School board to consider gun resolution

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Education> Issue eventually tabled as members want more information

By Tris DeRoma

After listening to a representative from the New Mexico Citizens for Gun Safety, members of the Los Alamos School Board they will consider adopting and acting on parts, if not all, of the organization’s resolution.
Resident and active school district volunteer James Langenbrunner gave an impassioned introduction to the resolution last week, imploring the board members to seriously consider their resolution.
Secretary Matt Williams introduced Langenbrunner to the board as well as explained to the board why the resolution may be relevant to the board’s consideration. He also asked his friend and colleague to stay within the scope of public education when talking about the issue of gun safety.
“I think it falls under the purview of the board where we have to consider youth, the education of youth, our facilities and much of this falls under that. But we’re also very close to the edge of what really what’s prudent for the board to consider, so I’m going to encourage you to stay within the purview of the board,” he said.
As far as the schools are concerned, Langenbrunner introduced his resolution as a health and safety issue that directly concerns not only children in New Mexico, but children across the nation.
“Gun violence is really a health issue, and we know you care about health because you cared about counseling for suicide,” Langenbrunner said to the board.
“School board members, you unfortunately sit on the frontline in the battle for our children’s safety.”
Langenbrunner then went on to quote some statistics on the issue and said the American Academy of Pediatrics also characterized death and injury by firearm as a health issue.
Langenbrunner started off by quoting a 2010 statistic that said 18,270 teens and children were injured by guns, where one out of six incidents resulted in a death.
“One death every three hours and 15 minutes. That’s a 134 classrooms with 20 students each,” he said. “Why are they so high, well, we have to use logic and step outside the bounds. Guns are perhaps seen as a solution to problems in school, as seen as a solution to bullying. That might be why 5.1 percent of of freshmen through seniors carried a gun to school every month. at least once.”
He also said statewide, at least 16.1 percent of students carried a gun to school in the prior month.
“Where to do those guns come from? It turns out they come from home,” he said.
Langenbrunner went on to detail studies that showed the hazards to kids and teens, whether that was death by suicide, homicide or accident, of having guns in the home that were easily accessible.
“Statistically, if your 0 to 19 years old living in New Mexico, your odds of being killed are 60 percent higher.” He said at least 20 percent of that statistic is made up of suicide, something Los Alamos is all too familiar with, according to Langenbrunner.
“One out five make a plan to kill themselves; that’s for boys. One out of seven plan to kill themselves; that’s for girls. “That’s not statistics from Santa Fe, Pojoaque, Española or Taos, that’s Los Alamos County,” he said, before reading the resolution into the record. “Therefore, be it resolved that the Los Alamos School Board support background checks and a ban on semi-automatic firearms.
In addition, the Los Alamos School Board will support programs on gun safety, gun violence and gun prevention.”
Board Vice President Dr. Kevin Honnell was first with questions, asking Langenbrunner how the board would go about fulfilling the goals in the resolution.
Langenbrunner used the annual Los Alamos Gun Show as an example, where the Los Alamos Sportsman’s Club rents out space at the district’s Pueblo Complex to have the show. In the light of recent school shootings, gun control advocates have urged the school to not rent to the club, claiming it sends a warped message to the general public.
Langenbrunner urged the board to look at the show as “an opportunity, rather than a liability.”
“As a community, we can make background checks based on the fact of who you work with,” he said to the board. “You can consider mental illness at a gun show amongst your neighbors…. you can consider access to illegal drugs, both illicit and prescription. You can consider an educational booth at the gun show. You can post this resolution or one of your own making, not my making, I’m an ordinary parent.” He went on to say they can consider all sorts of facets of the issue to present to the public through awareness and education.
“It would be an opportunity for the school board to show how to lead in this area,” he said.
Honnell then asked Langenbrunner why them.
“Why should we as a group of five individuals who were not commissioned by the citizens to be their spokesmen on the second amendment take a stand on their behalf that has really has no legislative effect?”
Langenbrunner replied that this was actually about the first amendment.
“This is about freedom of speech,” he said. “This is about making things work in your community starting with speech like I am right now.”
Board member Jim Hall said while he liked the educational aspect of the resolution, the other parts he was not sure about.
“I think to support universal background checks and a ban on semiautomatic firearms are something we probably aren’t going to really influence,” he said. “That’s about image alone, I’d prefer to do something that actually might make a difference.”
President Judy Bjarke McKenzie told the board they should set aside the resolution until they figure out their position.
“We need to discuss things a little more as to what we need to do and what we want to do,” she said at the meeting. “We also need to hear from both sides too.”