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The shooting of two students at a Roswell middle school last week, allegedly by a schoolmate, underscored just how vulnerable children have become in an era of seemingly rampant gun violence.
It was a reminder, as well, that increasingly violence too often turns out to be the handiwork of children themselves.
In its recent chronicle of multiple deaths in 2013 due to gun violence, the respected blog, “Gawker,” noted that one of the earliest such incidents occurred in Albuquerque on Jan. 16, when a 15-year-old boy allegedly used a semi-automatic weapon to kill his entire family — father and mother, 9 year-old brother and two sisters, ages 5 and 2.
Last October a 14-year-old Massachusetts boy was charged with shooting and killing his teacher.
Two weeks later a Nevada boy, 12 years of age, allegedly shot and killed his teacher before opening deadly fire on two other students, after which he shot himself. Much has been made of the fact that the Nevada massacre occurred almost one year to the day after a shooter killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
As Roswell Mayor Del Jurney has been reported as saying, “Crimes like this are occurring far too often across this nation.”
The mayor has a point. What kind of people are we when we allow our schools to become places children enter with fear for their safety and lives?
Yet such is the reality today that our highest elected officials feel it necessary to devise and institute training programs for students, teachers and school officials on how to respond if (when?) a shooter opens fire in or around a school.
One such program even has a name, “Active Shooter Training,” and it evolved out of the Sandy Hook carnage in Newtown, Conn., prompting the president to instruct the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security to develop plans for children, teachers and other school functionaries when they are confronted with gun violence in their midst.
It’s quite extraordinary: Active Shooter Training programs are now a routine part of school curricula throughout the nation.
The sheriff of Chavez County, in which Roswell is located, has said that prior to last week’s shooting, students at the middle school had been trained in an “active shooter” class. A year ago the Homeland Security Department also launched an “Active Shooter” website, which has reportedly been accessed tens of thousands of times.
But while measures of this sort are appropriate, even admirable, ultimately they are all about what to do after the fact, how to respond when the worst case scenario has unfolded in one of our schools.
They are also tacit acknowledgments that many Americans have come to see our schools as something akin to holding pens for potential victims of mindless shooting binges.
It took the recent horrific death of a 9-year-old Albuquerque boy, allegedly at the hands of a violently abusive mother, to prompt the state’s governor to consider increased funding for additional case workers at her Department of Children, Youth and Families.
What is it going to take to render children we assemble in our schools safe from assaults, injury and perhaps death by gun violence?
Even modest proposals, like routine background checks at the time of gun purchases, are political poison for those who advocate them. Anything stronger is tantamount to political suicide.
Nonetheless, there is truth in the adage, “Gun control begins in the home,” and it behooves parents with guns around the house to keep that in mind.
It might have made a difference in Roswell.