Gov. Terry Branstad called Monday for more focus on safety measures and prevention in areas of mental health and bullying in the aftermath of last week’s mass shooting a Newtown, Conn., elementary school where 20 children and six adults were fatally shot.
The governor, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Mark Schouten, administrator of the Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division (HSEMD), also called on Iowa school districts to review their safety measures and to commit to more vigilance, but they conceded efforts at the Connecticut school did not ensure that a violent incident could not take place.
“The thoughts and prayers of all Iowans are with the families and friends of the innocent victims of this senseless tragedy,” Branstad said at the start of his weekly news conference. “While it is difficult to understand such an evil act, we do know our children and grandchildren remain our most precious gifts and ensuring their safety in our communities is absolutely critical.”
Schouten noted that his agency earlier this year put in place a new school safety guide to assist schools in making plans and establishing procedures to make their facilities, students and staff safer. He said the guide covers a variety of emergencies, including how to respond to an intruder with a gun who enters their school intending to do harm, but he also hoped that parents, teachers and others would contact their local school administrators regarding the safety measures they have in place in the wake of last week’s tragedy.
He also said his department has worked closely with the Iowa Central Community College’s Homeland Security Training Center to offer active shooter classes to law enforcement and other first responders for the past three years. The training center has taught some 41,000 first responders through their active shooter and other classes over the past nine years and is currently the recipient of an HSEMD grant to continue active shooter training for smaller law enforcement agencies, he added.
The Connecticut school shooting has prompted calls for stronger gun control laws and conversely for having trained shooters on site at schools to respond to such emergencies, but Branstad urged caution among policy makers regarding any quick decisions.
What do you think of Branstad’s comments? What new safety measures would you suggest for Iowa in the wake of the Connecticut tragedy?