By Jonanthony Etrio
On December 14, a 20-year-old lone gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The gunman shot his way through a locked glass door to gain entrance to the school. Once inside, his violent rampage began, as he began randomly shooting innocent children and teachers for no apparent reason. This rampage would leave 20 children, all of whom were in first grade, dead. In addition, six teachers, many placing their lives in jeopardy by shielding the children, were also pronounced dead. Although we have heard stories like this before, many individuals now say “enough is enough.”
At the local and county level in many areas, safety plans of
some kind are being implemented, and Santa Clarita is no
different. Officer Steve Whitmore from the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Department confirmed the existence of such a program for all schools in the Santa Clarita area. Patrol officers, when they leave for their daily shift patrols, must incorporate into their rounds a stop at every school in their jurisdictional areas. They must meet with an administrator and log into a report the name of the administrator they met with, all discussions about the safety plan, critical incident plan and any other concerns school staff may have. This is done daily, Whitmore said.
Secondly, local law enforcement has developed the Reserve Deputy Cadres. These are sheriffs who are each assigned to a school, where they too must make daily visits and log the administrators’ names, and any concerns they may have.
Thirdly, according to Whitmore, all of these officers are supervised under the jurisdiction of the L.A. County Emergency Bureau. This ensures compliance by sheriffs and, more importantly, a quick response system to react to emergencies. Future fatalities would certainly be greatly reduced or eliminated completely. Of course, such school plans as allowing only one visitor into the building at a time during class sessions and aquiring identification from all individuals entering the school are also helpful. But the discussion continues regarding gun control and the criminal records of perpetrators.
As far as the effect that mental health issues have contributed, privacy laws prevent access to medical records, which makes it difficult to prevent such tragedies.
Many Valencia and Canyon Country residents interviewed stated they were in favor of the plans implemented by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. However, others stated that these implementations are a start, but the only way to guarantee full school safety is to have an armed police officer on site for the entire academic school day. When people enter courthouses, they go through metal detectors and there are armed officers at the entrance all day. Though it would require an extra financial commitment to have an armed police officer at every school, many people think it is worth it. They feel we are guarding our most precious resources and our future generations.
This incident is the second largest mass murder that had occurred in a school, since the 2007 Virginia Tech incident. Any loss of life is simply horrific, no matter what the age of the individual. But what makes this especially horrific is the ages of the children, most of them just six. At the national level, President Obama stated, after hearing the news, “This is the worst day of my presidency,” at a televised press conference shortly after the killings. He also stated that, upon starting his second term in office, he would make gun control a central issue. But there is much debate when it comes to this issue.
Mr. Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the National Rifle Association, said in a brief telephone interview that the NRA “is absolutely horrified by these events,” and he was disgusted to hear of such a horrible tragedy. He stated that, although the NRA believes in the second amendment rights to bear firearms, they in no way support violence. But, rather, the absence of violence. This is explained in the NRA’s National School Shield Emergency Response Program. Part of the plan calls for Congress to appropriate funds, so as to have armed, uniformed police officers in every school in the United States. Also, the NRA would be willing to fund school programs that included any training programs for armed security in schools, as well as video and monitoring equipment, necessary at all school entrances. LaPierre also posed the question, “What if Adam Lanza started shooting his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday the 14th, and had been confronted by an armed, trained security guard?”
In conclusion, there have been many school shootings in recent years, leading to several proposed plans, which have never come to fruition after the hype of the event settled down. However, the victims in the Newtown tragedy were so young, they never got the chance to experience what lay ahead of them in life. Residents reacting to the ages of the children involved in the shootings continue to write their congressmen and congresswomen hoping to assure that this tragedy is never forgotten. They are lobbying for federal monies to support these programs, because this is not a Connecticut problem, a Virginia problem or a Colorado problem; it is a national problem.