In the wake of the Connecticut school shooting, Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin said he wants to train educational professionals in defense maneuvers to potentially avoid a deadly tragedy at home.
Gootkin talked about his plan Thursday during the annual Gallatin Beef Producers meeting at Headwaters Livestock in Three Forks.
“There probably isn’t one of you that doesn’t have a child or grandchildren in the schools,” he told the crowd.
Gootkin said he wants to train educators in defensive maneuvers, pepper spray use and handling a Taser.
The sheriff’s department has 48 sworn officers to cover the entire county and if a similar event happened in the area, it would be difficult to prevent, Gootkin said.
“By the time we get there, nine times out of ten, it’s going to be done,” he said.
In past shootings around the nation, Gootkin said the shooter generally commits suicide. That’s because when law enforcement arrives, the shooter begins to lose control of the situation.
In the county’s case, Gootkin said training school officials could provide the push needed to gain control. Otherwise, a potential shooter will have the upper hand.
“Until we get there, they have total control,” he said of a potential gunman.
The Associated Press reported that Sandy Hook Elementary Principal Dawn Hochsprung and the school psychologist died while lunging at the gunman in an attempt to overpower him.
In a local setting, Gootkin said, with the proper training, school officials might be able to subdue a shooter with a Taser or pepper spray in a similar ocurance.
“It takes that extra second,” he said. “We got to do something different. We need to shift the approach to them. Hopefully, it never happens.”
The sheriff is scheduled to talk to numerous school boards this month about his proposal, County School Superintendent Mary Ellen Fitzgerald said.
While Fitzgerald said Gootkin’s plan “makes a lot of sense” to her, she said she doesn’t have a formal opinion on the proposal.
“It’s a board decision,” she said of the plan. “It’s sad that our society has come to the point where we’re thinking about this.”
Gootkin said his office would not supply pepper spray or Tasers to local schools. He only wants to offer school boards the option to take part in the training.