A Salt Lake County prosecutor says guns in the school is not a new concept.
But having them show up in Utah schools is."That's disturbing," said Mike Christensen, speaking to a class full of participants in the annual Utah Substance Abuse Conference in the Marriott Hotel in Provo on Friday.
He said a senior was arrested the day after school started in September in the parking lot of Alta High School after carrying a loaded semi-automatic assault rifle in his car.
An incident in Syracuse last April involving a 14-year-old who held his classmates at gunpoint for a time under-scores the fact that guns in school is now a Utah problem as well as a national concern.
It's time to develop a response plan for every school, Christensen said.
"What do you see behind you on the screen when you see the coverage for a shooting like the one in Springfield, Oregon? Chaos. You see chaos."
To avoid the chaos, teachers and administrators need a definite course of action they know to follow.
The police and emergency crews need
a designated triage area and someone to deal with distraught parents and the media.
"If we're going to get control and get guns out of schools, we've got to have a coordinated plan of attack," Christensen said.
"It's not a matter of if but a matter of when," said a police officer in the audience.
Christensen said school violence and confiscation of weapons is occurring more frequently than most believe - and it's being hidden.
"School administrators believe the best schools report zero violence," he said. "The best ones are where the school administration is identifying every incident and reporting it so it can be dealt with appropriately."
No longer can administrators afford to simply release the weapon-bearing student to his or her parents.
"At Alta, we disarmed him and locked him up until we could get a psychological profile. We went to the home to search for weapons, graffiti, drugs. We found that his mother bought him the gun," he said.
"We alert the school."
Gradually, authorities are getting a profile that fits a teenage shooter or bomber, said Mike Miskinis, an instructor at Salt Lake Community College of a new class in preventing violence in the schools.
Those involved in violent behavior against their peers usually are afraid for themselves and almost always experience an upsetting emotional episode prior to an outbreak, Miskinis said. They often have had some exposure to Satanism, Dungeons & Dragons games or violent shows like Basketball Diaries, Mortal Kombat and Natural Born Killers.
Christensen said a common thread among those who've shot a teacher or a room full of classmates is they are surprised by the aftermath. "They say, `I didn't know it would hurt them,' " he recited.
Miskinis said parents and administrators ought to work together and include those who often know what's really going on at school like the custodians and the office secretary.
"We try to identify the FLK - the funny-looking kid," he said.