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December 19, 2012

Newtown massacre leads to security assessments nationwide

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

Dorn said that schools should more regularly drill for emergencies and that all adults in schools should be taught how to respond to a range of events, such as a "gunman at the school, a woman upset with a knife, someone yelling and screaming who appears mentally ill, a kid having an asthma attack. The more you practice a variety of crisis situations, the more you can appropriately match responses more quickly."

Mental health issues are a prevailing concern. Cornell, of U-Va., said that the majority of shootings are preceded by threats that someone knew about and that "threat assessments" help bring attention — and help — to serious cases.

Jon Vernick, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research in Baltimore, said some schools may need safety upgrades, but "placing the burden just on the schools is not fair."

Schools can only be as safe as their communities, Vernick said, adding that he believes a major part of community safety involves effective gun policies. "Sadly, our federal and state gun laws are very porous," he said, "and they don't do the things we need to do to keep guns out of the hands of high risk people."

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