Home > Uncategorized > Another Week, Another School Shooting, Another Round of Thoughts and Prayers

Another Week, Another School Shooting, Another Round of Thoughts and Prayers

February 15, 2018

Yesterday a 19-year old dropout came to the school where we was kicked out a year ago for fighting and opened fire on innocent unarmed school children. Here’s the chilling and matter-of-fact reporting on the incident from AP reporters:

The shooter, who was equipped with a gas mask and smoke grenades, set off a fire alarm to draw students out of classrooms shortly before the day ended at one of the state’s largest schools, officials said.

Authorities offered no immediate details on the 19-year-old suspect or any possible motive, except to say that he had been kicked out of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which has about 3,000 students.

Students who knew the shooter, identified as Nikolas Cruz, described a volatile teenager whose strange behavior had caused others to end friendships with him, particularly after the fight that led to his expulsion.

Frantic parents rushed to the school tofind SWAT team members and ambulances surrounding the huge campus. Live television footage showed emergency workers who appeared to be treating the wounded on sidewalks.

As I noted in an earlier post on guns, during the 1970s, there were only two mass shootings at public schools, But this was an era when common sense prevailed in terms of weapons in school, an era when Ronald Reagan saw “no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons” and said that guns were a “ridiculous way to solve problems that have to be solved among people of good will.” It was an era when there was bi-partisan political support and NRA support for federal gun control. It was an era when the NRA was still focused on sportsmen, hunters and target shooters, and was not actively engaged in opposing gun control.

Politicians have changed their thinking since then… in part because the context has changed. The bi-partisan federal gun control act of 1968 which the NRA supported was passed in response to the Kennedy assassination. Ronald Reagan’s quotes supporting gun control came in 1967 when, as Governor of California, he signed the Mulford Act which forbid the public carrying of loaded firearms, a law he believed “would work no hardship on the honest citizen”. California’s Mulford Act was introduced in 1967 in response to the Black Panther Party’s decision to conduct armed patrols of Oakland neighborhoods.

So now we find ourselves in a world where anyone can acquire a gun of any kind and anyone can bring that gun into a school. We find ourselves in a world where school districts have responded by increasing their spending on surveillance equipment, on sophisticated door locks, and on the hiring of SROs to assist in monitoring schools. We find ourselves in a world where schools are expected to spend $1.1 billion on physical security in 2018. And… we find ourselves in a world where school shootings are on the increase: 297 school students were killed in 137 school shootings between 1980 and 2013 and 94 students killed in 200 school shooting incidents in the three year period following the Sandy Hook incident at the end of 2013.

What can be done, apart from offering “thoughts and prayers”? David Berliner, Regents’ Professor of Education Emeritus at Arizona State University, offered an idea in Diane Ravtich’s blog: a strike by teachers on May 1 if states fail to enact sane legislation on weapons in schools:

”It is way past time. Between now and May 1st teachers have to agree on the gun legislation they want. They can consult with Giffords and Kelly, and others who have suffered, such as the parents who have already lost children to this horrible characteristic of our culture. If by May 1st they have not received assurance that their legislation for sanity in gun ownership will be acted on soon, they need to walk out of our schools. It would be May Day, when workers should exert their strength.

“Our country’s legislators, and the voters who send them to make our laws, can then choose: Teachers and (most) parents for sane gun laws, or, the NRA that provides our legislators money to avoid making the laws that could reduce the carnage we see too frequently.

“Almost all of America’s 3 million teachers— nurturers and guardians of our youth– want sensible gun laws. They deserve that. But they have to be ready to exert the power they have by walking out of their schools if they do not get what they want. They have to exert the reputational power that 3 million of our most admired voters have. Neither the NRA nor their legislative puppets will be able stand up to that. My advice is to start meeting now, write model legislation, submit it to state and federal legislators, and if rebuffed, close down our schools until you get what you (and the rest of us) deserve.”

In New Hampshire we could start by passing a law that allows local school boards to enact policies that restrict weapons in schools. Incredibly, our State’s AG Office has ruled that schools cannot enact firearms bans, except for students and staff. And we could then repeal the first piece of legislation our newly elected Governor Chris Sununu signed into law was a bill that did away with licensing requirements for carrying a concealed handgun in New Hampshire. Thus a former student, a parent, or a spectator at a sporting event or school play could show up with an open or concealed weapon that could be acquired without any kind of screening. Or a disgruntled dropout could show up at school and open fire on his former classmates… or a teacher or administrator they hold a grudge against.

Mr. Berliner is right: it’s way past time to do something. As Diane Ravitch notes, “…teachers are now first responders, trained to protect their students if a shooter gets in the building. Some have given their lives for their students. Parents should join teachers. Enough is enough.”

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