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Marino advocates spending pandemic relief money to secure schools in wake of Texas shooting

Tom Marino speaks to the Williamsport Sun-Gazette editorial board. SUN-GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Former U.S. Attorney Tom Marino says an urgent need exists to use the state’s COVID-19 relief funds to make public and parochial schools more secure in the wake of the 19 children and two teachers killed in a Texas school shooting on Tuesday.

“This is heart-wrenching,” he said of the mass shooting by an 18-year-old who opened fire Tuesday at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

Immediately, security must be enhanced using the pandemic relief funds to curtail such acts of violence in the future, said Marino, who was Lycoming County’s district attorney from 1992 through 2002 and U.S. Middle District attorney from 2002 to 2008.

“We need to start to do our best to protect elementary school students and teachers, and then move on to middle school and high school buildings,” Marino said.

Pennsylvania was distributed $7 billion and used $5 billion, leaving $2 billion that could be used to start on the 500 elementary schools throughout the state, he said.

Many school districts in Lycoming County are assigned a school resource officer, a trained police officer certified and usually from a corresponding municipality or have a specific officer assigned to the district.

“We have to do more and we have about $2 billion in pandemic funds to start to do it,” Marino said.

Marino urged state legislators and Gov. Tom Wolf and his administration to get together to create a panel of experts that could examine efforts to curtail mass shootings at schools.

Efforts could include looking at additional teacher and staff training and policies regarding keeping buildings locked down and other securing measures.

Marino urged the state officials to use the pandemic funds to release programs to monitor school security and to increase communication between administration, law enforcement and parents.

“Parents, especially, must get more involved,” he said. “I think we need to look at what our priorities are,” he said. “Start with elementary, move onto middle and high schools.”

Gov. Tom Wolf responded to the Texas mass shooting and others.

Following the horrific mass shootings, including at Tops Friendly Markets in Buffalo, New York, Wolf Wednesday called for immediate action from the General Assembly and Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation to pass common sense legislation to prevent gun violence.

“I am horrified by these tragedies and I am angry that our lawmakers continue to fail to address gun violence,” Wolf said. “I strongly urge our General Assembly and Congress to enact common sense legislation that will help stem the tide of gun violence.

“How many more children must die before we actually take meaningful action? How many more mass shootings must we witness before we wake up to the reality that gun violence is a public health crisis that must be addressed? Wolf asked.

“People should feel safe going to school, the supermarket, their place of worship, the mall, the movies, and even outside in their community . . . yet, these tragedies keep happening,” Wolf said.

“Pennsylvania knows Texas’ pain . . . we lost five children in the 2006 mass shooting at a schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Lancaster County,” Wolf said.

Wolf said the following basic gun laws to be legislated:

Require reporting for lost and stolen guns within 72 hours.

Close loopholes and require background checks on all gun sales.

Require safe storage of firearms to keep guns out of the wrong hands to prevent accidental injury/death and suicides.

Create red flag laws to protect those who may be a danger to themselves or others.

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