UPDATE: Branstad pushes prevention, caution in wake of Connecticut school tragedy

2012-12-17T14:30:00Z 2013-02-04T21:26:20Z UPDATE: Branstad pushes prevention, caution in wake of Connecticut school tragedyBy ROD BOSHART, Lee-Gazette Des Moines Bureau Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier

DES MOINES --- 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 the 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.

“I think we have to very carefully look at all options in terms of dealing with these kinds of situations,” he said. “I know you have people with various viewpoints on the political spectrum that have different approaches —some that want to have more severe gun control, some that want to arm school teachers and administrations.”

Branstad noted that Connecticut has some of the nation’s toughest gun controls but that didn’t prevent the tragedy from happening.

“I think we need to be very careful and review all the options before we jump to a conclusion that makes the most sense,” he told reporters.

The governor noted that the state has embarked on a comprehensive revamp of the mental health service delivery system and he hopes to proposal anti-bullying measures to the 2013 legislative session that he hopes will address some of the root causes of violent behavior.

The governor also asked the media to show restraint in covering the school shooting to minimize the potential for copy-cat crimes.

Schouten said about 500 copies of the school safety planning guide have been distributed to school administrators, school nurses, emergency management coordinators, and first responders over the last few months. Electronic versions are available at the HSEMD website: www.homelandsecurity.iowa.gov or can be obtained from your local emergency management coordinator, he added.

Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, who has been named chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he expects his committee will solicit comments from law enforcement, education and mental health experts as it pertains to strengthening school safety measures and reducing the risks of gun violence in Iowa.

“There’s no question we’re going to be exploring responses to what happened in Newtown,” Hogg said Monday. “What we’re really interested in is finding proven strategies for reducing gun violence. I’m not interested in a big ideological debate.”

However, he did say he was interested in closing a “loophole” that allows gun sale shows at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. He also doubted the list of ideas would include authorizing schools to have trained shooters on premise to combat situations like last Friday when an armed gunman broke into the elementary school in Connecticut as some gun-rights advocated have argued.

“This idea that if we just arm everybody somehow that will end gun violence, I think that’s naïve,” Hogg said.

Copyright 2015 Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(6) Comments

  1. Muffet
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    Muffet - December 31, 2012 1:05 pm
    Please note, Fast and Furious as well as Benghazie have proved the government can't even keep track of THEIR OWN guns, so why would we hand over ours?
  2. Muffet
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    Muffet - December 31, 2012 1:03 pm
    Why do we let these hypocrites dictate our lives?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=jrJjlPH1dqo
    This is a knee-jerk reaction to 27 killed. Although tragic, see the genocide chart in the below link - 4th column over. How does 25-35 million sound? And this does include kids. This is what we are beginning to set ourselves up for.
    http://www.wnd.com/2012/12/the-nazi-roots-of-u-s-gun-control-laws/
    It’s been said ad nauseam, but guns don't kill people. People who don't know the value of life kill people. It wouldn't matter if a person had a gun or not; if they intend to kill, they'll do it - gun or no. This is what happens when you take God and His life teachings out of school. Instead of taking our guns and our 2nd Amendment rights away, try teaching kids the value of life. Go to the root.
  3. first amendment
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    first amendment - December 17, 2012 12:37 pm
    Yes, let's turn our schools into prisons and eliminate all things positive in the name of making the schools 100% active shooter proof. whitnationalist, have you ever thought that the problem isn't with the amount of security in the schools as it is with the attitudes of the people. Change the problem at the root. Change the morality of the country and provide help to those that have mental disabilities that change their morality. And by the way, there are immediate responses to this happening in schools today...in Iowa. Go spew somewhere else.
  4. whtnationalist
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    whtnationalist - December 17, 2012 12:08 pm
    "Branstad noted that Connecticut has some of the nation’s toughest gun controls but that didn’t prevent the tragedy from happening." Thank you very much! May I also point out that Chicago, New York, and Washington DC have very strict gun laws. That hasn't stopped people from illegally buying guns on the street. Even if all guns were banned you would be able to buy them from the same dealer selling meth, cocaine etc. Also not how Mexico has some of the strictest gun laws in the world, but their country is full of guns.
  5. whtnationalist
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    whtnationalist - December 17, 2012 12:05 pm
    Metal detectors are very common out east. They are simple devices operated by one person. Anytime you go to a courthouse you walk through one. So why don't our schools have those? It would catch armed students. Columbine would not have happened as the shooters would have set off alarms. Someone will claim there is no money.... if you have money for football then you have money to protect our children. Already ENP school has had a gun and knives brought to school. Do we have to wait for our children to die before their safety is taken seriously?
  6. whtnationalist
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    whtnationalist - December 17, 2012 11:54 am
    About time! At ENP middle and high school anyone can walk in and bypass the office. Business always have a lobby where visitors wait. The unlocked outside door leads to the lobby ONLY. The door from lobby into rest of building is locked. Why can't we have the same level of common sense safety for our schools? The Newtown shooter was able to get in by breaking a window... no security at all. Look at any modern home and you will see that the windows are up high on doors, so you can't break a window and let yourself in. Another approach is get some lexan from local home improvement store. Put over windows to prevent someone letting themselves in that way. Bullets just make small holes in it, hammers can't break it. There is money for these simple fixes, if necessary spend a little less on football and a little more on protecting our children.
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