‘It’s unimaginable’: WA Superintendent asks people to reconsider gun possession, talks school safety

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Top Washington school leader Chris Reykdal has a plea for gun owners following the Uvalde elementary school shooting: reconsider owning a gun, and if you do have one, to make sure it’s locked away from kids.

“There’s something gut-wrenching and different about little children who fall victim to a terrorist like this. Our hearts are with them. We share it. We’ve had our own really serious shootings in our state. Nobody’s immune from it, and I think that’s what makes it tough is the uncertainty of it,” he said.

Reykdal says he wants to focus on what people can do now, rather than wait on laws to pass and look at the politics that is heavily being talked about after the tragic day.

“While everyone else is going to debate the politics of gun regulation, what can you do? Ask yourself very clearly, ‘Do I need a firearm in my home, accessible to young people?’ And, ‘if I do really believe I need a firearm, how can I secure it more effectively so there’s no risk that my child is going to accidentally kill themselves or another, or take their own life with it?'” he continued. “That’s the ownership we can all do right now. It doesn’t need any more laws to ask that hard question.”

Reykdal believes reasonable and legal gun owners – for the most part – are responsible. But, he worries about the risks in carrying a firearm in a home, thinking about the possibilities of people breaking in to steal it or somehow get in the hands of the wrong person.

“Everyone’s going to rage politically on one side or another, and I don’t want to invalidate that. Everyone’s got healthy perspectives here,” he continued. “I’m an educator. So, in my education lens to them – please, go research the data. By the way, Facebook and Twitter are not research centers. Those are opinion centers.”

READ: How Washington and Idaho gun laws compare to Texas’

Some people on the other end of the argument say teachers should be the ones armed to help protect students. Reykdal does not believe that will help solve the problem and avoid tragedies like Uvalde, Texas.

Reykdal points to both the Robb Elementary School shooting and the Buffalo shooting, where it still took a while, and took lives, when armed people approached the shooters. He believes arming teachers could cause more issues.

“There’s no way you’re going to ask a fourth-grade teacher to suddenly respond and take down an active shooter, with any reasonable expectation that’s going to happen,” he said. “What will happen, though, is those guns will sit in schools and get used and abused, and unfortunately stolen in exponential ways compared to the probability of stopping an active shooter.”

Over the years, more and more preventative measures are being implemented in schools in response to school shootings. He said staff are more trained in crisis situations and more resources are given to schools for safety mitigations. This includes schools having fewer entry points, and some have vestibules where people need to be buzzed in.

Schools also now provide many more mental health resources for students in need.

“Really, the big enhancement in the last couple of years is a threat assessment. There’s an intentional practice of identifying students whose mental and behavioral health are deteriorating in such a way that we create an intervention team around them,” he said.

He says schools have the choice to do what they need for their own region, but districts do have to follow drills that are required by the state. Reykdal says schools are safe and believes these shootings are rare, though, still heart-wrenching when they happen.

“It’s unimaginable. I think we just never, ever believe that schools would be the place we’d worry about this,” he said.

READ: Elected leaders react to school shooting in Uvalde, Texas