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Published: Sunday, 12/23/2012

TPS chief: More guns in schools no solution; urges more care for mental health

BY NOLAN ROSENKRANS
BLDE STAFF WRITER

Armed Toledo Police Department officers are already assigned to some Toledo Public Schools buildings, but more guns in schools is not the answer to increased safety, TPS Superintendent Jerome Pecko said.

Each high school has TPD officers assigned to the building, and officers are assigned to six elementary schools that most frequently have behavioral disturbances. Officers sometimes travel between other district schools when requested.

RELATED: NRA calls for armed officer at every school in the U.S.

The officers are uniformed and armed, but Mr. Pecko said the fact they have guns is not central to their duties there.

“If they left their weapons behind, that would not be a bother at all,” he said.

District officials estimate that, with about 50 facilities, it would cost about $2.25 million annually to post officers at every school, a cost Mr. Pecko called prohibitive to even consider. Mr. Pecko also rejected the notion that teachers should carry guns in school for protection.

“That would be, in my estimation, an insane way to approach a solution to the problem we have in our country,” he said.

Talk of armed guards at schools is the wrong direction for public discussion on school safety, Mr. Pecko said. Instead, he suggested work on improving mental health services.

He also supports the ban of certain military style weapons.

Although he rarely publicly discusses it, Mr. Pecko was an officer during the Vietnam War, serving in the country’s Central Highlands.

He lost one man under his command in combat, and another was gravely wounded.

The weapon Adam Lanza used to kill most of his 27 victims was a 223 Bushmaster XM-15 rifle and is a derivative of the type of rifle Mr. Pecko carried in Vietnam, he said. It’s a destructive weapon, one Mr. Pecko believes shouldn’t have left the battlefield.

“I don’t know how in heaven’s name we got to this point in society where we allow those sorts of things to be bought on the open market like that,” Mr. Pecko said.



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