Robert Bernat has been to a lot of meetings since January, and he has no plans to slow down soon.
The Highland Park resident, attorney and doctor has made presentations to the city council, the district 112 and 113 boards and the chief of police.
If this sounds like a lot of legwork, it's because Bernat's battle is an uphill one: he wants an armed guard in every school.
Want Highland Park news in your inbox? Subscribe to Patch's newsletter.
"I'm going to try to push the national dialogue," he said. "I have to sleep at night knowing that I did everything I could."
Though his goal is to put armed guards in every school nationwide, he hopes to start with Highland Park. He's asking the local school boards to set up committees to brainstorm ways to improve school safety, and he feels fairly certain that the discussion will lead them to the same conclusion he's drawn.
"I don't want to tell school districts what they need to do," Bernat said. "I'm hoping that, over time, people can see the inherent logic in this."
For Bernat, that logic boils down to another uphill battle, one he thinks is impossible: stopping these shootings from taking place altogether.
'It's going to happen again.'
On the night of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Bernat couldn't sleep. He and his wife sat in bed and cried over the news. Later that night, Bernat wrote his argument in favor of armed guards in schools, which was eventually printed in The Wall Street Journal.
"I felt I needed to do something," said Bernat, who begins the editorial stating that he is not an NRA member.
Bernat's argument is that, no matter what laws are passed to make guns more difficult to come by, it is impossible to prevent school shootings. There are too many guns floating around a country that has not done enough to support people grappling with serious mental problems, he says. Even if restrictions are placed on certain kinds of guns, Bernat argues, others that remain legal can still wreck havoc.
"Nobody's talking about banning handguns or shotguns," Bernat said. "Whatever comes out of Washington is not going to prevent another Sandy Hook from happening again."
During Sandy Hook, all the shooting that killed 26 people took place in 10 minutes, according to The Hartford Courant. Bernat believes that the speed with which these tragedies unfold is what makes an armed guard necessary is in each of district 112's dozen buildings.
"You can't rely on first responders," Bernat said. "Many times they arrive after the fact."
The only hope these potential victims have against another Sandy Hook, Bernat says, is to place someone in the school with a gun who can take the shooter out as soon as that person opens fire.
"It's the right thing to do," Bernat said.
Not many people who have heard his presentation seem to agree.
Can more guns prevent gun violence?
District 112 School Board President Bruce Hyman says the district has no plans to place an armed guard in its schools.
"It just opens up a Pandora's box," Hyman said.
The district, he said, frequently works with the city's police and fire departments to improve safety. Developments in the past few years include video cameras set up around each building, security badges and an agreement giving open access to both the police and fire departments.
"If you wanted to create the ultimate safe school… you would have to build walls around the playgrounds," Hyman said. "You'd have to create a prison, and nobody wants that."
City Councilman Paul Frank, who recently put a resolution to the city council urging state legislators to ban assault weapons, said that increasing the guns in our city is "contrary to our way of life."
"You can't have armed police at every street corner, you can't have armed police on every public place," he said.
City Councilman Tony Blumberg echoed Frank's sentiment.
"The idea that more guns can prevent gun violence has never been true," he said. "This is not the Wild West."
Blumberg also disagreed with Bernat's claim that an armed guard could make more of a difference than nearby police.
"The problem that everyone seems to miss with guns is that the damage they do is instantaneous and an armed guard will not prevent that," Blumberg said. "If someone is determined to get into a school with a weapon, having an armed guard there will do no good."
There is, however, one place Bernat does not need to focus his energies: Highland Park High School.
Police at District 113 schools
HPHS has had a police officer assigned to it since 2000, and District 113 recently announced another officer would soon be stationed at Deerfield High School as well.
"This isn't a knee jerk reaction to what happened," District 113 board member Bonnie Shlensky said. "We've always put security and safety in the forefront."
These officers are not there to stop school shootings so much as they are there to be a resource to students, according to Highland Park Deputy Police Chief George Pfutzenreuter. Their first priority is to spot problems before they escalate.
"They're in charge of investigating crimes that occur on school grounds," he said. "They report for duty here in the morning but they spend their whole day at the school."
Pulling all the stops
Although Bernat's idea has not got as much traction in District 112 as he might like, he doesn't seem discouraged.
"It is absolutely irrefutable logic that people have to sit down and think about this," Bernat said. "Don't let the decision be made by inaction."
Bernat says he has been meeting with politicians in Springfield and with people who "are quite connected" that will help him press forward with his cause. He is heading to Washington, D.C. on Wednesday for more meetings to keep pushing for armed guards in schools.
"I have pulled out all the stops," he said. "It just simply makes sense."