In Wyoming, DeVos gun remark more about safety than politics

FILE - This July 6, 2011, file photo shows a grizzly bear roaming near Beaver Lake in Yellowstone National Park, Wyo. Kids in remote schools in grizzly bear territory might need protection from the animals, so Donald Trump's choice to run the education department, Betsy DeVos, thinks it could be appropriate for teachers and administrators there to carry guns.(AP Photo/Jim Urquhart, File)

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — In grizzly country, comments by President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for education secretary that schools should have guns on campus to protect against the bears aren't a punch line.

Betsy DeVos' remark Tuesday to a Senate committee that state and local officials should decide whether guns might have a place at schools caused a big stir in some parts of the country after mass shootings have claimed scores of innocent young lives.

But in places such as Wyoming, the issue is more about safety than politics. Grizzlies attack hunters, tourists and others while they are deep in the backcountry and sometimes even on a quick hike near home. The bears have killed six people in the Yellowstone National Park area since 2010.

Grizzlies in growing numbers roam a wide area around a tiny elementary school in Wapiti, Wyoming, 30 miles east of the park, which has a tall fence to keep the carnivores off the playground.

"I would imagine that there is probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies," DeVos, a native of Michigan who has spent decades advocating for charter schools, told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Actually, there isn't a gun on the campus, because having one would violate federal law, said Ray Schulte, superintendent of the district west of Yellowstone National Park that includes the Wapiti K-5 school.

However, he is open to letting local school boards decide what's best for their students.

"It may not be the right decision for certain school districts," Schulte said Wednesday. "But when you're in rural areas and you're maybe 15 or 20 or 30 minutes away from anybody who could respond to an event, it does make sense that you might have somebody on staff who is armed and able to respond to an emergency."

That's hardly an unusual opinion in Wyoming, where elected officials at all levels are sympathetic to gun ownership. A bill introduced in the Legislature last week would allow guns on campus at Wyoming's community colleges and four-year public university.

The proposal and one to allow guns at government meetings have caused little commotion.

Nobody is clamoring for guns in K-12 schools — yet. In the meantime, the tall fences put up at Wapiti Elementary and another Yellowstone-area school, Valley Elementary, seem to be working.

"It makes sense, because there are bear in the neighborhood," Schulte said. "It's kind of a wild place."

Wild or not, shooting a grizzly is not an act to take lightly.

The bears remain a federally protected threatened species. Killing one except in a clear-cut case of self-defense — a scenario difficult to imagine at a school surrounded by a tall fence — is punishable by up to six months in prison and a $25,000 fine.

Also, only a well-placed shot from a powerful rifle or handgun would be likely to stop a grizzly, which in the Rocky Mountain region can reach 700 pounds and sprint up to 45 mph. Even in Wyoming, the average assistant principal or art teacher would need a good deal of practice to pull that off.

Still, some advocates are appalled that DeVos could suggest guns are OK on certain campuses.

"It's clear that Betsy DeVos barely understands the very real issue of school violence, or the risks of guns to our youngest and most vulnerable citizens, and American students deserve better," Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said in a press release.

___

Follow Mead Gruver at https://twitter.com/meadgruver

Must Read

Israel, the land of milk and honey _ and now...

Aug 11, 2017

Israel has been known as the land of milk and honey since Biblical times, but could it become the...

Palestinians, a large Jerusalem minority, feel...

Dec 14, 2017

Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital has stirred defiance and new fears of...

Mexicans seek loved ones, answers in deadly...

Dec 22, 2016

Relatives of workers at a Mexico fireworks market leveled by a chain-reaction explosion are...

Lorena Ochoa to play her LPGA Tour event in May

Mar 6, 2017

Lorena Ochoa is going to compete on the LPGA Tour for the first time in five years, but only for...

Boy recalls escape from Mexico City school _ and...

Sep 20, 2017

A 12-year-old boy Mexico City boy who escaped a collapsing school can't stop thinking about the...

People also read these

Man dies during horse race at Mexico girl's...

Dec 27, 2016

A man has been killed and another injured in a horse race during celebrations for a Mexico girl's...

Stopped at US border, Haitians find 'Mexican...

Sep 20, 2017

Thousands of Haitians have settled on Mexico's northwestern border after the U.S. abruptly closed...

Activists in Mexico protect, release sea turtle...

Dec 5, 2017

Watched by tourists, activists and a helpful guard dog named Lulu, a new generation of olive ridley...

Survivors of Mexico bus crash heading home, 2...

Dec 21, 2017

Injured survivors of a tour bus crash that killed 11 foreigners in southeastern Mexico are leaving...

5 Mexican states get highest US 'do not travel'...

Jan 11, 2018

Five states in Mexico now have the sternest "do not travel" advisories under a revamped U.S. State...

About Us

Walk To The Place offers travel news of popular destinations for travelers with the urge to explore these places.

Contact us: sales@walktotheplace.com

Subscribe Now!