Reducing School Gun Violence in New Mexico

School gun violence in the United States is on the rise. Since 2014 there have been an average of five school shootings per month. Since Sandy Hook in 2012, there have been at least 239 school shootings nationwide. In these school shootings 438 were shot, and 138 were killed, and 16 shootings were classified as where 4 or more people were shot. (Preventing School Violence: Assessing Armed Guardians, School Policy, and Context.) More people, including students and teachers, were killed in 2018 in schools in the United States than were killed in military service for the United States, including both combat and non-combat military service, according to an analysis by The Washington Post. (Cox, John W. Analysis | More than 210,000 Students Have Experienced Gun Violence at School since Columbine. The Washington Post.)

New Mexico has not been spared from school gun violence. In Roswell, New Mexico on January 14, 2014 Mason Campbell age 12 entered Berrendo Middle School and shot and wounded two classmates, before being talked to and convinced by a teacher to drop his weapon. (ABC News, ABC News Network, abcnews.go.com/US/.)

In Aztec, New Mexico on December 7, 2017 William Atchison 21 entered Aztec High School and shot and two killed 17-year-old students, Francisco Paco Fernandez and Casey J. Marquez. He then turned the gun on himself and committed suicide. (Kellogg, Joshua. Aztec School Shooter Reached out to Other School Shooters, Planned Killings Online. Daily Times, 17 Apr. 2018.)

Diane Wolk-Rogers speaks on a TED video about being a teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a school shooting took place on Valentine’s Day, 2018. She speaks about still hearing the shots fired in the school, and the frightful faces on her students. On that day 17 students and faculty lost their lives. This has an everlasting effect on all involved. The students, faculty, and family. Rodgers, Diane-Wolk. (A Parkland teacher’s homework for us all. TED. 2018. Lecture.)

New Mexico state’s grant is on the right path to reducing school gun violence by setting safety protocols. Also, by addressing mental health issues The country will minimized the death of innocent students. Lawmakers in New Mexico have approved a bill that will give up to forty million dollars in public schools for security measures such as a card-swipe door entry system, metal detectors, surveillance cameras, and bulletproof windows.

Mental health services should also be available through schools for students. There needs to be more active shooter trainings during the school year. In New Mexico 17 of the state’s 89 school districts have not completed active shooter training. (Boyd, Dan, and Journal Capitol Bureau. Lawmakers Want More Done about School Safety. Albuquerque Journal.)

This issue matters because this is not only a nationwide epidemic but this has hit our local community in New Mexico. When a school shooting happens, it can have a huge effect on the community. Students and staff that witness a school shooting can suffer from traumatic stress, they can have metal health issues such as anxiety and depression. They can also have general concerns about their safety at school. There can be effects on school work achievement, and social and emotional growth on students that have been impacted by school shootings.

Since the Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colorado on April 20, 1999 where two teens entered Columbine High School and killed 13 people and wounded more than 20 others, there was nationwide panic. The two teens then turned the guns on themselves and committed suicide. At that time Columbine shooting was the deadliest school shooting in America. Since Columbine more that 219,000 students have experienced gun violence at 223 schools. In the year 2018 there have been 32 school shootings- the highest number during any year since at least 1999. (Crawford, Charles, and Ronald Burns. Preventing School Violence: Assessing Armed Guardians, School Policy, and Context. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management.)

Locally in New Mexico there have been school shootings over the years including the shooting at Berrendo Middle School in Roswell, and the Aztec High School shooting in Aztec last year. Since the shooting in Aztec and the surrounding areas there have been numerous threats made at schools.

There are many potential causes of the problem one being family dysfunction. Social scientist have concluded an angle not much mentioned in the media that dysfunctional family structure can be a potential cause of a school shooting. Lack of supervision in the family can be another potential cause of the problem. Studies have found that there is a frequent lack of supervision in homes that can cause alienation that can drive kids to violence.

