On June 8, 2022

Action needed now to protect Vermont schoolchildren

By Gregory M. Thayer

Editor’s note: Gregory M. Thayer is a candidate for lieutenant governor.

When we look at shootings, we need to stop blaming inanimate objects — the guns— for these tragedies. They are not the problem. Criminals or mentally ill people intent on murdering people will always succeed. Either they’ll acquire a firearm through illegal means, or they’ll use other methods—like homemade explosive devices or, as we’ve seen in the Waukesha massacre, their own cars—to kill and maim.

Clearly, this is a mental health problem.

Look at the racist in Buffalo, New York who traveled an hour to that specific market to slaughter black people. He had been in the hands of mental health professionals but got away. How? I would argue that what really failed here wasn’t gun laws but current New York state law.

Closer to home, in Fair Haven, a plot was unveiled by a young woman who alerted the police about the strange and alarming behavior of one of her friends who had made previous threats against Fair Haven Union High School, had recently purchased a shotgun, and had recently left a mental-health facility in Maine where he’d been treated for ADHD and depression.

Note that many of the modern pharmaceutical drugs used to treat these specific conditions carry warnings that people taking them may experience suicidal or homicidal thoughts. But no one is talking about this fact because it’s just so much more convenient to blame guns for everything.

In the spring of 2018, Gov. Phil Scott and the Vermont Legislature loaded up H.55, a gun bill, which passed the House and Senate overwhelmingly and did absolutely nothing to protect you or your family. These virtue-signaling, overzealous pieces of legislation will not stop anyone from getting a firearm if they want to kill people. The issue goes far deeper than gun restrictions, so we must dig deeper to solve this mess and be true leaders instead of flaunting our ideology or cuddling our favorite special-interest groups.

Many politicians, primarily Democrats led by President Biden, are calling for tougher gun controls and restrictions. But restrictions are not the answer. We must protect and preserve our right to own and carry arms laid out in our federal and state constitutions.

I’m just as sad and tired of these things happening to our children and innocent neighbors. I’m equally sad and tired of the killing of one million babies in the womb every year, and then tens of thousands of deaths due to the flood of dangerous drugs like fentanyl coming across our unsecured southern border. Let’s not forget about the gun violence in Chicago over the weekend that these Democrat politicians never speak about. Why?

All those senseless deaths could be stopped if leaders like the ones in Montpelier would stop politicizing the situation, start looking at the real causes, and start working together with Republicans in order to protect all of us.

Enough is enough! I am calling on our state leaders to take action today. Reconvene in the Statehouse and do the right things to protect our children.

Address the mental health problems in our communities and stop kicking the can down the road. If a student exhibits mental health issues and the parents won’t voluntarily submit their child to an independent evaluation, a second (and possibly third) licensed and trained therapist must evaluate the subject. This issue needs serious attention by serious people, and the current leadership isn’t doing the right thing. Change and adopt statutes to address these problems.

Take a good, hard look at the pharmaceutical drugs—especially ADHD drugs and antidepressants—that seem to play a big role in many school shootings and massacres.

Install manned metal detectors in every school in Vermont.

Install live surveillance cameras around every school across the state. New surveillance technology can detect firearms on a person or in a vehicle and lock down the school.

Place retired law enforcement officers and veterans in our schools as resource officers. We are now finding out that police officers stayed outside the Robb Elementary School in Texas for over 40 minutes, doing nothing to save the kids—in fact, aggressively preventing parents from entering the school and trying to save their kids. We need officers inside our schools to prevent this from happening again.

But there is no nuance in our Democrat leaders. Single-mindedly, all they want to do is blame and ban firearms. They will not listen to the truth.

During the 2021 legislative session, a group of Vermont senators, all Democrats, introduced bill S.63, which would “prohibit Vermont schools from contracting for the services of school resource officers (SRO).”

What is wrong with these people? They don’t care about me or you, or the welfare of our children. All they do is follow their ideological guidelines that have nothing to do with real life. Having a licensed and fully trained police officer in the school working with students is positive on many fronts.

Look at the fallout from the leftist agenda of “defunding” and removing police from our schools and cities. You don’t need to look far to see the problems at some Vermont schools—in Burlington, Champlain Valley, and Montpelier, to name a few—and in recent news reports about gun violence in Burlington.

Another huge problem at our schools is bullying. Here in Rutland, we sadly lost a wonderful eighth-grade student just three weeks ago; he killed himself because he was being bullied. Where was the school’s response system? Why aren’t students better protected? Granted, not every fight or argument between students is or should be considered bullying. But immediate adult intervention is needed to figure out the situation.

The Vermont state budget can be reworked to make our children’s safety a priority. We can find money in the budget’s social justice agenda for our schools. It’s time to protect our children with these simple safety measures listed above. Stop programs that are creating division among our children, scaring them and teaching them to hate each other. And please, no study committees either—we need action now!

As your next lieutenant governor, I will fight for these common-sense approaches to protecting our children and the general public. I pledge that I will never support taking your constitutional rights.

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