To the editor:
The debate on how to avoid a recurrence of the tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School has been sullied by The Journal News’ abominable act of publishing the names and addresses of law-abiding citizens in Rockland and Westchester Counties that hold gun permits.
The publication of the information suggests that permit holders are a danger to the community. The Journal News has responded to the flurry of criticism following this publication that “people are concerned about who owns guns in their neighborhoods.”
Frankly, the only individuals with firearms that I am concerned about are the people that do NOT appear on the database.
Licensed permit holders are community residents that have passed rigorous police background checks. They have been trained in the proper and safe use, and storage, of firearms.
Many of them, myself included, are active in promoting safety and security in their communities. The reckless decision of this newspaper has only resulted endangering these law-abiding community residents by making them targets for would-be gun thieves. Additionally, it has added to the hysteria and anger left in the wake of the Newtown tragedy.
As such, The Journal News has failed the community that it claims to serve.
There are no easy answers to preventing another Sandy Hook. Society must deal with a number of things. Perhaps first and foremost, people must realize that sociopaths will use any means to achieve their ends. Had the firearms not been available, Adam Lanza could have easily concocted explosives made with household items. The Internet is replete with recipes for bombs made from products that may be found under the sink!
Secondly, society must realize that we are living in a very dangerous age. As a result of the deadly attacks on innocent people by sociopaths and deranged individuals (Lanza, James Holmes in Pennsylvania), as well as by terrorists (Beslan, Russia), we really need to develop a new operations paradigm for schools.
The new paradigm should include armed security personnel in schools and emergency drills that prepare students and staff for active shooter and make-shift bomb attacks.
Additionally, I believe that we need to have specially certified teachers and administrators embedded in each school that have passed rigorous psychological tests and training in crisis management, firearms use, and defensive tactics. These education professionals need to have access to firearms or other devices during an attack that will allow them to protect the children and themselves pending the arrival of police and SWAT members.
While the issue of teachers utilizing firearms in schools is a controversial one, there are precedents in place. The state of Utah and the Harold Independent School District in Texas allow teachers with permits to carry concealed arms. The Arizona Attorney General introduced a proposal this week that would allow a school principal or designated staff member to have access to a secured firearm on school grounds and to receive training on firearm use and emergency management.
American society must acknowledge that the world has changed significantly in the last 15 years. We must adapt our schools and policies to deal with the new realities if we are to protect our children and ourselves.
—Anne Putko, Piermont
Putko is a graduate of the Rockland County Citizen's Police Academy and a member of the FBI's InfraGard organization.