17:10 GMT07 April 2020
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    Though the problem of school shootings in the US remains urgent, under current Idaho legislation, anyone can threaten to attack a school – and face few formal consequences. A newly introduced state bill aims to change that.

    Idaho Republican State Representative Bill Goesling has introduced legislation that will allow state police to arrest without a warrant any person who makes threats against a school, the Idaho Press reports.

    Under the current laws, the police can only issue a citation and summon the perpetrator to court — and then let them go. This was the case for Michael Mastro Jr., 26, of Moscow, Idaho, who threatened to "shoot up" a local school in March 2018.

    "That's because they couldn't do anything else," the website writes.

    If Mastro had made his threats just a week earlier, the police would not have been able even to force him to appear in court, the report says. The earlier version of the law only criminalized threats made on school grounds, while Mastro made his in a livestream. The police had no evidence the man was in possession of weapons or planned to carry out his threats.

    Locals were enraged by police inaction at the time. Some 400 students didn't attend school over fears of an impending shooting, because Mastro's threats were not specific to a single school, Idaho Press writes. Feeling the need to do something, a group of Idahoans promised to take the matter into their own hands

    "There were people who were threatening they knew where this guy was, and they were going to go take care of him," Capt. Tyson Berrett of the Moscow Police Department recalled in a Tuesday phone interview with the Idaho Press.

    But, Berrett said, the police had few options when it came to dealing with Mastro.

    "In hindsight we could've probably gone back and asked for a warrant from a judge," Berrett said. "But to be honest with you, I don't know that we would've gotten one."

    With Goesling's new bill, the police will not need a warrant to arrest someone who makes threats against a school. There is already a list of crimes in Idaho that allow for warrantless arrests, even if the police officer did not witness the crime but simply had evidence of it. The bill would add threatening schools with weapons to that list.

    Goesling himself says the bill will not only protect schools from assailants, but will protect would-be assailants from vigilantes as well. Under the proposed legislation, individuals who threaten schools will have to appear in court within days of their arrest, instead of weeks as per citation requirements. The judge could then impose conditions upon their release as safety precautions, the Idaho Press writes.

    According to Goesling, the law would increase school safety without erecting additional physical security measures.

    "We've got to be able to support [schools] without making them prisons in and of themselves," Goesling said.

    The bill is supported by both police and local residents, the report says.

    The idea of arming teachers gained attention after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, and was revived in the wake of the 14 February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.


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