal with them proactively in conjunction with school officials.
The biggest obstacle to having an SRO in every building, though, has been funding. School district budgets are faced with two major constraints: the state-imposed property tax cap and the state-mandated expenditures that are out of local board of education control.
As a result, we've seen SRO programs locally shrink or go away. In some districts, they've never even existed.
New York state, with its $153 billion budget, can surely find some funds to shift into a program that would ensure students in every district, regardless of its financial condition, have the protection that would come from an SRO on school grounds each day.
We urge our state lawmakers to take this proposal seriously, and aim to get it into budget negotiations that will be taking place in the next few weeks.
The Citizen Editorial Board includes publisher Rob Forcey, managing editor Mike Dowd and executive editor Jeremy Boyer.