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Questions remain on whether school resource officers can keep schools safe

Published: May. 26, 2022 at 12:53 PM CDT
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(CNN) - The investigation into how a gunman was able to enter a Texas elementary school is underway.

Officials initially said an armed school resource officer encountered the gunman at Robb Elementary. However, a Texas Department of Public Safety official said Thursday that there was no officer who confronted the shooter when he entered the school.

The nationwide push for armed guards in every school began with Columbine High in 1999. The murders at Sandy Hook Elementary 13 years later reignited the cause.

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” said Wayne Lapierre, CEO and executive vice president of the National Rifle Association.

Now up to an estimated 20,000 armed school resource officers are on duty, paid for by close to $1 billion from state and local governments hoping to stop violent attacks.

But the Justice Policy Institute’s Marc Schindler said there’s a problem.

“Listen, I’m a parent of high school kids. If there was evidence to show that school police officers would make their schools safer. I would be all for it,” he said. “But at the end of the day, there is literally no evidence to show that police in schools make schools safer.”

At Stoneman Douglas High in Florida, security cameras recorded an armed SRO standing outside the building where 17 people were shot and killed.

Scot Peterson faces charges for his inaction but said he just didn’t know where the gunman was.

“There is no way I would sit there and allow those kids to die with me being next to another building and sitting there. No way!” he said.

At Santa Fe High in Texas in 2018, armed SROs traded shots with a gunman and helped force him to surrender, but 10 people were killed.

At Red Lake High in Minnesota in 2005, an unarmed guard confronted a shooter only to be shot and killed himself. Nine died there.

In Texas, the attorney general said he wants more than just officers.

“We can potentially arm, and prepare, and train teachers and other administrators to respond quickly because the reality is we don’t have the resources to have law enforcement at every school,” Attorney General Ken Paxton said.

But the National Association of School Resource Officers said what’s needed is more mental health care for students, as well as more realistic expectations about how their officers can - and do - reduce violence.

“If you’ve got a person with a weapon bent on killing people, you’re probably going to lose some people on the front end -- I just hate to say that -- and our job becomes trying to contain that and stop further killing,” said Mo Canaday, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers.

Some defenders of armed officers in schools say they must be seen as just part of a much larger, coordinated effort to make a difference.

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