As we close our eight-week series about school shooting in the United States, it is important to recall some of the facts shared from the first post. More than 193 primary and secondary schools, that is more 187,000 students, have seen and experienced gun violence at school since 1999 (Washington Post). Because of this reality, the culture of schools has changed. Before recent years, schools primarily had drills for fires or for weather emergencies. However, it is now a part of school normality for students to experience lock-down and active shooter drills to prepare them for the likelihood of it happening. It is apparent that school shootings have become a problem in the United States, but the question is: Where do we go form here as a nation? What changes need to be made? What are the solutions?
There are a variety of stances regarding what to do about gun violence in schools. People have argued that the solution is to ban assault weapons. Others have argued that the solution must include raising the minimum age of all gun ownership to 21 because of brain development. Some have argued that arming teachers and raising security in school is the solution. Others have offered the solution of extended background checks or thinking through the categories of individuals who should not own guns (Melling, ACLU). Oftentimes, hearing all the debates can make one wonder if the United States will ever reach an agreement about the changes that need to be made to form a good solution to this issue. In the decision-making, there are necessary things to consider. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) the solutions being offered about gun control must take civil liberties into perspective. They suggest that many of the laws and regulations being suggested cause civil liberties issues. They remind readers that no matter what law or regulation is put in place, “To be constitutional, they must at minimum have a clear, nondiscriminatory criteria for defining persons as dangerous and a fair process for those affected to object and be heard by a court” (Melling, ACLU). Ultimately, they argue, that whatever regulations are decided on, the lawmakers must fight to protect the fundamental rights and liberties of individuals in the United States (Melling, ACLU). Thus, no matter what laws are decided on, the first step as a nation is to make sure that the laws and regulations decided upon line up with the civil liberties that individuals deserve.
Since the Parkland shooting this past February, Dr. Ron Avi Astor of the University of Southern California has spoken up about his research in the area of school shootings. He states, “Although security measures are important, a focus on simply preparing for shootings is insufficient. We need a change in mindset and policy from reaction to prevention” (Astor). He suggests that prevention of school shootings begins long before the shooter enters the school building. Instead, he offers a three-level approach to prevention that will take place over the long-term: “(1) universal approaches promoting safety and well-being for everyone; (2) practices for reducing risk and promoting protective factors for persons experiencing difficulties; and (3) interventions for individuals where violence is present or appears imminent” (Astor). In his three-level approach, Dr. Astor provides a variety of steps in making the levels happen effectively. Ultimately, he suggested a “public health approach” (NPR, Kamenetz). Meaning, like the public health system’s approach to treating people before they are required to go to the emergency room, there are preventive resources available to lower the number of individuals who need to go to the emergency room. Dr. Astor suggests a key solution, which is not often talked about, is to “cultivate social and emotional health, connect to community resources and respond, particularly to troubled students” (Kamenetz, NPR). NPR puts his message this way, “Don’t harden schools. Make them softer, by improving social and emotional health” (Kamenetz, NPR).
We have discussed in previous posts the ways that the increased presence of SROs and armed teachers would not be beneficial. We have discussed the importance of students of color and parents of color being heard by the lawmakers. We have discussed the NRA and the Trump Administration’s responses to the gun violence happening in the United States school system. In considering all these topics, what is the solution for our nation? In summary, the various directions the United States could go regarding gun violence in schools is complicated and difficult to think through. However, throughout the series, we have discussed at length the importance of all voices being heard, particularly the voices of students and parents of color. All individuals having a platform to speak and process through these issues is necessary and their stances are mandatory in creating a solution that will be applicable to all. This takes priority in creating a real solution. It is also possible that, while laws and regulations will be necessary, some peace and help could be created through ways such as Dr. Astor describes. Social and emotional health are a big part of creating the solution, and this is often not discussed. NPR suggests that “This is a long haul, not a quick fix” (Kamenetz, NPR). Our nation must be willing to be committed to the long haul in creating a solution.
Astor, R. A., et al. Call for Action to Prevent Gun Violence in the United States of America. University of Virginia and Curry School of Education. https://curry.virginia.edu/prevent-gun-violence
Kamenetz, A. Here’s How To Prevent The Next School Shooting, Experts Say. NPR. https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2018/03/07/590877717/experts-say-here-s-how-to-prevent-the-next-school-shooting
Melling, L. The ACLU’s Position on Gun Control. ACLU. https://www.aclu.org/blog/mobilization/aclus-position-gun-control
Scarred by School Shootings. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/local/us-school-shootings-history/?utm_term=.6c7646cfadf4
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