School safety overreach | Jan. 11, editorial
Taking swift, appropriate action
The Times' characterization of our school security proposal as being "rushed" fails to appreciate the sense of urgency in the wake of the tragedy in Connecticut. Thankfully, local law enforcement shares our sense of urgency. They took swift, appropriate action. We should do the same.
Since the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy, our School Board has not had an opportunity to publicly discuss these matters. During winter break, we worked to design a comprehensive plan so we could have a full public discussion at the first opportunity: the Jan. 15 board meeting. Board members have been briefed, have asked questions and offered suggestions. As for the suggestion that the School Board not "rubber stamp" the proposal, I agree. This major initiative deserves serious discussion and debate.
For nearly two decades, school resource officers and deputies have been part of the fabric of our schools in Hillsborough County, including several elementary schools. In our recent proposal, we would have "officer friendly" crime prevention efforts in all our schools, and have trained professionals prepared to respond to a threat. If our proposal is approved we need time for prudent hiring of security officers followed by five weeks of training.
Lastly, I resent the Times insinuation that this proposal is politically motivated. There has been plenty of political posturing across the nation after this tragedy and others, but little or no action. Our response was to get to work and put together a comprehensive plan of action.
In Hillsborough County, we are not going to wait for Washington, Tallahassee or the Times to debate this issue for weeks, months, or years. It is our job to take action to ensure the safety of our students and staff.
MaryEllen Elia, Hillsborough County Schools superintendent, Tampa
School safety overreach | Jan. 11, editorial
Guns don't bring safety
It is unfortunate that MaryEllen Elia has capitulated to the demands of parents — understandable as a short-term but somewhat knee-jerk reaction — but also to the same far more cynical and self-serving demands of the NRA. More guns, one way or the other, will ultimately result in more gun violence and death.
With more visible guns and armed guards, the increasingly strong message we will be sending to our youngest children and to each other is that we no longer live in a society of peaceful and civil discourse, love or kindness, but in one that is ruled by guns, bureaucratic autocrats, unstable or disturbed individuals, violence and fear.
Stephen Breslow, Tampa
Lessons from New York
In August 2012, two New York City police officers shot one man armed with only a pistol. To the officers' credit, the bad guy didn't get off a shot. However, there were nine innocent bystanders wounded by the officers' fire. Trained armed guards should be the last thing we would want.
George Morrison, Spring Hill
Speak against violence
We gave our handgun to the police department in the summer of 1999, shortly after the Columbine tragedy. It was time to choose sides, and we chose against senseless violence. Where we went wrong is we turned in our gun quietly. It is past time to make some noise.
It is time to stop kidding ourselves. One million concealed weapon permits in Florida and most people couldn't get out their cellphone and dial 911 in an emergency, much less whip a gun out of their purse or pocket and hold off an attacker.
And for those of you with an arsenal at home, are you ready to vouch for the mental well-being of every person in the circle of your life? Because in tragedy after tragedy, unstable people are using legally acquired guns to kill. In every case, the families can't believe the violence originated in their home. Your guns are locked up, but how many people know where they are, know where you keep the key or the combination or are unstable enough to threaten the information out of you or a loved one?
So we'll be making noise — for universal background checks, national gun registration, an assault weapon ban, a ban on high-capacity magazines, and for better mental health screening and care. We know the arguments, and we have chosen sides. No fix is a cure-all. All steps will help.
Pepper and Ann Leavine, Temple Terrace
Affordable Care Act
Public input needed
All too often, our elected officials create policy based on statistics and information fed by special interest groups. What they need is to put faces on those numbers in order for them to fully understand the impact, positive or negative, of their decisions on their constituents.
Florida's legislative leaders have recently appointed members to House and Senate committees to closely examine the impact of the Affordable Care Act on Florida and make recommendations on implementation. As a father who has experienced difficulty getting and keeping affordable, comprehensive health coverage for my family, I am pleased to see our state government has launched a new ACA legislative website with consumer information as well as a chance to provide public input. It is at www.flsenate.gov/topics/ppaca.
I encourage every citizen to take the time to provide input to our legislators for these vitally important health care decisions that will deeply impact everyone in our state, regardless of income.
Gary Stein, Wesley Chapel
Deities out of place
I note that President Barack Obama's inaugural ceremony will begin with an invocation and end with a benediction. Just who is invoked and whose blessing is asked we are not told. Later there is to be an inaugural prayer service at the National Cathedral.
It strikes me as odd that a great country that by law is secular should create a deliberately religious atmosphere at an important ceremony like the beginning of a presidential term of office. Are these trappings designed to honor an invisible "God"? If so, which one? The Christian Heavenly Father? The Jehovah of Judaism? The Islamic Prophet? The various deities of smaller sects?
What about those who refuse belief in any of these? Are they to be ignored by the obsequious devotees of some amorphous deity?
Abagail Ann Martin, Brandon