School gun proposal prompts recall drive

SANDPOINT — Opponents of the proposal to arm school staff have launched a recall effort against Lake Pend Oreille School District trustee Steve Youngdahl.

Spearheaded by Tom Bokowy, Jacinda Bokowy, Stephanie Aitken and Sandpoint City Council candidate Bill Aitken, their efforts produced the minimum number of signatures to launch a recall petition against Youngdahl. Supporters have just over 70 days remaining to collect the necessary 105 signatures to bring the issue to ballot. According to Tom and Jacinda Bokowy, they’ve accumulated more than a third of that requirement.

If enough signatures are collected, residents of district Zone 5 will vote on the recall in a special election.

The decision to move forward on the recall centers on data presented by Youngdahl in his initial policy proposal, Tom Bokowy said. That data states a mass shooting stopped by police produced 14.29 average deaths, while a mass shooting stopped by civilians produced an average 2.3 deaths.

The data source comes from a article by freelance writer and blogger Davi Barker, who also submits material to libertarian blog The Daily Anarchist. Barker based his data by collecting 32 media reports of mass shootings, determining whether they were halted by police or civilians and calculating the average number of deaths. Many of the civilian-halted instances did not involve concealed-carry guns.

The Bokowys and Aitkens feel Barker’s methodology for data collection is fundamentally flawed, and Youngdahl shouldn’t have presented it as legitimate data. Tom Bokowy said Youngdahl stood by the data in a meeting they held with him Tuesday, where they informed him they were considering a recall campaign.

“That means one of two things,” Tom Bokowy said. “Either he’s not critical enough of the data, or he knows the data is false and is still presenting it.”

Youngdahl, on the other hand, believes the data is still useful, saying it has been reviewed and confirmed by an unnamed Homeland Security associate. He also believes he’s been unrealistically characterized as being on a “lone crusade to arm staff,” and that the topic of guns in schools has been up for consideration since the Jan. 8 board meeting.

District minutes for the meeting confirm former trustee Vickie Pfeifer asked Superintendent Shawn Woodward to research a list of security options, including “armed guards at the schools or trained staff members carrying guns, not saying it was the way to go necessarily, but that the district owes it the community to talk about it.”

“Since the full board was in agreement on the issue, I worked with Superintendent Woodward to look into the potential (school) vulnerabilities,” Youngdahl said.

Youngdahl said the bulk of the proposal is based on a Texas policy, discovered by Woodward, from a school district in Texas. Youngdahl then added safety measures like the Intelligun system, which locks guns from firing until it reads an authorized user’s fingerprints. It’s a valid approach to consider when some district schools have a 20-minute law enforcement response time, he added.

Opponents, however, believe measures like the Intelligun might not help against a poorly-made staff decision or student circumvention.

In addition, they cite statistics from the FBI, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Census indicating the rate of violent deaths for youths outside the school is 40 times higher than inside school.

“The solution puts our children at more risk than the problem does,” Tom Bokowy said.

The upcoming board meeting, set for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Farmin Stidwell Elementary School, may change the course of the discussion, Youngdahl said. Although he wouldn’t go into detail, he believes new information at that meeting may address several concerns.

In the meantime, the Bokowys and the Aitkens believe they should have no trouble collecting the remaining signatures for the ballot within the required time limit. However, Youngdahl said if a recall occurs, he’s equally certain the public will understand he’s trying to create an open forum to debate and consider every school security option.

 “The district owes it to the community to talk about this, and I’m making sure we do just that,” he said.

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