What to do about school shootings?

Students have a wide range of opinion on the topic.



How do we keep our schools safe?

This spring, we will be featuring various Webster Thomas student writers on the topic of safety in school.   This group of writers is from Mrs. Heveron-Smith’s juniors. 

Several students have suggested installing more metal detectors as a safety measure. However, after one class had a question-and-answer session with Principal Mr. Glenn Widor, students say they are rethinking their positions on metal detectors.  During the class discussion, Mr. Widor pointed out that metal detectors not be the answer to school safety in a building that was built on one level and has 36 entrances. 

He has suggested that, instead, we institute a multi-layered strategy to school safety at entryways.   This would involve everything from keeping outside doors locked from the start of the day to raising student awareness about letting in potentially dangerous people.

We must prevent as well as prepare

The issue is not the gun or the school, but the fact that we cannot change the way people think and act; we must change the school’s system. It is common sense that as a country, we need to agree that we cannot allow mentally ill individuals to obtain any kind of firearm. Strong background checking, along with a thoroughly planned process of obtaining a firearm, is the safest and most efficient way. This way, only capable people are the ones who own any kind of gun.

It can easily be said that even with a secure system of obtaining firearms, there are going to be some people who illegally possess firearms. Not only that, but these people who obtain these firearms illegally are most likely going to be the ones who commit mass murder in a school — not law-abiding citizens who are willing to properly go through the system. Now that people have illegally gotten these guns, we must figure out ways to not only prevent but also prepare for when these horrific events occur.

Another solution could be arming security guards and select teachers. By arming staff members who deal with the interior of the building they can easily maintain the safety and wellbeing of everyone in the school. Having armed individuals on campus during the school day will also diminish the response time in the event of a school shooting. Most school shootings last less than 10 minutes and if five of those minutes are spent getting an armed individual to the school, many lives can be lost in that time. In the recent Parkland shooting, for example, the shooter took six minutes to gun down 17 innocent children. Having less than a minute response time can increase the chance of neutralizing the suspect in a timely manner — especially considering that children’s lives are on the line. These propositions are just a few that will need more investigation prior to implementing them into schools across the United States. – Colin Thompson, Josh Russo, and Jadon Masucci

Extra security; reduce guns; pay attention to mentally ill

In the recent The New York Times article, “What explains U.S. Mass Shootings? International Comparisons Suggest an Answer,” Max Fisher and Josh Keller use statistical evidence to show why strict gun control is needed. Extra security should be added to protect people from those entering the school. There should be safety procedures, and armed highly trained guards should be in the school at all times. People should be watching surveillance footage of the perimeter of the school to see any suspicious behavior.

There should also be better restrictions on guns and you should not be able to buy a gun freely. In order for things to change, people need to step in and say something. By lessening the number of guns in America and making it harder for people to buy guns, the number of school shootings and deaths in America should decrease as well.

Furthermore, if people pay more attention to mental illnesses and make an effort to help the mentally ill and learn more about them, then the number of shootings in America may decrease.

—Alicia Weisshaar

Prevention harder than preparation

The prevention of school shootings would be a lot harder than preparing for them. According to columnist Erica Goode, “Improved communication among agencies authorized to detect and prevent violence is one promising strategy”(“The Things We Know About School Shooters,” The New York Times, Feb.15, 2018).

Schools should place more trained security guards in place and they should put heavy doors in that lock with a push of a button in hallways. In a recent National Geographic documentary on the brain, the directors proved that if you practice situations ahead of time, your brain doesn’t panic as much; you respond in the way that you practiced, in most cases. This is called a learned response. This means we should have drills for school shootings, and faculty members should be trained regarding what to do in different situations. — Adriana Mendoza

Mental illness not a significant factor?  Think again.

The article “What Explains U. S. Mass Shootings?” (cited below) claims that the “astronomical” amount of guns in America is directly related to mass shootings. Obviously the sheer quantity of guns has an effect on the number of shootings.  However, the article also states that mental health is a negligible factor. Based on the article, a study showed that only 4 percent of American gun deaths were related to mental health issues.

But how can any person fire at innocent lives at point blank, and still be declared medically sane? Perhaps medical institutions need to revise their diagnosis of being mentally ill. Or, perhaps, the spectrum of “mental illnesses” is too large to diagnose properly. As an example, mental disorders such as depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation often go undiagnosed simply due to the fact that these illnesses are not specific; symptoms are coped with differently by different people. Either way, the state of mind behind the gun is a major factor behind mass shootings. — Ryan McVeigh

See further:  Keller, Max. “What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings? International Comparisons Suggest An Answer.” Nytimes.com. N. p., 2018. Web. 1 Mar. 2018.

The answer is in gun control; students are leading the way

The only solution to school shootings is gun control. The government has followed an over 200-year-old amendment for too long and it’s time they take a second look at it again. It’s time for the government to decide on stricter gun laws. It is not the 1700’s anymore. After their mass shootings in 1987 and 1996 respectively, Britain and Australia immediately instituted stricter gun laws. Great Britain has only seen one mass shooting since, in Dunblane, Scotland, at a school. The number of school shootings is atrocious, and achieving change is now harder than it has been before. Civilians should not be able to purchase military-grade guns as those are the ones mainly used in shootings.

