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