- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The tragedy in Newtown raises other long-ignored, critical issues that need to be a key part of the national discussion about how we can stop these mass killings, or at least make them very rare.

Let’s start with school safety and making our learning centers far more secure. Former Education Secretary William Bennett says we need to consider placing security personnel in our schools or on the grounds during classroom hours.

“I’m not so sure … I wouldn’t want one person in a school armed, ready for this kind of thing,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “It has to be someone who is trained. It has to be someone who is responsible,” he said.

There were reports of school administrator meetings in localities across the country in the wake of last week’s shootings. No doubt, parents were bombarding their local schools, asking about existing security measures and how vulnerable they were to a similar copycat attack.

While we’re at it, let’s re-examine how easy it is to enter our elementary, middle and high schools. Are stronger lockdown measures needed? Can a gunman just shoot his way in with ease?

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, security has been reinforced in office buildings across our country. The U.S. Capitol has been fortified with the best security and obstacle technology money can buy. What about our kids? Somewhere in the $68 billion federal education budget, there should be enough money to help make our schools safer than they are now.

Perhaps the most pivotal issue that has been ignored in the ensuing discussion of the Newtown killings is mental illness and identifying people who need treatment before they become a danger to themselves or their community.

The common denominator throughout the massacres at Virginia Tech, Tucson, Sandy Hook and others is that they were carried out by sick people. In most cases, their illnesses were brought to the attention of medical and judicial authorities when it was too late.

There were clues and danger signals everywhere, but no one referred them to higher-ups. We need to re-examine the maddening medical privacy rules that cloak the lives of mentally troubled youths if we are to prevent the horrors of Newtown from happening again at a school near you.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and former chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.