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Superintendent of Public Instruction says restricting access to guns is key to school safety in Wisconsin

The key to making schools safe from mass shootings is reducing access to guns, said Wisconsin State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jill Underly. She said efforts to increase security on campuses or limit access to schools cannot completely protect kids without also addressing gun control.

“Rather than say we need to do more to defend our schools, I think we need to protect our children by really examining and changing our access to guns,” Underly said.

Her comments came the day after the release of an assessment of the law enforcement response to the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in May. That shooting left 19 students and two teachers dead. The report was sharply critical of the delayed police response, but it also found that even if police had acted more quickly, many of the children could not have survived their injuries from the gunman’s AR-15-style rifle.

On July 18, Underly said mass shootings like the one in Uvalde are “just appalling and just beyond our imagination…but they’re becoming such a daily occurrence in the United States.”

She said the DPI and the Wisconsin Department of Justice are working separately on issues related to school safety. The DOJ has an office of school safety that focuses on things like threat reporting and critical incident response.

But she said that ongoing mass shootings are prompting her to speak out about gun access.

“We can do drills and we can do things — making sure our doors are locked — but nothing is ever 100 percent guaranteed it’s going to work,” Underly said. “Rather than say we need to do more to defend our schools, I think we need to protect our children by really examining and changing our access to guns.”

Underly was sharply critical of calls by some legislators around the county who have pushed for teachers to be armed: “I can’t believe this is still discussed as a solution,” she said.

“Sometimes you have to step back and admire the sheer stupidity of some of the solutions that our lawmakers offer, because what this does is really distracts from the issue, and it takes the focus away from the issue which is guns.”

After the Uvalde shooting, a spokesperson for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said he was open to the idea of arming teachers.

Deneen Smith

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