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Madison school shooting shaped -- and split -- community's views on guns in schools

Posted at 11:31 PM, Jul 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-14 05:05:02-04

MADISON TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- The "most horrifying moment" of Eva Adams' life, she said Friday evening, was the moment she heard gunshots in her school cafeteria on Feb. 29, 2016. That sound -- one she never expected -- brought with it the realization that she and her siblings might not leave Madison Junior/Senior High School alive.

Adams was in tears by the time she finished her plea for the Madison Local School board not to implement a plan that would allow district staffers to carry concealed weapons in the name of taking out a hypothetical future school shooter.

"Let's be clear that I am not crying because I am scared of you," she said. "I am crying because I am angry and fed up."

The board in April voted unanimously to implement a school safety training program operated by a pro-gun lobby group, but Ohio law requires it to also adopt a firearm authorization policy for the previous resolution to take effect.

Adams and other Madisonians, many of whom witnessed the February 2016 shooting or had a family member who did, passionately addressed the board Friday at a public forum meant to gather last-minute input, although the extent to which their opinions might affect a board decision remained unclear.

Four people were injured in the 2016 shooting; none died. The gunman, then-14-year-old Austin Hancock, will remain in juvenile detention until he turns 21.

In the meantime, Joseph Solomito said he believes teachers should be able to carry firearms in case another shooter decides to imitate his actions.

"My daughter called me (that day) and she was in a room whispering and crying," he said. "She said, ‘Dad, what's going on? We don't know what's going on.' … If that should ever happen again, I want my kids' teachers to have more than a baseball bat to protect them against someone with a gun."

The debate over arming staff as a safeguard in school shootings has circulated through the Tri-State and the country since Valentine's Day, when a former student opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people and injuring 17 more.

Proponents of the idea believe armed teachers would intimidate a potential shooter out of attacking their school and, if not, be able to end the attack by shooting the suspect. Opponents argue introducing more guns into a school setting creates a greater risk of an incident and would make students more afraid, not less, to come to school.

The plan in which district officials voted to participate in April is called the Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response -- FASTER -- program, which is a branch of the pro-gun lobbying organization Buckeye Firearms Association. The program consists of 26 hours of training in armed response, crisis management and emergency medical aid, and school staff members who carried concealed handguns would be required to re-certify every year.

For Ethel Guttenberg, who lost granddaughter Jaime Guttenberg in the Parkland shooting, no amount of recertification and training is enough to make the risk of bringing guns to school worthwhile.

"If there had been armed teachers (at Parkland), the chances are there would have been more killed," she said. "There is such a thing as crossfire."

READ: Jaime Guttenberg's aunt wrote an op-ed for us: 'Dear America: Your guns are killing our kids'

School board members will meet again Monday. They said Friday night they were not sure when they would reach a final decision.