Furthermore, school bullying is all too common in schools but can push a potential perpetrator to carry out a school shooting. Students who get bullied tend to develop behavior problems, depression, low self-esteem, less self-control, and alienation that can lead to poor social skills. Once the victim is pushed to their limit, they want to take the matters into their own hands, and want to seek revenge, and decide to carry out a school shooting. Seventy-five percent of school shooters have been a victim of bullying.

Mental health illness can be linked to school shooters. Some evidence has suggested that mental illness or mental health symptoms are nearly universal among school shooters. A 2002 report by the US Secret Service and US Department of Education found evidence that a majority of school shooters displayed evidence of mental health symptoms, such as depression, anxiety.

The affect of this problem in our small community are that parents being hesitant to send their children to school because they fear a school shooting happening. When threats are made at our local schools attendance goes down. This can result in children being scared to go to school, and getting behind on school work. (Vossekuil, Fein, Reddy, Borum, & Modzeleski, 2002), the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Education issued The Final Report and Findings of the Safe School Initiative: Implications for the Prevention of School Attacks in the United States.

There can also be copycat behavior. The perpetrator can see a past school shooter as an idol, and want to carry out even more destructive more massive shooting to gain recognition, to be plastered all over the news.

Albuquerque Journal published an article that lawmakers in New Mexico want more done about school safety. New Mexico legislation in April authorized up to forty million dollars for security measures over the next four years. The states 89 districts will be able to apply for funding. This funding can be spent on a card-swipe door entry system, metal detectors, surveillance cameras, and bulletproof windows. (Boyd, Dan, and Journal Capitol Bureau. Lawmakers Want More Done about School Safety. Albuquerque Journal.)

There needs to be better security for all our schools in New Mexico. All should install metal detectors. There should be more law enforcement at all schools not just one officer present at a middle school or a high school, but more than one at all schools including elementary schools and preschools.

Locally in San Juan county schools have made changes this school year. Such as locking all doors during school hours, so the only way for visitors to get into the school is they have to get buzzed in. Only students can be excused from class with a pass signed by a teacher. There is police presence at local middle schools, and high schools. An interview by a local Mesa View middle school student, Alex Medrano felt safe at school, he hasn’t heard any recent threats like he did in the beginning of the school year. When asked, do you feel changes can be made to make school safer, his answer was, Yes, more cops present, my school only has one. (Medrano, Juan A. Personal interview. 26 Nov. 2018. )

Solutions to minimize school gun violence is for the Federal Government to work with state legislation and communities to strengthen gun laws. New Mexico has some of the least restrictive firearm laws in the country. Gun owners should not have to give up their second amendment right to bear arms, but should be held liable if their guns are used in a school shooting. Gun owners should secure all firearms in their homes.

One controversial approach is for teachers to be given the option to be trained to carry and concealed. Although controversial all aspects should be considered in protecting children from school gun violence.

Albuquerque police department has launched this month Campus Crime Stoppers at St. Pius High School. How it works is tips are reported anonymously by calling 843-STOP or though P3 Tips app. A police officer will investigate, and if solved the person reporting the tip can be eliable for a reward. This should be launched throughout all school districts in New Mexico. Immediate explosion is another solution for students who make threats would dramatically cut down on threats. (Boyd, Dan, and Journal Capitol Bureau. Lawmakers Want More Done about School Safety. Albuquerque Journal, Albuquerque Journal, 27 Apr. 2018.)

Mental health services should also be available through schools for students. Mental Health needs to be deconstructed as a weakness. Mental Health services should be provided for students struggling with anger issues, grief, or family problems. This would give much needed help for students to strategize techniques to deal with their issues in a healthy way and not resort to aggressive or violent behavior.

In conclusion America needs to act fast and do something to minimize the gun violence in all schools across America. New Mexico is on the right track with legislation approving up to forty million dollars to make schools safer. Mental health illness needs to be destigmatized, and mental health education needs to be taught in schools, and available for all students. Gun owners need to have laws regarding keeping their guns locked up so they are not so easily accessed. They need to have serious consequences if their weapons are used in a school shooting. Americans can come together in agreements making some sacrifices to protect schools from anymore gun violence.

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