Guns in Schools: Where Did We Go Wrong?

Another school shooting.

This time nine people were shot dead on Thursday at Umpqua Community College in central Oregon by a “hate-filled” 26-year-old man obsessed with guns and religion.

It is the 45th school shooting in 2015.

And it is the 142nd since 20 children and six adults were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012, according to Everytown for Gun Safety.

“Somehow this has become routine,” said a visibly upset President Barack Obama on Thursday. “I’d ask the American people to think about how they can get our government to change these laws and to save lives and to let young people grow up, and that will require a change of politics on this issue.” More than 250 National Education Association/Oregon Education Association members work at Umpqua as full-time and part-time professors, and as education support professionals. OEA President Hanna Vaandering was at a meeting in Washington, D.C., when she heard about the attack. She and NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said, “Our hearts ache for the students, faculty, staff, and families at the college, and we extend our deepest sympathies to everyone there, most especially, the victims’ families.”  NEA also has provided resources for Oregon educators.

Once again we mourn….

Of course this isn’t the first time that public school educators and students have been on the frontlines of America’s obsession with guns. It’s not even the first time this week. On Wednesday, a student at Harrisburg High School in South Dakota pulled out a gun and shot his principal in the arm — he was tackled and held down by the school’s assistant principal. That South Dakota shooting followed the on-campus shooting death two weeks ago of an assistant professor at Delta State University in Mississippi, which followed the on-campus shooting death earlier this month of a Sacramento City student, which followed the August 27 shooting death of a student in the student union building at Savannah State College in Georgia. “As I said, just a few months ago, and just a few months before that… our thoughts and prayers are not enough,” said President Obama on Thursday. “[They do] nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted somewhere else in America, next week, or a couple of months from now.” NEA leaders believe the nation needs real gun-safety legislation. “Give up? The bodies of babies were piled up in a Newtown elementary school; their teachers’ bodies over them, riddled while trying to protect them. Give up? Teenage Columbine survivors who hid under desks while they watched their schoolmates fall and die under desks beside them are now adults who still suffer nightmares without end. Give up? There can be no surrender in the fight for common sense laws that will keep the most dangerous weapons out of the hands of the most dangerous people,” wrote Eskelsen García in 2013. And she — and millions of NEA members — feel the same way today.


The Wrong Answer

Often, after school or college shootings, gun proponents argue that more guns will make their schools safer. This year, state lawmakers in at least 20 states considered, or are still considering, bills that would put more guns on schools and campuses.

In Florida, two bills that would allow people with concealed-carry permits to take guns onto public college and university campuses have passed the state House and Senate, largely along party lines, and with the support of the National Rifle Association (NRA). The United Faculty of Florida (UFF), a NEA/AFT affiliated union, opposes these bills — as do campus law enforcement officials and campus presidents.

“More deadly firearms on campus will not enhance the safety of our students, faculty, or staff because of the potential for accidents and collateral damage,” wrote UFF President Jennifer Proffitt, a FSU associate professor, in a recent NEA Advocate editorial.

In fact, guns on Oregon campuses already are legal. In 2011, a state court prohibited colleges from banning guns, after the pro-gun group Oregon Firearm Education Foundation filed suit. In 2012, state lawmakers rejected a measure that would have banned guns on campuses.

At the time, a lawmaker from Roseburg, where Umpqua Community College is located, characterized the anti-gun effort as “a solution in search of a problem.”

Top photo credit: AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

  • Debra

    Despite the 2011 law, UCC interim President Rita Cavin told reporters after the shooting that the college had a policy of no guns allowed on campus. Their security guard wasn’t even armed.

    • Bene Kyles

      Our schools deserve security for our children while at school. Security that has been trained in all aspects of the profession.
      No educators should have that responsibility . There are also a lot
      of mental cases walking among us. Cut the war budget by 1% and train real security for our children..

  • Bene Kyles

    We need to pressure our elected leaders to bring the gun laws into the 21st century.This country has more than enough military, state. county. city,private security persons with guns. There is no reason for the for citizens
    to buy, carry,or use, guns . We need reform….

  • We guard our president with armed guards, Is someone’s child not the next president? We guard printed paper in banks with armed guards. I guess all these “Gun Free Zones” anti-Bill of Rights advocates think printed paper is more valuable than a human life. Typical progressive stance that is mired in ‘feelings’ instead of being anchored in logic and facts.

  • Darol

    The “visibly upset President Barack Obama”, much to the left’s chagrin, was not welcome on or near the campus. The shooting is a tragedy without a doubt and I do not condone the violence which took place that dreadful day. However, he viewed it as a perfect photo op to catapult his anti-gun agenda. He should have done his homework ahead of time. He would have found that this particular area is very much 2nd Amendment territory. The Anti-Gunners are always in search of “common sense” gun legislation. PLEASE offer up a “common sense” solution that will work…on top of all the other gun bills on the books that should have stopped this. Gun free zones, 10 day waiting periods, background checks…yes even at gunshows as even those are not exempt from gun-laws which include limitations on magazine (not clips) capacities, safe storage laws, etc., etc., etc. And as for the NRA and all the politicians in their pockets? Look at your own union! They’d back Adolf Hitler if he had a “D” after his name on a ballot.