Sandpoint, Idaho, joins a growing chorus of communities that are willing to argue that their children deserve to be protected by something more than empty rhetoric:

About three dozen parents, teachers, students and others weighed in on the board chairman’s idea to beef up school security by giving certain staff members access to guns. A little over half said they were in favor of that, or at least serious study of the idea.

“Gun-free zones are a target for criminals. It’s a red flag … that there will be no return fire,” Maureen Paterson told the Lake Pend Oreille School Board.

School violence is not an abstract notion, George Wentz said. “This threat is here. We can’t just put our heads in the sand and pretend it’s not here at all,” he said. “Guns do exist. The problem is the wrong people have them.”

Others told the school trustees they are not comfortable using guns as another layer of school safety.

“Our fears are in the wrong spot here,” said Wayne Wasserburger, who suggested the district could do more to protect students by teaching them safe driving.

Karl Dye, a parent and gun owner, said he’s discouraged to know Sandpoint has become associated with guns in schools as a result of widespread news coverage of the topic.

“This isn’t what our community is about,” Dye said. “We can’t protect our kids, we can’t protect ourselves, from every threat that’s out there.”

School Board Chairman Steve Youngdahl launched the discussion two weeks ago when he outlined his proposal to place guns in secure locations inside district schools and train select teachers, administrators and other employees to use them in case of a school shooting.

These sort of precautions seem to be similar to those being incorporated in some other school districts, while yet other districts are going with a more traditional concealed carry route.

Either is a much better alternative to stopping an active shooter on campus than a duck and cover drill, “bulletproof” whiteboards, or a thin metal sign printed with the empty words, “gun free zone.”