Remembering Sandy Hook: The Fight for Gun Control
Five years after the fateful day of the Sandy Hook school shooting, schools are continuing to push for stricter gun laws and tighter security. People are determined to never allow the incident that killed twenty children and six educators to ever occur again in the future. In the aftermath of the shooting, an organization known as Sandy Hook Promise was cofounded by the parents of first grade victims Daniel Barden and Dylan Hockley, along with other Newton families. This well-known organization educates people on how to recognize warning signs that someone may be exhibiting a tendency toward violence, including incidents of aggression and bullying, a fascination with guns and/or access to them, lost interest in school, and if they have threatened to harm themselves or others. Steve Karl, a town councilor, explains, “you want somebody who has a very keen sense of knowing when something doesn’t quite feel right.” In 2013, the group made an effort to pass a federal law that bans certain semi-automatic weapons and expands background checks for criminals while purchasing guns. This was ultimately a failed effort, although the group did have seventeen Sandy Hook families who lobbied forty nine senators over the course of seven days. Following this effort, the Sandy Hook Promise began to focus on community-based prevention programs, education, and public service campaigns which were all designed to change “gun violence acceptance attitudes and behaviors,” said Nicole Hockley, mother of victim Dylan Hockley. While many states leave it up to local school boards to decide, there are state laws addressing the requirements for school safety officers. Connecticut, along with other states, has weighed legislation in order to impose standards for non-police security to be inside schools. In Arkansas, a law passed in 2015 states minimum training requirements on important subjects such as active-shooter training and limitations on security officer authority. The approach of having bolster security, especially at elementary schools, is cheaper and also less intrusive than assigning sworn police since they instead hire retired officers, firefighters, and other responsible, trusted adults. However, this approach has also had people questioning the consistency of training and standards. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the percent of primary US public schools with one or more security officer on duty at least once during the week has risen from 26.2 percent as of the 2005-06 school year to 28.6 percent in the 2013-14 school year. Prior to the shooting, security officers were almost exclusively at high schools before gradually becoming present at most middle schools. Now, an increasing number of elementary schools are even seen having security officers, according to the director of the National School Safety Center, Ronald Stephens. Michele Gay, whose daughter was killed during the Sandy Hook school shooting, is an advocate for security in school districts and explained that the ideal scenario would be for a police officer to be present in every school while playing an all-purpose role. While she understands this is impossible, she believes that guards should at least be former police officers that have training and experience. Following the recent Parkland school shooting, Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin, Alabama and North Carolina have proposed permitting teachers or certain individuals on school grounds to carry concealed weapons in the schools for safety reasons, however Democrats and many educators are concerned about this suggestion. Deb Ciamacca, a teacher at Conestoga High School in Berwyn, Pennsylvania and former US Marine believes that carrying a weapon in the classroom around students is “an insane idea. To anyone who’s ever taught before, it’s just ludicrous,” she said.” However the Trump administration is looking into these policies, with President Trump saying, “If you had a teacher who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack very quickly.” With an increasing number of advocates for gun control, one can only hope that in the future the issues of school shootings and gun violence will no longer be a worries due to the determination of advocates and more security measures including officers that are responsible for putting everyone at ease.