How safe are our schools?

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How safe are our schools?

A 20-year-old man stormed into an elementary school in a peaceful town in Connecticut in the United States and opened fire, killing 20 small children and six adults. The dead children at Sandy Hook Elementary School were all 6- or 7-year-old first-graders, and the adults who lost their lives were their teachers and school administrators. The adults reportedly threw themselves in the way of gunfire to protect their pupils. Stories about the victims were all too heartbreaking to hear because their vulnerability and innocence were brutally abused and their lives cut short in a school that should have been one of the safest places in their lives next to their homes.

We join the mourning for the victims, extend our deepest condolences to the families and wish quick recoveries for the people of the community who were seriously wounded - physically and psychologically - by the tragedy. The cruel scene of violence in an elementary school has frightened not only the American people, but parents around the world.

One thing we can never tolerate in a civil society is violence against children. The motive behind the shooting spree by Adam Lanza is not yet known. He left no note and he destroyed his computer hard disk before shooting his mother to death and leaving his home for the school. Whether he wanted personal attention or infamy isn’t known.

This tragedy should not be considered entirely foreign, although firearms are banned by law in Korea. Instead, we should take the horrendous incident as an opportunity to raise government and public awareness of gun control, the random killings that Korea has suffered by an increasing number of psychopaths, and overall school safety.

The National Police Agency received reports of 120,421 cases of illegal arms possession during a voluntary reporting period in May. In addition, guns and other weapons continue to be smuggled into the country. That means we, too, are not entirely safe from the dangers of firearms. Law enforcement authorities must come up with more sustainable and systematic measures against the unlawful trafficking, possession and distribution of guns.

Suicidal and run-amok criminals pose a serious danger to our society. A teenager recently walked into a private elementary school in a posh neighborhood in southern Seoul and stabbed students for no discernible reason. The society and community need to improve mental health care and counseling for suicidal and violent people.

What’s most urgent is an effort to further strengthen security in our schools. Law enforcement agencies and school authorities have beefed up guards and monitoring since a girl was kidnapped from an elementary school playground and raped in June 2010. But the measures still fall way short of guaranteeing the safety of our kids. Schools must strengthen security to protect students from any predators.

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