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Minister defends guns in schools

By CELESTE NIXON

Tribune Staff Reporter

cnixon@tribunemedia.net

GIVEN the crime rate, Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald said, there is nothing wrong with police officers carrying guns in schools – provided they have the proper authorisation.

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Jerome Fitzgerald

Responding to criticism of the government’s school policing programme by former Minister of Education Desmond Bannister, Mr Fitzgerald said whether or not police are armed while posted in schools is up to the Ministry of National Security and the police.

He said: “With regard to the issue of police being armed within the school gates or outside the school gates, I have made the point that I do not see the difference.

“Either the police are authorised by the Commissioner (of Police) and the minister of National Security to carry arms, or they are not.

“We at the Ministry of Education trust the police and their discretion off and on campus,” Mr Fitzgerald said at a press conference yesterday.

Over the weekend, the FNM hit out at the school policing programme, accusing the government of having “no clear understanding” about the details – including an “uncertainty” about whether officers on school grounds will be armed.

Mr Bannister called the programme a shortsighted PLP policy which marks students as potential criminals.

“The FNM is concerned that 200 police officers have been removed from regular policing duties and posted at schools around New Providence, Grand Bahamas and Abaco in a school policing programme,” he said, “the details of which neither the assistant commissioner of police in charge of the programme nor the Minister of Education appear to have a clear understanding of.”

Mr Bannister claimed that assistant commissioner Leon Bethel has publicly indicated in no uncertain terms that officers entering the schools would not be armed.

However, he noted that on a radio talk show, Mr Fitzgerald said police officers qualified and authorised to carry guns would be armed when they entered school campuses.

“We in the FNM agree that guns have no place on our school campuses,” he said.

Defending the programme, Mr Fitzgerald said the government was elected on promises made in the Charter for Governance, which included returning police to schools.

“I accept that the FNM and others are opposed to this, but we will not be deterred as we take proactive steps to ensure that our schools are safe for our students and teachers,” he said.

Mr Fitzgerald said the state of crime in the Bahamas makes it necessary for police to arm themselves to protect the general public.

“I personally find the argument that police should not carry arms on school campuses somewhat illogical and impractical when one understands the reality in our country,” he said. “I am not one to argue with a system that works, and one that is designed to create a safer environment for all.”

There is a no tolerance policy for violence on public school campuses, he said.

Comments

TalRussell 10 years ago

In our Queen's Liz's Britannia still their "Bobbies" do not generally carry guns and even those that do are specially trained.

Is the minister going to start reacting to school yard fights between 10 year-old children as criminals, to be met with bullets?

School fights are always going to remain as a way of solving conflicts, even under the watchful eye of an "armed" police officer. it's part of growing up.

How in the hell did we get to where we have a minister who has already placed armed government employees in our schools. Is this really the picture we want to paint in the young minds of what being and acting like a peace officer is all about?

Lord Jesus, help this minister to issue whistles over bullets.

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by TalRussell

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positiveinput 10 years ago

Whilst we just have the idea of students being in simple conflicts, think about outsiders attacking the students, teachers or administrators armed with a weapon (gun). Even in non-school conflicts, a police whom carries a weapon does not always put it to use, or did you think because a police carries a gun he/she automtically issues a traffic ticket at gun point. Half of these homes, its a norm for students to be in the presence of a licence shot gun, not to mention those whom parents or siblings pocess an illegal firearm. As times change the way we (humans) address different matters change and should be accepted. Look at a mechanic of today, would you be ok if he goes under your hood with points and condensors, cause thats the old fashion way, or because times have change, equipt with his code extracting computer. Come out of your prehistoric bubble and see the real world for what it is. Ever notice that down to the church needs to have bars and locks on the doors and windows or security in the parking lots.

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