(Photo Source: Michael M. Santiago)
Whenever there is a mass shooting, the news, media, politicians, and more say enough is enough and something must be done. Blame gets thrown to mental health, lack of gun legislation, lack of school training, and a lot more. But the bottom line is that gun violence is killing people and killing children in a place where they are supposed to feel safe.
According to NBC News, for the first time in 2020, gun violence became the leading cause of death for teens and children. Gun violence surpassed motor vehicles crashes, drug overdoses, and cancer related deaths. The number one killer is gun violence but there still is debate over what can be done to protect young lives.
The solution is not to increase active shooter drills, ban backpacks, arm teachers, or have one point of entry in the building. This type of policy is reactive and pressures teachers who are already overworked, underpaid, and unsupported.
Teachers are hired to teach and educate. They are not hired to handle active shooters or matters related to gun violence, including using firearms. However, because this type of proposed solution focuses on the school environment, it blames teachers and schools for gun violence in classrooms, which is not their burden to bear.
Yet, school focused policies like active shooter drills in particular create the mindset that it is too late to prevent the shooting, and that the only resolution the school can give is minimize the number of deaths. There are so many barriers to getting into schools, but there are so few barriers to getting a handgun or semiautomatic.
The solution to this epidemic needed to start earlier. Currently, the United States Congress is trying to pass gun control legislation such as common sense gun laws. While not all of them are included in the bill, some such as red flag laws and universal background checks are mentioned. This is a step to a proper solution. Schools and teachers can do their best to barricade themselves, but with the presence of stricter gun laws, it becomes more difficult for a shooter to enter a building. Such measures become deterrents because a person looking to harm other people most likely wants an effective and efficient method, and so far guns have been just that.
More gun legislation, mostly common sense gun laws, are supported by the majority of the population. According to The Hill, 88% of Americans support background checks on all gun sales. On the other hand, a National Education Association survey found that 82% of respondents said that they would not carry a firearm in school.
That is not to say that schools play no part in solving the problem. Many lawmakers have pointed to mental health being one of the biggest causes of school shootings as many school shooters have shown mental health issues before committing their crimes.
Back in December 2021, the United States surgeon general stated that teens and adolescents are facing “devastating mental health effects” brought from generational challenges including the Covid-19 pandemic. While not all teens with mental health issues will end up becoming active shooters, both the Ulvade and Parkland shooters displayed mental health issues during high school.
Because of the mental health correlation with school shooters, lawmakers have been pushing for more mental health resources and counselors in schools. In this capacity, schools and teachers have the responsibility to create a safe and open environment for students to feel safe and heard. In many cases, they are the first line of support for students.
However, adding more resources and support staff means supporting schools and funding these types of programs that have not been funded in the past. In addition, when there is a lack of resources, but expectations that there are enough, teachers gain even more pressure. More mental health resources for students is a great step in the right direction, but there is currently not enough support to create adequate mental health services in schools.
The United States needs a solution. With gun violence at an all time high, immediate action and legislation needs to be taken to remove the ease of obtaining a firearm. There needs to be more time for long term programs and solutions to become effective. But right now there should not be unlimited access to firearms, which leads to school shootings and gun violence.