The students of the Parkland shooting have become “the catalyst” in changing the system according to a recent Time article ( “Inside the Republican Party’s New Direction on Gun Restrictions,” Mar.1, 2018) and these teens are making sure their voices are heard. Their movement, along with the increasing pressure to act, has begun to make a huge impact.

Furthermore, companies are ending their partnerships with National Rifle Association; Dick’s, the sporting goods store, along with Walmart, restricts what you can buy and how old you can be; and politicians who were once strongly against any sort of gun reform have begun to break because of recent events. Even President Trump is beginning to push for new legislation. According to recent New York Times article, (“Trump Stuns Lawmakers With Seeming Embrace of Comprehensive Gun Control,” Feb. 28, 2018), President Trump has “veered wildly from the NRA playbook” and has “called for comprehensive gun control legislation” that would raise the age on buying a gun, expand background checks on guns not bought in a gun store, secure schools and keep guns from those who are mentally ill and have the potential to harm themselves or others.

This shooting has really pushed legislation to act on gun control and it is thanks to the students who are refusing to be silenced and become another statistic. – Katie McCombs

Provide trained personnel and extra security

Extra security is the most valuable factor when it comes to preventing school shootings. For example, Thomas High School has only one secure door to enter the school in the Main Office. All other doors can be opened from the inside.  There should be security guards on the perimeter of the school at all times to alert people of suspicious activity beforehand. At least three armed highly trained guards should be in the school at all times. Furthermore, the government should establish a standard code of rules when it comes to security. This would prevent criticism from parents/families of victims about how a targeted school was not up to standard in terms of readiness and ability to protect students.

– Nick Hrycyna

Increase gun safety protocols

The solution to stopping gun violence is to increase gun safety protocols.  Reporters Max Fisher and Josh Keller, in an analysis, wrote, “After Britain had a mass shooting in 1987, the country instituted strict gun control laws. So did Australia after a 1996 shooting.” (“What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings? International Comparisons Suggest an Answer,” The New York Times, Nov. 7, 2017). The problem is that the people who are shooting in schools are the people who can just get a gun anywhere.

While many people believe that mental health issues or a tendency to play violent video games increases gun violence, the only thing that causes more violence is access to the weapon. The New York Times writers write that “the only variable that can explain the high rate of mass shootings in America is its astronomical number of guns.”  If we implemented stricter gun laws, we could make a significant dent in fixing the problem of school shootings.

We believe that our right to feel safe in school should outweigh anybody else’s right to own a gun. It should be up to the government to increase safety measures before allowing a gun to be sold to anybody, especially weapons as dangerous as the ones often used by the shooter in school shootings. There is no reason why anyone would need a military grade assault rifle at the age of 18.

The United States is not doing enough about the mass number of school shootings, which is only making these shootings more common. It is the duty of the government to make a stricter gun policy in order to decrease the amount of fatal shootings in America.

– Rachel Hill and Carly Hoffman

Reducing the probability

There is no easy solution to stop school shootings. However, there are defense mechanisms that will greatly reduce the probability of one occurring. The placement of metal detectors at every door and constant surveillance of all parts of the school — even the roof — could prevent school shootings.  Metal detectors would ensure no one is bringing anything in that would cause mass harm.

Furthermore, we should know what to do if there is a shooting. In the event of an intruder, the surveillance would let the staff know of the criminal with an alarm as well as the exact location of the shooter. Once the person is identified by the surveillance cameras, the principal could make the executive decision for the students:  Either stay put or run for their lives. To ensure safety in a case where running is not possible, there should be a system to master-lock in the intruder so they cannot leave their spot and do  damage.

The debate over school shooting protection should be decided federally because if the issues are decided by state, then shooters may decide to shoot the school that has the least amount of protection. Overall, solutions to school shootings are not easy, but not impossible.

I think we can add many precautionary steps to our daily school lives to make our environment safe from mass harm.

— Gabrielle English

Ban assault-style firearms

A very obvious solution to lessen the number of school shootings would be to ban assault-style firearms. Another solution is to make sure that people have to get thorough mental health checks before they are able to buy a gun. It is unsettling how easy it is for a person to legally buy a gun in this country.

Metal detectors and hiring more police officers at schools could also prevent these shootings from happening. The people in the country should be able to decide on solutions; it is unfair if the decision is strictly limited to our officials. One columnist, Erica Goode, points out that “improved communications among agencies” could help to see these school shootings coming before they actually do.  The potential shooter could be hospitalized or get some sort of mental help (“The Things That We Know About School Shooters,” The New York Times,  Feb. 15, 2018).

When it comes to the shooting in Parkland, Florida, the FBI received many tips on Nikolas Cruz, the shooter.  This shooting most likely would not have happened if, leading up to this event, the FBI had paid more attention to what was being reported by others.

– Jordyn Eberts