Monday, June 18, 2018
Public safety

Sue Carlton: Armed schools and gun buybacks lose sight of long-term solutions

After the horror of what happened inside a Connecticut elementary school, we want to do something, anything, to feel like we can keep it from happening here.

So we're talking about gun buyback programs to get deadly weapons off the streets.

We're talking armed officers at our elementary schools come Monday.

You could argue both are well-intentioned if Band-Aid efforts to do something, anything, in the wake of the unthinkable.

But the danger comes in sidestepping what has to happen after 20 children and six educators were killed by a heavily-armed madman: Serious, meaningful change in our gun culture.

Monday morning, armed Hillsborough sheriff's deputies and Tampa police officers will be on hand when kids stream back into the county's 150 elementary schools after Christmas break.

This does not come cheap, as in $1.9 million in overtime for the Sheriff's Office alone, which is one reason (though not the only reason) some other local counties aren't currently planning on doing the same.

Way back when, my own public elementary school in Miami had a regular Officer Friendly on hand — a different face every year, but he was always called Officer Friendly — not there to keep bad guys out, but to make police familiar and accessible to kids.

Sadly, this is not that.

Officers will be present at least at the beginning and end of the school day as a show of security, a balm to shaken parents and a sign of what we've come to.

And even if I understand why, I hate that we think we need it.

This also plays into the National Rifle Association's stance after the mass shooting in Newtown and its attempt to deflect any possible blame for relentless and careless gun advocacy.

Arm our schools, the NRA said, because certainly what happened had nothing to do with, among other factors, the easy availability of guns. Never mind how the NRA has used its political clout to oppose gun limits even when sensible and to push gun rights even if dangerous.

Also in Hillsborough County, commissioners are expected to consider a yearly gun buyback program in which citizens can turn in guns typically in exchange for store gift cards or cash.

And if it means one less child finds a gun at home and pulls the trigger, one less gun falls into a gang member's hand, one less gun is tagged as evidence in a murder trial, one less stupid argument ends in death because a gun happened to be handy, okay.

A federal buyback effort? Let's go.

But here's the thing: Well-meant efforts to deal with what we saw in Connecticut can't substitute for fundamental long-term change. And in the aftermath of a national horror, there is talk of that, of moves that could significantly alter a gun culture gone wild.

They are changes, that, for the record, would not infringe on responsible gun owners' constitutional right to bear arms.

Because of what happened, we are now talking about a push to renew the assault weapons ban. We are talking about closing a gun show loophole that lets people buy guns without required background checks.

Because the only thing that will make what happened make any sense is real change for us and our guns.

Comments
St. Petersburg teen, 16, and unborn child killed in Pasco crash

St. Petersburg teen, 16, and unborn child killed in Pasco crash

A St. Petersburg teen, 16, and her unborn child were killed Sunday night in a crash in Pasco County, according to a release from the Florida Highway Patrol. Emily Pearson was killed on Little Road at 9:11 p.m. She was a passenger in a 1997 Ford Rang...
Updated: 4 hours ago
St. Petersburg teen, 16, and unborn child killed in Pasco crash

St. Petersburg teen, 16, and unborn child killed in Pasco crash

A St. Petersburg teen, 16, and her unborn child were killed Sunday night in a crash in Pasco County, according to a release from the Florida Highway Patrol. Emily Pearson was killed on Little Road at 9:11 p.m. She was a passenger in a 1997 Ford Range...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Tampa police seek driver who struck pedestrian and fled scene

Tampa police seek driver who struck pedestrian and fled scene

TAMPA — Police are seeking the public’s help in locating the driver who fatally struck a pedestrian before fleeing the scene on Sunday night.Police say the driver struck an unidentified woman near the intersection of N Nebraska Avenue and E Linebaugh...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Motorcyclist and pedestrian die in Pasco crash

Motorcyclist and pedestrian die in Pasco crash

NEW PORT RICHEY — A motorcyclist and pedestrian both died in a crash Saturday night near Palmetto Road and U.S. 19, police reported.About 10:30 p.m., a St. Petersburg man, 41, was riding a 2012 Honda motorcycle north on the highway, according to the ...
Published: 06/17/18
1 dead, 20 injured in New Jersey arts festival shooting

1 dead, 20 injured in New Jersey arts festival shooting

TRENTON, N.J — Shooting broke out at an all-night art festival in Trenton, New Jersey, early Sunday, sending people stampeding from the scene and leaving one suspect dead and 20 people injured, a local prosecutor said. Many of the 20 injured were tre...
Published: 06/17/18
Mazzaro’s Italian Market closed after Friday night warehouse fire

Mazzaro’s Italian Market closed after Friday night warehouse fire

ST. PETERSBURG — Mazzaro’s Italian Market will be closed throughout the weekend after a warehouse fire broke out Friday.A St. Petersburg Police officer noticed smoke coming from the market at 22nd Ave. N around midnight Friday, said St. Petersburg F...
Published: 06/16/18
A fentanyl death. A crackdown on opioid dealers. Will it help?

A fentanyl death. A crackdown on opioid dealers. Will it help?

TAMPA — Loueita Hargens had known for years how her son Bradley Dykes would die. She had seen him cycle through drugs of choice, had lost track of the number of times he’d wound up in the hospital or prison.A recovering alcoholic herself, she cut him...
Published: 06/16/18
Deputies: Body found in Pasco lake is New Port Richey man, 74

Deputies: Body found in Pasco lake is New Port Richey man, 74

Deputies identified a body found in Frierson Lakes in Hudson on Thursday as a 74-year-old New Port Richey man.Kress Luebke’s kayak was seen overturned in the water on Thursday night, according to the Pasco Sheriff’s Office.A resident living along Fri...
Published: 06/15/18
Updated: 06/17/18
St. Petersburg police make arrest 31 years after sexual assault

St. Petersburg police make arrest 31 years after sexual assault

ST. PETERSBURG — Police arrested a man Friday in connection with a 31-year-old sexual assault case and believe he’s connected to other unsolved cases from decades ago.Anthony Stokes, 56, faces a charge of armed sexual battery, according to St. Peters...
Published: 06/15/18
Records detail Wrigley heir’s $480,000 betrayal by trusted employees

Records detail Wrigley heir’s $480,000 betrayal by trusted employees

ODESSA — One day in the summer of 2014, Helen Rich spotted a Facebook post about an aging black Labrador in Kansas named Lady who badly needed a new home. The author and heir to the Wrigley gum fortune had recently lost her own Black lab. Rich decide...
Published: 06/15/18