They say that bad things happen in threes.

We saw our share of that this week on the national news scene with reports of a gunman who killed five people at a city council meeting in Missouri; the deaths of three people at a Louisiana college; and a domestic dispute gone bad that made its way into a school in Ohio.

Tragic, and frightening, best describe those three events. Tragic because of the loss of life; frightening because all of these events took place in relatively small towns, much like ours.

It begs these questions: Could it happen here? How would we deal with it if it did?

Perhaps more important, though, is this question — how can we best work and plan to keep it from happening?

Let me be clear about this — I ask the questions, not to frighten, but to get some folks thinking about how to make sure we’ve done everything we can to prevent something like that in our town. Because the fact is, it would be very easy for a disturbed, or determined, individual to do the same.

Look around you at the next council or commissioners meeting you go to. How many police officers do you see? What kind of security is there? What would prevent someone from doing the same thing here, and what is “the plan” for dealing with it?

Fair enough questions, I think.

In December, I had reason to visit a local school campus to take a photo. Fairly routine thing for us to do, as is such a visit routine for the school folks as well. So far, so good.

I was able to walk through a “propped open” back door of this particular campus, completely unnoticed, then up the stairs and past a half-dozen (or more) classrooms before finding someone who wasn’t teaching a class to help me find the room I was looking for. The lady I spoke with was very nice and polite and directed me right to where I needed to be — all without question, all without any explanation as to who I was or why I was there.

Looking back, at the time it was no big deal to do so. This is our safe, friendly and comfortable town where nothing bad ever, ever happens to us. It’s something I’ve done dozens of times over the years.

Reading of the three incidents that happened elsewhere this week in towns very similar to ours, I recalled that most recent visit to the school and cringed.

“Should it have been that easy for me (or anyone) to be able to walk in like that?” was the question that went through my mind.

There may be those who would make the argument that the council chambers here is 50 feet from the Police Department, or the courthouse is across the street from the sheriff’s office, and the school district (and college) have their own police departments. You’re not going to find just a whole bunch of officers or deputies sitting in their offices waiting to be called. They are already stretched too thin to spare any time at all “off the streets” — they’re out answering calls one after the other — and based on what I hear on the police scanners in the newsroom, they stay pretty busy at it.

The point of this rambling is simple — it is time to review security procedures in place now at our schools and public gathering places.

And, we need to ask — and answer — the question “how can we make them safer?”


Bob Belcher is Managing Editor of the Daily Sun. His column appears on Wednesdays and Sundays. He may be reached by e-mail at

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