May 17, 2018
From the deadly gunshots at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland to those fired at Great Mills High School in Maryland, the impact of these devastating tragedies is creating a ripple effect of activism throughout the entire nation, affecting school communities from all around the country. A bipartisan movement demanding gun law reform is gaining momentum, as gun rights advocates remain staunch supporters of the Second Amendment.
Shortly after the shooting in Parkland, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan urged state lawmakers to pass two measures designed to take guns away from people identified as dangerous. According to The Washington Post, in late February of this year, the governor further proposed for $125 million to be allocated towards enhancing security in schools, a budget which would include funding for reinforced doors and panic buttons to prevent and react to shooters.
Larry Hogan signed the SB 1265 Maryland Safe to Learn Act of 2018 into law on Tuesday, April 10. The Maryland Association of Counties states that the bill, sponsored by State Senator Katherine Klausmeier (D-Baltimore), will dedicate a total of 45 million dollars that would be spent on money for armed school resource officers, technology, and counselors at public schools.
Hogan also suggested a “10-fold increase in funding for the state’s Center for School Safety” for the purpose of hiring social media experts to locate threats on the internet.
“I’ve never seen this much focus and attention. I feel as if we maybe have reached a point where people are nally ready to get something done,” Hogan said on February 28, addressing the state four days after 17 people were gunned down in Florida.
The Howard County Public School System has also taken action towards increasing school security through the implementation of a new buzzer system in high schools. “I would imagine for it to be similar to the the systems in elementary and middle schools, where there’s a camera system in the door where people enter into the vestibule—the space between two doors—or at the front door,” Mr. Scible said. “If you wanted to come in, you would buzz in and the staff member would have to communicate with that person, and then they would allow them in depending on who they are. But we haven’t had full details of what it would be.”
The approval of this proposal was confirmed through the Central Office, and the project is predicted to be completed by the end of the year.
“I’m excited to see the new policies as a part of the administrative group. I’m definitely looking forward to it, but not much has been shared to the administration yet,” said Mr. Scible.
In HCPSS, these recommendations such as the buzzer system and increased funding for school resources have been proposed as a result of the growing concerns for safety. Throughout the country, however, more extreme measures are being considered: arming teachers. Supporters of the idea say that distributed guns would act as a potential source of protection in a dangerous situation on campus, ultimately reducing the number of victims.
Ms. Eichert, teacher sponsor of Atholton’s Republican club Young Americans for Freedom, said “If I was asked, I would be open to being trained and carrying a gun, which I would keep very secure. I think it’s something that teachers would rather not have to deal with, but I just keep picturing myself being unable to protect my students and that makes me feel that I would rather have a weapon than not in that type of situation.”
Not all members of the community, however, stand with this notion.
“My emotional reaction to that is that it is insane,” Mrs. Burns, G/T Resource teacher and sponsor of Young Democrats of America, said. “I just don’t think it’s appropriate. I feel that it should be left to law enforcement, and we sort of discount the training that they receive by just making statements like anyone can do it.”
Senior Chloe Gilreath said, “I very much dislike that idea. I wouldn’t feel comfortable with my teacher having a gun. I want to be a teacher one day and I would not want to be in possession of a gun while taking care of my students. I think that’s the opposite of the reaction we need right now.”
Matthew Oliver, sophomore member of Young Americans for Freedom, said “I’m not sure if [arming teachers] would be practical, but I would be comfortable.”
The compromise between a prevention of more shootings and preparation for these situations has been a difficult point to settle in this discussion for less gun violence. Whereas action for prevention may involve stricter legislation regarding gun ownership, preparation tactics refer to more planning on how to react under Code Red circumstances.
“This is a complex issue, obviously. I definitely think we need tighter laws. We need more thorough background checks. They need to be universal. I think that we should ban assault style rifles,” Ms. Burns said. “But I think it’s also important to say that it’s not like any of us could say emphatically that these changes are going to stop these horrific events from occurring. It’s hard to say it’s going to work, but I don’t think that that should keep us from trying. I just don’t think that hiding behind the Second Amendment is really appropriate.”
Focusing more on the aspect of preparation, Ms. Eichert said, “I don’t think having one police officer assigned at a school is enough; there should be at least two. I’ve seen an increase in the practices of lockdown drills and I think that’s important for the staff members and the students to become very used to and knowledgeable in what todo in those situations. The questions of ‘what if this happens, what if that happens’ come up, and the more we practice, the better we take care of those questions.”
Moreover, Oliver thinks we need to prioritze mental health treatment. “All these tips we’re getting about people, we need to follow those tips. Keep an eye out for people who are struggling mentally.”
Gilreath noted the benefit of both. “Obviously the goal is to prevent people from ever doing anything like this again,” she said. “It just depends on if you are more [concerned with] trying to make sure that people never want to do anything like that again or if you believe that it’s inevitable and are willing to prepare for that.”
While preserving school safety is not a disputable point of contention, the approach to take in order to achieve such still remains a sensitive and heavily debated topic among members of the school community.
“I would say I see a little bit of tension among students from time to time. But protecting people is important to both sides,” Ms. Burns said. “I definitely think that we have many more things that we agree on; I guess the difference lies in the approach that we would take to protect our students and yourself.”
Similarly, Ms. Eichert applaudedthe students for “not only speaking up but for doing so respectfully”, and expressed her disappointment for the lack of actions taken by the county.
These fervid disputes, nevertheless, seem to be ultimately spearheading the positive trend of unprecedented student activism on both sides of the political spectrum.
“At the end of the day, I love seeing all of this, even if there is a little bit of spirited debate among students and they’re not necessarily agreeing all the time. They’re learning how to address important topics skillfully, diplomatically, and they are engaged in a way that students in my age weren’t,” Ms. Burns said. “I’m sorry that the catalyst for that had to be mass shootings.”