Gun-toting teachers opposed

Gun-toting teachers opposed
Mount Desert Islander, Dec. 27, 2012

By Dick Broom

BAR HARBOR — Allowing teachers and principals to bring guns to school would be “a terrible idea,” says newly elected state Rep. Brian Hubbell, D-Bar Harbor.

A week after the fatal shooting of students and staff at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., Rep. Brian Duprey, R-Hampden, proposed legislation to allow people with concealed weapons permits, including teachers and school administrators, to carry firearms in schools. He said such a law would give school personnel a chance to protect themselves and their students in the event of an attack.

But Rep. Hubbell said Monday, “Everything I’ve read before and since the incident in Connecticut suggests that that wouldn’t be an effective solution. I have talked with a number of teachers [about school safety], and I’ve yet to hear anyone say ‘If only I had a gun, I’d feel better.’

“I think that having more guns in schools, especially in the hands of people who aren’t regularly trained in their use, seems to be courting the probability of unhappy incidents.”

As a member of the Bar Harbor school committee, Rep. Hubbell also serves on the Mount Desert Island High School board and the board of the MDI Regional School System. He is former chairman of that board. In the upcoming session of the Legislature, he will serve on the Joint Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs.

Rep. Hubbell said that it is understandable that people feel the need to take some sort of action in the wake of a tragedy such as the Connecticut school shootings.

“Because of that, I think we need to be especially measured in thinking about what the possible consequences [of various responses] would be and what would be an effective way to make sure that our kids are safe in schools,” he said.

While some people will want to allow guns in schools and others will want to enact stricter gun controls, Rep. Hubbell said he isn’t convinced that either approach would enhance school safety.

“A third approach is to see what we can do about mental health, whether that means locking up people who somebody determines had the possibility of being dangerous or whether the state needs to provide the resources so that people can get the help they need,” he said. “That is probably the best route that we as legislators can take, to make sure that there are rsources out there to take care of people who are disturbed and unhinged.”

The new Legislature will start work the second week of January. Rep. Hubbell said one of his colleagues has already drafted a bill titled “An Act to Review Maine’s Gun Laws.” He also expects a bill to be introduced to ban assault rifles and large capacity magazines.

Rep. Hubbell was elected in November to represent House District 35, which includes Bar Harbor, Southwest Harbor, Cranberry Isles, and part of Mount Desert.

What I learned this week…

Ethics at the boundaries of expanding science handled best by democracy and educated citizens

Yesterday afternoon, I had the privilege to attend a lecture at the Jackson Lab by their new CEO Edison Liu.

The program was sponsored by Acadia Senior College so, appropriately, Liu deftly presented in detail some of the technical wonder of current genetic research as well as the greater hope and excitement about pending frontiers in better understanding of human disease.

The practical applications of this research are, of course, vitally important.  But Liu also conveyed the marvel and beauty that underpins pure research, comparing moments of scientific insight to those of artistic revelation.

But, this is in fact life science,  revealing both our most fundamental individual flaws and potentially differentiating our prospects for repair, and so the consequences touch upon us as humans in many dimensions.

So I asked Dr. Liu, given the volumetric expansion of our knowledge about who we are and the resulting specific opportunities for tailored medical intervention, how he thought we’d best negotiate the new issues of ethics at these expanding boundaries. I added that I meant it not as a hostile question.

Dr. Liu answered that applied research should not push beyond the boundaries more rapidly than ethics allows.  But he has confidence that more knowledge leads to better understanding and that, in a democracy, educated citizens are capable of making good decisions.

Knowledge and empowerment.  It’s easy to like this guy.