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‘A lone wolf here in Utah’ » Delynn Elliott was in nursing school in 1979 when an armed man who broke through her daughter’s window forever formed her view on having guns in the home.
"I had taken my young daughter into bed with me," the Cottonwood Heights resident recalls. "It was Saturday night and I was watching ‘Saturday Night Live’ [before falling asleep]. I saw this creepy, naked guy through the blue light of the TV. He was reaching around my neck to strangle me when I woke up. He screamed and ran out, then I jumped up, locked the door and called police."
Are Salt Lake City schools prepared?
Utah Parents Against Gun Violence has distributed a survey to all 38 schools in the Salt Lake City District to gauge what gun-safety measures are currently in place. The group intends to publish the results on its website, recommend revisions, then conduct a statewide survey. A sample of the questions include:
» Has your school ever conducted an “active shooter” simulation?
» Are classroom doors at your school equipped with the ability to be locked from the inside by the teacher?
» Are teachers at your school encouraged or discouraged from having firearms at the school?
» Is there a police officer or other armed, uniformed official stationed at your school?
» Does your school train students to identify and report individuals exhibiting aberrant mental health behaviors?
Elliott, a Parents member, says she would have been too disoriented to use a gun in defense and worries to this day about accidently shooting her daughter.
"Anybody that comes into my home, an intruder with a gun, he has the advantage," she says.
"He knows what he wants to do. An intruder in a school ... this notion of arming teachers is so idiotic. They will shoot their way in. The reason I know this is I have been there. It’s just futile to have a gun in your house."
Elliott says she feels like "a lone wolf here in Utah" but insists the Second Amendment "has outlived its usefulness."
"Utah is shamefully, shamefully behind," the nurse says. "It’s an embarrassment to me to look at how loose our gun laws are."
Securing schools » Motivated by Aurora and Newtown, Parents wants to assess Utah schools’ safeguards against a potential shooter — and suggests upgrades. This month, the group sent a gun-safety survey to every K-12 school in the Salt Lake City District. Questions range from whether schools lock classroom doors or have armed guards to whether they conduct active shooter simulations or train students to identify aberrant mental health behaviors.
"We’re just totally unprepared," says Holmes, the teacher, who advocates better coordination in schools rather than arming teachers. "That would be a policeman’s worst nightmare."
Survey results will be posted on the Utah Parents Against Gun Violence website. A statewide survey could come next. "We don’t want Utah to be the next Columbine," Bellenger says. "Trolley Square was bad, but we don’t want to be known for that. All we can do is try to move the needle in our own backyard."
For her part, Walkingshaw sees a correlation between the nation’s spate of school shootings and laxer gun laws during the past 15 years.
"We need to look at the numbers," she says, "and our values."
For his part, Aposhian warns too much stock is placed on "gun violence," arguing criminal activity is much broader. Even so, he stops shy of dismissing the group all together.
"If this in fact enlarges the debate, and in the end helps provide a solution to the overall violence problem, then we’re all for it."
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