Berkshire towns, school systems join guns debate

For some Berkshire towns, the response to the school shooting in Newtown, Connceticut is expanding from examining tougher security in school buildings to the wider issue of gun control. 

In North Adams, the school superintendent has already announced his intention to add security measures to the entrances of the city’s elementary schools. But school committee member John Hockridge is looking to expand the discussion to the political realm, urging his colleagues on the committee to advocate specific measures like a ban on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines. Hockridge says he was inspired by the NRA’s public call for armed guards in every school. 

“We need to speak up, we need to stand up for gun safety in our schools.”

His position paper has been taken up and adopted by the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, which distributed it to school systems across the commonwealth. Glen Koocher, the group’s executive director, says the move was his organization’s first-ever explicit advocacy of gun control measures.

 “Challenging issues refuse to leave, and this issue is one that is refusing to leave.”

Meanwhile, the Great Barrington select board was set to vote last week on a resolution calling for new gun control measures, but a robust showing from gun rights advocates at the meeting persuaded the board to delay the vote and hear more from opponents of stricter gun control, who say new regulations will just impact law-abiding gun owners, not the criminal element they are designed to affect. No new vote is yet scheduled.

The North Adams school committee is expected to vote on Hockridge’s position statement at its meeting tomorrow.