Enough is Enough: The Threat of Gun Violence in Schools

Photo Courtesy of Cetusnews

Photo Courtesy of Cetusnews

Anna Hoffman, Maureen Reinhardt, and Molly Johnson

Everyone, regardless of age or political opinion, has been affected in some capacity by gun violence in America. Though you may hold a different position on the gun control controversy than your neighbor, something we can all agree on is that every student is entitled to a safe education. This article is not intended to change your mind or sway your established opinions, but rather to inform you about gun violence in American schools. No matter your opinion, it is important to know the facts that are available in order to make educated decisions.

As of the time that this article is being written, there have been fourteen verified American school shootings in 2018. According to Everytown Research, there have been 301 school shootings in America since 2013. This may seem like a broad time frame, but the statistic actually represents just over five years of data. Doing the math, that equates to an average of sixty school shootings a year.

In regards to student responses to gun violence, at least two nationwide school walkouts are in the works in the coming months, such as the protests planned for March 24th and April 20th. These demonstrations are being held both in honor of victims of school shootings and in protest of gun violence in schools.

Currently, some congressmen and congresswomen are advocating for legislation that would place a ban on assault weapons. However, this is not a new concept. In 1994, Congress actually succeeded in passing a federal assault weapons ban, but the bill expired after ten years and is no longer in effect.

One final important statistic, taken from the nonpartisan website The Trace, is that 135,000 children in America have survived a school shooting. The Trace also states that 91% of school gun violence in high-income countries happens in America.

These statistics are terrifying enough on paper but are even more concerning when they apply to students, teachers, and administrators who are at risk. The risk to everyone at MHS and our community seems all the more real after the shooting in Parkland, Florida, which took place on February 14th. Yet, this particular shooting seems to have turned the tides–students across the nation are taking their safety into their own hands by participating in school walkouts, voicing their opinions on social media, and calling on lawmakers to pass stricter gun laws before such tragedies occur again–though there have already been more school shootings since Parkland.

Minnetonka students are no exception; many of us are trying to voice our concerns. Two days ago, on March 14th, some MHS students participated in the nationwide walkout that marked one month since the Parkland shooting. This walkout meant different things to different people, but one idea was unanimous: we want to be safe at school.

Mr. Erickson appreciates students speaking up and empathizes with their worry of staying safe. Currently, the school has lockdown drills in place for any emergencies, visitors must check in at either the West or Main Entrance before entering, and all doors lock at 8:07 a.m. These measures have been in place for many years; however, many students and parents wonder if this is enough.

There really is no foolproof way to prepare for an active shooter in the school. Plans for safety must be made in the moment as there are many variables involved in any shooting, such as location of a shooter and time of day. Despite this, MHS is anything but unprepared. Mr. Erickson says, “the immediate goal is safety of the students”. If an attack was to happen, effective safety plans will be made immediately. Additionally, the school has discussed safety with the Minnetonka Police Department and surrounding districts to see if we could improve anything. Luckily, we are prepared as anyone could be.

As for how to personally help the school feel safer, every student can stay aware of their surroundings. If you see or hear something suspicious, tell someone immediately. MHS students proved their ability of doing this last June during finals, when threats were made over Snapchat against the student body. Due to the quick action of students overnight, the threat was subdued and the campus made secure.

Additionally, students could stop letting people they don’t recognize into the school through the South, Arts, or other entrances. The only way to make sure someone safe is entering the school is to have them go through the West or Main Entrance–even if it means a student could get in trouble for something. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Finally, it would be impossible to write about this issue without addressing the fact that gun control is an incredibly emotional issue on all sides. As a naturally concerned student, use that emotion. If you feel strongly in your heart that we need more laws regulating gun usage for our own safety, talk about it. Shout it from the rooftops if you want to. And, if you believe that we need access to our current available weaponry in order to protect ourselves, do the same thing. Don’t stop talking. In the end, what everyone wants is a safer environment for as many people as possible. Maybe the strength of our emotions is what will allow us to empathize with one another and come together to find a solution that will make our schools safer.