Firearms remain at the center of the school safety debate. Everyone has their own opinion about guns in general, but we would like to highlight a portion of the debate that we believe everyone can agree on. Elementary school students are bringing guns to school, and that is a problem. That means K-5 students between the ages of 5 and 11. These are children bringing guns into elementary schools. What on earth is happening?
A loaded gun was found Friday (2/18/22) morning at an Upstate elementary school, according to police. The gun was found in an early childhood classroom, which means a kindergarten through second grade classroom. The child was 6 years old. Authorities immediately determined the student had taken the gun from his grandfather's residence. The grandfather has been arrested and charged with unlawful conduct toward a child.
In December, a second-grade student brought a gun onto an elementary school campus in Robeson County, NC. Dr. Glen Burnette with the school district said the 8-year-old was on the playground at Knuckles Elementary School and showed another student the gun. Burnette also said that the school district is concerned about the number of guns that have been found on school campuses this semester. This was the 6th gun found on a school campus in the Public Schools of Robeson County district, and the second one on an elementary school campus.
Also in December, In Nashville, TN, a 4th grader brought a gun to school. The 4th grader told police the gun belonged to a relative and that he took it from under that relative's bed without them knowing. The student was 10 years old. Thankfully the gun was not loaded.
On November 17, 2021, it was reported that Jefferson County Public Schools (Louisville, KY) has discovered at least ten guns on campus so far this school year, and some behavioral therapists and police believe students are bringing the weapons to class for their own protection. 19-year-old shooting survivor Victoria Gwynn said, “From Kindergarten to 12th grade, I’ve never experienced as much gun violence and guns being around..." Gwynn doesn’t understand how and why children are getting their hands on guns.
“It’s terrifying; they’re like babies, middle schoolers, elementary; they’re getting guns and bringing them to school,” she said. “I believe the adults play some type of part in it, because where are these young kids getting guns from at this age?”
On November 3, 2021, a Greenville County, SC elementary school student brought a gun to school, according to school officials. Thankfully that gun was not loaded and not in working condition.
Child Access to Firearms
America has more guns than any other nation in the world – and that number continues to grow each year. 32% of Americans say they personally own a firearm according to the 2021 National Firearms Survey. This means that more than 81.4 million Americans own guns. This number only includes adults over 18. When you include family members who live in their same household as a gun owner, that number jumps to 41% of all Americans. Gallup has this figure estimated at 44% of households.
This means that more kids are encountering them in the home.
While we can debate the number of guns in America all day long, it may be best to target our conversation down to how guns are stored as opposed to how many guns there are. While there are over 393 Million guns are in civilian hands, the equivalent of 120 firearms per 100 citizens, there is no federal law requiring that guns be safely stored in the home. However, 13 states and a number of municipalities have passed their own laws. A total of 31 states have enacted child access prevention statutes that impose criminal liability on adults who don’t secure their guns. Massachusetts is the only state that requires firearms be locked up at all times.
More than half of all gun owners store at least one gun unsafely—without any locks or other safe storage measures. While some data suggests that gun owners with children in the home are slightly more likely than other gun owners to store firearms safely, roughly 4.6 million minors live in homes with loaded, unlocked firearms. Unsecured guns in the home pose a substantial risk to children who may find and use them against themselves or others.
How Can We Stop It?
Schools are a microcosm of the communities they serve. We say this over and over and over again because we need decision makers to understand clearly. When there is an uptick in violence in communities, that violence will, and always does, spill into our schools.
We know that our communities are divided, dissected, financially insecure, and more. We need meaningful strategies to keep our nation’s schools safe. School communities must be provided with the tools they need to intervene and prevent school-based gun violence.
It’s time for leaders to pursue approaches that can be effective to keep guns out of schools. These approaches include addressing students’ health/mental health, empowering teachers and law enforcement to intervene if students show warning signs, improving schools’ physical security in a targeted way, and keeping guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.
Local school boards may even provide firearm safety education programs for students. To assist local school boards electing to provide firearm safety education programs, the NASCPC can help to establish guidelines for a standardized program of firearm safety education as well as mental health objectives to promote the protection and safety of children enrolled in schools.
Youth violence has an impact on a community in a number of ways. When an act of violence occurs and involves a young person, whether as a victim, aggressor, or witness, there are life-changing consequences. The best thing we can do for our students, is to help prevent the violence from happening by recognizing the unique circumstances surrounding our youth in their communities and bringing together the resources needed to help them. When we focus holistically on school safety, we can have the greatest impact.
If you need help navigating solutions for your school, please contact us today.