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Barbara Lombardo of Saratoga Springs, NY, is a journalism adjunct at University at Albany and retired executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Come to forum on keeping children safe from gun violence

Keep my child safe.

No instinct is more compelling than the need to protect one’s offspring — no matter how old they get.

It is difficult for me to accept that this is something I can no longer control, and never could, not really.

I’m a big believer, as John Gray has written in his weekly column, about telling people you love that you love them, giving them a hug whenever you can, and not taking them for granted. Terrible, irreversible things can happen in the unexpected blink of an eye.

Yet some things we take for granted, and we should. When we send a child off to school, we expect to see them at day’s end. We never dream that they might be murdered in the haven of their classroom. But the shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last month reminded us that nightmares can happen. And, as we’ve seen in Saratoga Springs this weekend, that horrible shooting has aroused tremendous emotions and a call to action among people who believe more gun control is needed. The topic is emotional and, unfortunately, can get downright nasty.

Honestly, I don’t know enough about guns, the laws and the proposals at hand to tell you what kind of new federal and state legislation would be needed. But I am reading up on it. And I intend to attend the forum on school safety being presented later this month by the League of Women Voters of Saratoga, Schenectady and Albany counties.

The forum titled “Keeping Our Children Safe from Gun Violence in Schools,” will be at 7 p.m. Jan. 24 at Ballston Spa High School.

Susan Arbetter will moderate the two-hour forum, which will include representation from the media, the mental health community and five statewide organizations: the Council of School Superintendents, New York State United Teachers, New York State PTA, the New York State Police, and the League of Women Voters.

Shortly after the Sandy Hook tragedy, the Saratoga league president thought there might be interest locally in a forum, and I jumped on the opportunity for The Saratogian to co-sponsor it through promotional advertising, to help spread the word.

The league has a position in favor of “reasonable gun control,” but the focus of the forum is broader. The issues go beyond gun control, including care for the mentally ill and strategies for protecting students and adults in our schools.

No one thing, no law, no protocol can guarantee our children’s safety in school or anywhere else. But progress can be made by addressing the concerns and considering the options in civil, thoughtful discourse that is being provided by the league with its forum.

After all, we all want the same thing: to keep our children safe.

This is intended as “a solution-based community forum.” Each panelist has been asked to respond to a particular facet of gun violence in schools, followed by a dialogue among all seven panelists. Written questions will then be taken from the audience for the remainder of the time.

The forum will be moderated by Susan Arbetter, capitol correspondent for WCNY in Syracuse.

The panelists and their topics are:

• Dr. James Kelleher of Four Winds Hospital, on what mental health issues must be addressed to stop school shootings.

• Dr. Oliver Robinson, Shenendehowa school superintendent and representative of the statewide Council of School Superintendents, on what support superintendents need to keep their schools safe.

• Karen Parlapiano of the state PTA, on how parents are mobilizing and how the community can help.

• Kathleen Donahue of NYSUT, on what teachers need to feel safe.

• Trooper K. McMahon, on what precautions schools are taking to protect students.

• Rosemary Armao of the University at Albany journalism faculty and an international investigative reporter, on whether reporting violence in the media contributes to the problem.

• Aimee Allaud of the statewide League of Women Voters, on what legislative action is needed to reduce gun violence in schools.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

All you need to do is drive by the high school any morning and see 30 to 40 teenagers smoking right in front of a police cruiser illegally. Smoking is a health and safety danger as well. If we cannot prevent that how can we think about preventing major issues.

January 20, 2013 at 2:44 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Think a portion of the forun should be spent on the deterioration of the family unit and the value system as well. Today's teenagers are not the teenagers of ten and twenty years ago. Their values do not reflect anywhere near the same as other generations. The parents set the tone, set the value system and respect of others and other people's properties and lives and quite honestly in several cases we find the failure to do this leads right to the deaths of innocent people including children Guns have been around for a long time yet in the 70s, 80s and 90s we did not se these events. That sends a subtle message.

January 21, 2013 at 10:24 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These are not isolated issues. A 13 year old just shot his parents and three brothers and sisters because his mother got him upset. The value system has deteriorated to such a degree that a part of the responsibility has to go to the parents. It will be hard to swallow but being familiar with the school system I have never seen so many students curse at teachers and counselors and than when the parents come in the defend the student. That never happened in my generation.

January 22, 2013 at 7:29 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope someone will ask at why Mayor Scott Johnson refuses to even join Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

He is the only city mayor in this four county region who is not a member. Makes you wonder why he seems so indifferent to so many things.

He names members of the City Center Authority to be confirmed by the City Council and is an ex-officio member himself but did not even show up when we went to the last meeting to plea for cancellation of the gun show.

We cannot even shame him into taking a symbolic stand by opposing "illegal" weapons as so many of his fellow mayors have.

So frustrating and sad. Why does he even want to be mayor if he even refuses to show up at such meetings.

January 23, 2013 at 11:13 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The previous commentary is ridiculous. The Mayor selects several people for several boards. That does not mean he has to attend meetings of those boards who are in constant communication with him. At this stage no one really know what guns are illegal. Why would someone join a group that is against something that isn't even viable yet. The NYS Council of Mayors has not taken a position. The basic fact is that as long as the Gun Show and its promoter remained within the parameters of the law why should the show be canceled. There are several gun shows going on every weeks across the country. Las Vegas in Senator Harry reid's state of nevada just had one. Not a peep from Harry. The Governor of New York recently approved a MAJOR Gun Show for Albany. Gun shows generate revenue. They do not kill people. The gun show in Saratoga Springs was well managed, legal and presented no problems other than a group of liberals using it as a political platform.

January 24, 2013 at 12:02 PM 

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