WRITTEN BY: JEFFREY L. BONEY
Just how easy is it to bring a gun into our schools?
Sadly, it appears to be too easy based on the number of school shootings that are happening on a consistent basis in America.
What can be done? Who is next? How can the students, and the adults responsible for their care, be sure that they won’t be next?
These are extremely frightening questions, yet they are also extremely legitimate ones.
When it comes to the issue of gun violence in the United States, it is safe to say that the bullets don’t discriminate – for the most part. And while there does tend to be a double standard related to the media attention and societal support certain groups receive versus others when it comes to ‘dealing with’ the issue of gun violence in America, the pain that all parents, families and friends experience due to these traumatic experiences is the same – heartbreaking.
Since the beginning of the year, America has found itself once again experiencing a tragic act of domestic terrorism, whereby many young people and adults have been tragically gunned down by an individual or individuals who were easily able to access guns – guns that eventually led to the loss of multiple lives as a result of them carrying out a mass shooting.
Case in point – take the recent mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, in Parkland, Florida, that has sparked an outcry from many people in the country, particularly many of the students who were impacted by the shooting and are now demanding changes in the gun laws in this country.
In this case, 19-year-old domestic terrorist suspect, Nikolas Cruz, had just legally purchased a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle in February 2017 – a year prior to killing his victims.
According to reports, Cruz caught an Uber to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and then proceeded to walk inside the school carrying a black duffel bag and a backpack. Cruz hid loaded magazines in his backpack, until the very moment he decided to pull out his newly acquired AR-15 rifle and start blasting away at people.
All-in-all, Cruz killed seventeen people and fourteen others were transported to local hospitals.
The entire world once again watched in horror as politicians and lawmakers, who are entrusted to lead and serve, offered the victims and their families little more than their thoughts and prayers via Twitter, sound bites and scripted press releases.
Nothing changed. Same thing…Different day.
So, as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass school shooting has been added to the list as one of the deadliest school shootings and acts of domestic terrorism in U.S. history, it has now also been added to the list of tragic mass shooting incidents that have seemingly and sadly become the norm in this country.
Many people remember the tragedy that took place on December 14, 2012, when 20-year-old domestic terrorist Adam Lanza killed twenty 1st graders between the ages of 6 and 7 years of age and six adults with an assault rifle at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Sadly, since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, there have been roughly 240 other school shootings that have taken place in America with at least 438 people being shot and 138 people being killed. Now of course, school shootings aren’t the only type of mass shootings that have been impacting Americans over the past several years, but it is challenging to know young people are being killed before they have a chance to truly experience life.
Many have argued that this continued loss of life, while tragic, merely reinforces the recurring narrative that America is strongly encouraging a culture of gun violence, particularly because of the flat out refusal of lawmakers to take action and pass any sensible bipartisan gun control legislation. Over the years, the relationship between gun lobbyists and those who make policy has seemingly produced an unwillingness to advance responsible gun safety legislation, and it has caused a major divide amongst many people in this country.
And then, instead of clearly addressing the unrestricted access to high-powered, military-style semiautomatic rifles, like the ones used in the Florida and Las Vegas mass shootings, President Donald J. Trump and many of his supporters have focused on pushing for arming teachers with guns in the classroom. In addition to that, President Trump has also sought to excuse the actions of these domestic terrorists as a mental illness issue rather than a focus on the relatively easy way these individuals can acquire these deadly weapons with no real vetting process.
Many people across America have found President Trump’s mental illness narrative to be a confusing one to find credible, especially considering the fact that Trump’s latest budget proposes dramatically slashing Medicaid, which is the primary source of mental health funding for 70 percent of low-income Americans.
Why acknowledge that mental illness is the issue with gun violence and then turnaround and cut the funding for many low-income Americans who need it, and who suffer from incidents of sustained gun violence in their respective communities?
Speaking of mental illness, there are usually after affects that individuals have to deal with regarding their traumatic experience. Parents suffer, families grieve, students experience trauma, employees and educators have to deal with the stress of coming back to work knowing what had just occurred and whether it could happen again, and many other feelings of fear and concern.
Managing Partners Shantera Chatman and Natalie Arceneaux of PROSCI of C+A Global Group believe that more should be done to help the parents and employees, as well as the students affected by these tragedies and traumatic occurrences.
“For parents affected by a devastating trauma such as a mass shooting at their child’s school, they should really tune-in to their emotions,” says Chatman. “Some parents have lost their children and are literally going through the motions at work. Their best course of action is to check with their employer to understand their benefits. Some companies provide hotlines to counselors and other actually pay for counseling services. These services typically cover the entire family.”
Arceneaux states that those working with people affected by these traumatic incidents should understand that their coworkers will never be the same and it is unrealistic to assume they will ever be.
“Employers should invest in team sensitivity activities or counseling to help those that have to encounter the affected parents,” says Arceneaux. “Understanding the mood swings and the 5 stages of grief go a long way to helping your teammates.”
The issue of mental illness related to coping with tragedy and trauma is important, but it does not deal with the real issue of gun violence in the nation.
Most experts believe that any serious plan to stem the tide of this cycle of violence must include common-sense gun laws. A survey by the Pew Research Center concludes that while Americans say they want to protect the right to bear arms, “they’re very much supportive of many gun policy proposals, including more background checks on private and gun show sales and banning semi-automatic and assault-style weapons.”
One would think that protecting local neighborhoods, schools, students and families would be a bipartisan priority and that elected officials would not be bought and sold to the highest bidder. However, it appears there are many lawmakers that have little to no conviction as it relates to doing what it takes to help reduce the risk that all American citizens face regarding this national epidemic of mass shootings due to gun violence that continues to plague our nation.
Many in the Greater Houston community have been pondering how this type of situation can be prevented, while the debate about gun control rages on.
Here locally, an elected official from the Houston area has called on national lawmakers to address this issue and states that it is time for the state of Texas to take gun laws more seriously.
“It is our responsibility to protect the people from any policies that can have a negative impact on any resident in this country, especially in the city of Houston where I serve,” said Houston City District D Councilmember Dwight A. Boykins. “I am a proud outdoorsman and supporter of the right to bear arms, but I am also an elected leader who serves to promote policies that enhance the safety and security of my constituents.”
Boykins believes that federal elected officials must acknowledge the common sense notion that implementing effective gun control measures does not have to interfere with private gun ownership, but that we must put the safety of children and the citizens first above all things.
“After the 1500+ mass shootings since 2012, they (lawmakers) continue to pursue donations and endorsements from the National Rifle Association, while ignoring the clear and present danger posed by lax gun laws,” said Boykins. “The focus on obtaining the NRA’s support and blessing runs rampant, influencing our politics on all levels of government. Therefore, my plan is to create an environment where we can have this discussion openly and seek to deal with this issue from a grassroots perspective.”
Boykins plans to hold a community town hall meeting on Monday, March 5, 2018, from 6pm to 8pm at Greater Grace Outreach Church located at 10800 Scott St., Houston, TX 77047, where he plans to have a proactive conversation on “Keeping Our Children Safe: How Do We Prevent Gun Violence in Our Communities and Schools?”
Boykins has invited local pastors, Houston Police Department (HPD), Harris County Sheriff’s Department, Precinct 7 Constable Office, Houston Independent School District (HISD) Police, Texas Southern University (TSU) Police, University of Houston (UofH) Police, Houston Community College (HCC) Police, HISD Superintendent, District D School Principals, KIPP, and many more to participate in this much needed discussion.
The Forward Times plans to be a part of these discussions and will keep our readers informed on any new developments surrounding this important issue of gun violence in our country.