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Experts speculate on why Utah has zero school-related shootings

By Andrew Adams | Posted - Jan 17th, 2014 @ 11:22am



SALT LAKE CITY — The Newtown school tragedy claimed 26 innocent lives and gave America a somber pause. Or did it?

There have been at least 30 more school-related shootings around the country since Dec. 2012. But here in Utah, there have been zero.

"I think we are lucky," said Bill Pedersen from the Utah Shooting Sports Council. "There's nothing to exempt a tragic event in a school to happen in Utah."

Pedersen believes the fact the state has so many gun-friendly laws and concealed weapons permit holders may actually be a deterrent to these types of rampages. The shooter doesn't know what he's up against.

"Odds are your neighbor, your person that you work with or your best friend, maybe, has a concealed weapons permit," he said.

It's that kind of logic that has Pedersen involved an effort to train and arm teachers. By law, concealed weapons permit holders can be armed inside Utah schools.

"What I would not like to see is a bunch of people overreacting, have a gun, not really know how to use it," said West Jordan Police Chief Doug Diamond.

Diamond regularly consults Jordan District schools and said the data simply is not there to say whether less or more gun control works to reduce school shootings.

"I don't know what causes that and I don't know if we ever really will be able to find out exactly what causes that," Diamond said.

What he is driving home is pre-planning. Schools across the state are doing school violence and lockdown drills with increasing regularity. He also sees value in threat analysis teams — where schools pair up teachers, counselors, doctors and cops to assess whether people are at risk.


What I would not like to see is a bunch of people overreacting, have a gun, not really know how to use it.

–West Jordan Police Chief Doug Diamond


"They're not cheap," he said. "They're a little controversial here and there with what they put out, but that may be something we could do for the school district."

At the State Office of Education, spokesman Mark Peterson is putting the risk into perspective. A 2010 report from the National Center for Education Statistics showed serious violent incidents occurred at a rate of 1.1 per every 1,000 students.

"Schools still are very safe environments," Peterson said.

The state requires a school violence drill at least once per year, but there is a new proposed rule to make these drills happen every other month.

As far as overall violence, the FBI does report a marked increase in mass shootings in this country. Since 2009, the number has tripled to 16 per year.

"The safer we are, the more aware we are, the better we can handle these situations and make sure we don't have major incidents here," Diamond said.

The state school board is looking at new rules that require schools to outline how outsiders can use their facilities after hours and who will supervise. The new rules would also require school emergency response plans to be updated every three years and every other monthly drill at a school must be something different than a fire drill.

The board is set to finalize the rules Feb. 7.

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