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One Year After Sandy Hook, Are Schools Safer Today?

One Year After Sandy Hook, Are Schools Safer Today?

The unthinkable happened just one year ago. On December 14, 2012, 20 children and six adults were murdered at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., by Adam Lanza.

Now, it has happened again.

On Friday, December 13, one teen was wounded and two others suffered minor injuries at a suburban Denver high school after a fellow student opened fire with a shotgun before taking his own life. According to authorities, he may have been seeking revenge against a teacher.

It happened at about 12:30 pm on Friday afternoon, and the shootings sent scores of terrified students and staffers at Centennial’s Arapahoe High School scurrying.

A 15- or 16-year-old girl suffered a gunshot wound and was reported in critical condition at a Littleton hospital Friday evening. Two other students were discharged in the late afternoon from Swedish Medical Center in Englewood after being treated for minor injuries that did not involve gunshots.

The student who opened fire and subsequently killed himself was Karl Halverson Pierson, 18.

After hearing the news of this latest school shooting, it’s hard not to wonder whether we’re doing everything we can to prevent such occurrences from happening and to make our schools safer.

In the year since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, at least 194 children aged 12 and under have been killed by guns. That is the latest figure according to a new special report released by Mother Jones. Scores of people have been wounded or killed in five new mass shootings and other gun rampages around the country, and an estimated 30,000 have been killed by firearms, including hundreds of young children.

After an intense national debate about gun control, it seemed that nothing had changed. Congress declined to put mandatory background checks in place, and it looked like the National Rifle Association (NRA) had won again.

Following Sandy Hook, the NRA offered its own woefully misguided solutions for preventing school massacres. It proposed instituting gun classes for first-graders and arming all teachers with weapons. Thankfully neither of those has happened.

More Than Half of Americans Now Have Tougher Gun Laws

States across the country have implemented no fewer than 114 new laws to deal with gun violence. Based on data from the nonpartisan Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which tracks state legislation closely, here’s how these new laws have altered Americans’ ability to legally bear arms:

*  41 new laws in 21 states and D.C. made it harder for people to own guns or carry them in public and enhanced the government’s ability to track guns.

*  Additionally, 15 laws in 15 states made it harder for people with serious mental-health problems to possess guns—a major factor among mass shooters, as our ongoing investigation has shown.

*  Together, these laws affect more than 189 million people.

Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland and New York have passed the most sweeping restrictions, including background checks for gun buyers and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. The NRA may hate the idea of tracking gun ownership, but 18 states and the District of Columbia have boosted their capabilities to do so.

88 Percent of U.S. Schools Have Made Security Changes

As for schools, districts nationwide are making changes, often choosing between technological security measures like electronically controlled doors or simply adding more security staff.

According to the Portland Press Herald, schools in Maine have made the following sweeping changes:

More security cameras. Double sets of locking doors. Classroom doors that lock from the inside. Entryways in which secretaries sit behind thick glass so they can see who is arriving before buzzing them inside.

The Richmond School District outside Milwaukee has spent $24,000 to protect its one building with buzzer-entry doors and better lighting, but chose to skip bullet-proof glass.

On a personal level, I have seen doors being locked at the high school where I teach, as well as the hiring of additional security personnel and the installation of buzzers. Strangers can no longer walk into my school; they have to be buzzed in, after scrutiny from the administrators inside.

So, yes, the reality is that schools across the U.S. have been making huge changes since the tragic events of December 2012. In fact, a survey of 600 school districts published this month by Campus Safety, an industry magazine, showed that 88 percent of schools from kindergarten through twelfth grade made changes in security after Sandy Hook.

They have been helped by the Department of Justice, which has spent almost $45 million for 356 new school officer positions. The single largest grant was $2.25 million for 10 officers in Bridgeport, Conn., about 20 miles southeast of Newtown.

In addition, data show that schools are relatively safe places. According to U.S. Education Department figures, an average of 23 children aged five to 18 were murdered each year while at school between the 1992-93 and 2010-11 school years.

That number may sound alarmingly high, but it represents less than 2 percent of total homicides for that age group.

It was a shameful day when Congress refused to pass a measure ensuring background checks for gun owners, but that has not stopped state legislatures, school districts and the Department of Justice from taking action.

Thankfully strides have been made towards keeping our children, teachers and administrators safer in U.S. schools since that tragic day in December 2012. However, the latest incident a Arapahoe High School proves we still have work to do.

If you believe that we need to address the issue of gun control right now, please sign and share our petition asking President Obama to make this the moment to push the issue of gun control before the needless loss of any more lives.

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Photo Credit: Thinkstock

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119 comments

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9:10PM PST on Feb 16, 2014

Noted

4:56AM PST on Dec 26, 2013

The way to make our children safer is to have someone armed in each school.

9:45AM PST on Dec 21, 2013

A couple ideas I've liked that wouldn't infringe on the right to keep and bear arms is passing a law that says if you have a mentally ill person in your house or a child, then you have to keep your guns locked, either with a trigger lock or a safe. There could be an exception for one handgun, if necessary, but with the new biometric safes, you can have access to a gun in two seconds.

Another idea I heard was to pass a law making all guns pink. You would have to then teach children that pink is the 'danger color' but making guns pink would not infringe on any rights, but it would remove the "cool" factor of guns.

I'm a gun owner, and I'll be happy to give up my guns when the government gives up all of theirs first. And I mean every last one. Until that happens, I'll be hanging onto mine :-)

10:24AM PST on Dec 18, 2013

If we could just loosen the steely grip the NRA has on the balls of Congress it would be a miracle but I'm sure it will be a cold day in Hell. The mental health care in this country is piss poor and has been in crisis mode for decades. Guns have not made our society safer. If we had lobbyist for homicide victims, children, and the mentally ill - that outspent and superseded the inappropriate power of the NRA has then maybe we could find a solution for this problem.

6:35AM PST on Dec 18, 2013

Despite the changes we've made our schools are not safe from someone who really wants to do harm. Glass doors, windows, recess, gym, etc. make absolute security an impossibility. Life isn't safe! And we are none of us safe from someone with a gun who wants to shoot us. We need to work from the other side with better mental health care, background checks that are thorough and serious, and a ban on assault rifles.

12:31AM PST on Dec 18, 2013

great

4:38PM PST on Dec 17, 2013

Not true, Marc P, I give a crap about all those innocent Yemmenis who were killed, I mourn for all innocents who are called "collateral damage" by the idiots who kill them.

4:36PM PST on Dec 17, 2013

I don't know but I'm glad I don't live there.

3:29PM PST on Dec 17, 2013

Any game modeled after a school shooting should never be allowed online or for sale! This tragedy deserves respect and honor as does all of it's surviving parents, friends, and teachers. Shame on the producers of this game. There's already way too much violence in the gaming industry without shooting children representing real loss and tragedy to so many of us!

11:29AM PST on Dec 17, 2013

Sadly Marc, apathy is rampant in both of our countries and many others feel they have no ability to change things. A dilemma.

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