School Shootings Change Safety Procedures, but Not Gun Laws

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On November 14, a sixteen-year-old student at the Santa Clarita Highschool in Saugus, California shot five classmates, killing two, and ending with him taking his own life. The shooting happened within 16 seconds. That same day, President Donald Trump held a rally in Louisiana emphasizing the need to protect gun rights and failed to mention the shooting. 

That Thursday morning, approximately 20 minutes to the beginning of school, Nathanial Berhow opened fire on his classmates on his sixteenth birthday. On footage filmed by a student, Berhow pulls the trigger only for it to jam, but he manages to unjam and continue shooting. By the time the shooting was over, Berhow had no remaining bullets except the one he saved for himself.

It is unknown how Berhow attained the .45 caliber handgun, however, Berhow was known to be an experienced gunman. Several other guns were found in Berhow’s home. Only a few guns were registered and others may have been assembled at home by pieces purchased individually online. Another possibility of how Berhow attained a gun was from his late father who was known to be a serious hunter.

Kent Richards
Hamilton-Wenham police and firemen practice administering aid to student volunteers.

Regardless of how Berhow obtained the weapon, on the day of the shooting,  Vice President Mike Pence took the podium and sent out President Trump’s condolences to the students and families affected by the shooting, “He asked me to convey his deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and the entire Santa Clarita community.”( KRON4 )

Such sentiments, however, are not enough. Students and families are understandably mad. The government is failing to put an immediate end to school shootings and gun violence in general. Students are dying in schools and the public and politicians turn a blind eye to it. Therefore it falls into the hands of the everyday citizen to take action.  According to ABC7 LOS ANGELES, Sarah Acosta, a mother of a student at the Santa Clarita, believes that a school is a place for learning and growth, not a place for children to lose their lives. Acosta goes on to say that “The fact that [students] have to look over their shoulder – it just makes me sad and angry.” 

Trump has promised to work on ending gun violence yet boasts about protecting gun rights. The truth is that the solution to gun violence is to take away guns from the public’s hands. There is no reason a sixteen-year-old student should have access to a gun.

There is evidence to support the idea that limiting access to firearms can make a difference. Outside the U.S., countries such as Australia have focused on regulating gun laws and the outcomes have been encouraging. According to an article written by The Guardian, Australia has reduced the number of guns by one-fifth after the Port Arthur massacre (1996), which resulted in a fatality of 35 people and 23 others wounded. Seven hundred-thousand guns were destroyed. The Australian government established the NFA (National Firearms Agreement), which banned rapid-firearms unless attained under restricted licenses. Each individual gun is now required to be registered and all gun sales are required to be recorded. Background checks are also required before purchasing any firearm. Australia has seen a significant drop in firearm-related deaths and has not experienced another shooting since Port Arthur Massacre.

Some believe that the answer to gun violence is to have more guns. One outrageous solution is to arm teachers with individual guns. This “solution” is potentially highly problematic. What could stop a student from reaching over and snatching the gun from a teacher’s side? Arming teachers is asking for more fatalities to occur.  It is also believed that police enforcement should be established throughout each school. Establishing a police presence could create a high-stress learning environment for both students and teachers. Parents are understandably concerned about the number of guns increased in their children’s school environment and are worried about the effects it will have on students’ mental state.                  

In recent years, programs such as ALICE (Alert-Lockdown-Inform-Counter-Evacuate) have been adapted to prepare individuals in case of a shooting emergency. ALICE  has prepared 1,203,546 people which includes 5,548 school districts.The Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District has adopted the ALICE program. On December 18th, Hamilton-Wenhams Freshman and Sophomore students began the ALICE training. The Juniors and Seniors will be trained sometime in early 2020. With ALICE teachers and students are taught how to respond in an active shooting. The main idea is to provide the choice to either evacuate or defend yourself (locking classrooms and/or fighting back) This response to a shooting is far more proactive versus the old school of thought of simply locking students inside a room and having them sit on the floor and remain silent. Drills are scheduled for teachers and students to practice how to respond to an active shooting. Police act as perpetrators armed with Nerf guns to mimic a shooter and students and teachers are given squishy objects to resemble everyday classroom objects that could be used as a self-defense weapon. ALICE has shown to be effective in real-life shootings across the country. 

However, it is not just students, teachers, and staff who need to be prepared in case of an emergency. Police and firemen also train for school shootings including how to provide aid for victims. Recently, at Hamilton-Wenham Regional  High School, a training was held with students playing victims.  

School Resource Officer, Kent Richards said, “ The training was search and rescue training with the Hamilton and Wenham Police, along with the Hamilton Fire department.  The training was held and the high school and student volunteers helped by playing victims during the training.”  

Unfortunately, such training is necessary in this day in age, where weapons are easy to get and school shootings are reported almost monthly.  America has become immune to the phrase “school shootings”. Without a radical change to gun laws, lives and the opportunity for success, an opportunity that America has promised each individual, will continue to be threatened.