Our View: Safe and sorry is a balancing act




There has always been a fine line between reaction and over-reaction or even distinguishing between the two.


Nowhere in contemporary American society is this better illustrated than the subject of terrorism.


You don't have to be an old-timer to recognize this. For example, there was a time when you couldn't find a metal detector in an airport.



That changed dramatically after 9-11. To get on an airplane now means going through metal detectors, even being patted down sometimes. Shoes and belts and jewelry -- and anything else on your possession containing metal goes through screening, too.


By now, it has become so routine that we hardly seem to notice.


But are we really safer because we can't carry a five-ounce tube of toothpaste onto an airplane? Probably not, but better safe than sorry.


Today, our attention has turned, quite reasonably, to domestic terrorism, which in many ways is an even greater, more ubiquitous threat.


With mass shootings at concerts, movie theaters, festivals and just about anywhere people congregate, our reactions escalate as we desperately attempt to make our public spaces safer.


Nowhere is that concern more pronounced than in our schools. We will do anything -- short of gun legislation -- to protect our children. Active shooter drills, mandated by law, and conducted throughout the nation's schools are common, including the one held Tuesday at Starkville High School which exposed faculty and staff to an exercise featuring the firing of blank ammunition.


Twice in the last month an effort to promote safety as a response to terrorist acts has played out in the Lowndes County School District, where two students in separate incidents were charged under the state's new "Mississippi Terrorist Threats Law."


Under this law, anyone who makes a threat of violence is deemed to have made a terrorist threat and is charged with a felony that carries up to 10 years in state prison. More significantly, the law states that even if the person making the threat had neither the intent nor means of carrying out the act, he or she is still subject to these penalties.


In other words, the threat alone is a crime that can send you to prison for 10 years.


Is that a reasonable response? Or an overreaction?


Fair-minded people can disagree and will.


But at present, it appears to be another case of better safe than sorry.


We do believe that making threats against schools is not something we can't afford to take lightly: We have seen, in graphic detail, the result of that attitude.


We also believe that even idle threats can harm our students by making them feel less safe and can disrupt our educational process through lock-downs and evacuations. These are not harmless offenses and should not be regarded as such.


In the case of the two Caledonia students, both have been charged as juveniles under the terroristic threats law and will not face 10 years in prison.


Juvenile court, for good reason, has wide discretion in what punishment the students face if convicted, and because juvenile records are sealed, the public will never know the fate of these students.


But it seems obvious that no matter the outcome, these students will face serious consequences if convicted.


In the bullet-riddled age in which we live, that's understandable.


All of us, by now, should know that threats of violence are no longer going to be taken with a grain of salt, even if it means our reaction is an over-reaction.


We'll take safe over sorry every time.




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