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More Guns = Safer Schools?

As Democratic delegates fight to keep firearms further from school property, Republican Bob Marshall (D-13) is pushing legislation to bring more guns in.

Marshall is the chief patron of HB 1557, which would require every school board in the state to designate one volunteer to carry a concealed weapon on school property. Training for selected volunteers would be provided by either the Virginia Center for School Safety or the NRA, of which he is a member.

Marshall cites the summer shooting in Aurora, Colo. as illustrating the need for greater protection on school property.

“There were seven movie theaters with Batman playing that night. Several were closer — the only theater in Aurora with a sign saying no concealed carry was the one he went into. [It was an] invitation to shoot people like sheep. You can’t tell me that wasn’t an inducement to him to do this,” he said.

With support from teachers, parents, school boards and principals, Marshall believes finding volunteers will be easy. “People want to do this,” he said.

This may be true — however, eighth grade teacher Cindy Burgett of Rachel Carson Middle School is not one of them. After asking her students how they felt about teachers and faculty carrying guns in school, she believes neither she nor her students would feel safer with concealed weapons in the building.

“They said, ‘what if the teacher gets mad or goes wacko?’” Burgett said. “They were very concerned the guns would get stolen.”

Reporting Lost or Stolen Weapons

A recent bill that sought to hold gun owners liable for crimes committed with improperly secured weapons was defeated on Friday in the state assembly.

Sen. David Marsden’s (D-37) SB 785 would have held gun owners liable for crimes committed with stolen weapons determined to be stored irresponsibly.

Opposition to the bill focused on the inability to define what constituted as adequately securing a firearm from theft.

“I thought it was a good measure because it didn’t deal with Second Amendment issues,” Marsden said. “It was all about personal responsibility for your guns.”

A portion of Marsden’s SB 786, which proposed a $250 fine for failure to report a lost or stolen firearm within 48 hours of its discovery, passed through the assembly. As the bill now stands, police must now report all information on stolen guns to the National Crime Information Center. The fine is no longer in place.

This bill is not without precedent — a handful of states currently possess legislation which penalize gun owners for failure to report a stolen weapon. New York and Rhode Island enforce fines up to $100 for failure to alert authorities within 24 hours, whereas Massachusetts and Ohio enforce fees from $750 to $1,000.

Delegate Kory Fights for Sleep

The sandman could become a more frequent visitor to students enrolled in Fairfax County Public Schools.

Del. Kaye Kory (D-38) is supporting legislation which could move the start time of secondary schools to 8 a.m.

"With more and more scientific evidence coming out each day in support of later start times, we are past the point of debate,” Kaye, a former Fairfax County school board member, wrote in a recent press release. “Now is the time for action."

For Phyllis Payne, a former high school teacher and Annandale mother of two, the time for action is long overdue. After watching neighborhood high school students wait in darkness for a scheduled 5:45 school bus, she joined Sandy Evans in co-founding Supporting Later for Excellence in Education Proposal (SLEEP). Begun in 2004, the community organization has been actively promoting later start times.

The initiative received a significant amount of student support, according to Payne. “At one point, there were three Facebook groups with thousands of students,” she said.

Based on results from Fairfax County’s Youth Surveys, 90 percent of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders reported sleeping less than the recommended 9 hours per night in 2011.

Although some regional high schools, including those in Loudoun County, adjusted to later start times, Fairfax County has been slow to make the move. Fairfax is one of only 14 out of 95 counties that start before 8 a.m.

Initially, concern over cost had many prepared to fight for the status quo; however, a recent study by Brookings Institute economists found the cost-benefit ratio in favor of later start times.