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.
Photo Credit: Thinkstock
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