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Fed up with countless mass shootings in America

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Caroline Kurtz-Sports Editor

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Senior Caroline Kurtz proudly attends March for our Lives on March 24 in Washington DC.

Senior Caroline Kurtz proudly attends March for our Lives on March 24 in Washington DC.

Caroline Kurtz

Caroline Kurtz

Senior Caroline Kurtz proudly attends March for our Lives on March 24 in Washington DC.

A new year has begun, and with the new year came 19 horrific gun-related incidents at American schools. With each shooting, Americans hear less and less about these appalling events.The more they occur, the more one may wonder: what could be done in schools to help prevent such actions, and is this is a gun control problem or a mental health problem?

According to the Gun Control Advocacy Organization, there have been nearly 300 school shootings in the U.S. since 2013, which is an average of about one a week. This year’s gun-related incidents have occurred in schools in Michigan, Iowa, Arizona, California, Texas, North Carolina, Louisiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Florida, and many more states, with the shooters’ ages ranging from elementary school students to 32-year-old adults. Not all were fatal, but this does not make them any less tragic or less important.

The most recent U.S. shooting, and the most deadly in five years occurred on Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Just before the gunshots erupted, the fire alarm blared throughout the halls. The 19-year-old shooter began his killing spree shortly after 3 p.m. He murdered at least 17 and injured many others.

Our school: 

Shootings during school events are shocking and are slowly becoming regular occurrences. One may wonder if students feel this potential threat while they are at school. The Hawk surveyed 112 students from randomly selected classes at SDHS on Feb.12, 2018. Each student was asked five riveting questions to give us a closer look at students’ feelings on school shootings.

 The Hawk asked the 112 students if they felt safe at school. Surprisingly, the majority feel an overall feeling of safety. 83 percent of students said they feel safe, while only 11 percent students said they did not. These results may lead one to ask why these students feel safe at SDHS when there are so many possible threats during the school day. Many people are aware that these things are occurring in schools throughout the U.S., but many never think it will happen to them. With school shootings occurring more often than ever before in American history, will Decatur students begin to feel unsafe? Or will they remain comfortable and then undoubtedly be caught off-guard if an event should ever occur? Furthermore, how can schools guarantee safety for their students?

SDHS mandates that teachers discuss and run through lockdown procedures should there ever be an active threat. “We have one drill every year where the school acts like it is on lockdown. I feel the more we practice this, the more prepared the school will be,” senior MacKenzi Wagner said.

Decatur has also added more security inside the school. Worcester County employed a police officer to constantly patrol the building. Also, the front doors have a lock system, meaning the doors can only be opened if one is buzzed in by someone in the front office.

However, it seems that many students think this is not enough. “There needs to be more security, especially with locking the doors. The back doors are always open and the front doors are left open by the ladies in the office. They should be more cautious as to who they allow in,” junior Jillian Griggs stated.

Increasing security is always helpful to prevent violence, but locking the doors and hiring one police officer cannot possibly protect an entire school from a gun. The easy access to an automatic weapon can be frightening. Responsible gun owners should enact stricter ground rules in relation to their own firearms because it will create a safer country for everyone. Griggs also stated her opinion on gun control, saying, “the ability to have an automatic gun is unnecessary and kind of ridiculous.”

The issue(s):

While gun safety has proved to be a serious and obvious factor in school shootings, the person shooting the gun is more at fault than the weapon itself. In the survey of 112 students, 72 percent students felt that mental health was the main problem in school shootings, and only nine students said guns are the primary issue.

The gun violence issue stretches far beyond the weapons themselves. Pushing all the blame onto gun control diverts attention from the real problem: the need for better, more comprehensive and accessible mental health services, especially for students. Wagner confidently stated, “People tend to assume their child is going through a phase that they’ll grow out of when actually their child needs serious help.”

At SDHS, 58 percent of students surveyed said they know a student struggling with mental health issues. 36 percent of students said SDHS does a good job addressing mental health issues, while 57 percent students disagreed and said SDHS does not do enough to address mental health.

When major tragedies like a school shooting occur anywhere, it would be beneficial to the student body to have assemblies with the guidance counselors and other qualified speakers who freely discuss serious events that have occurred and may occur in the future, as well as how to prevent these events. If any individual feels unsafe or worried, they should feel safe to talk to someone so emotions do not escalate. If more attention is given to students struggling with mental health, then tragedies may be preventable.

On mental health issues, Griggs added, “Adults need to talk about it and make students feel safe and loved. Things tend to be shewed under the rug. Most of the time guidance counselors and administrators talk about bullying, but I think it is more than that.”

Mental health carries such a powerful stigma that causes many to be ashamed of themselves and scared to admit that they are struggling. Society should be worried that this stigma has been allowed to take over and create an even bigger problem.

The solution to stop school shootings once and for all is not clear, and will most likely never be. The only thing that is clear is the fact that more attention needs to be given to mental health issues from an early age. Those suffering from mental health issues are in need of help, but the blame for school shootings does not lie purely on mental illness. If someone is mentally ill they should not have the ability to get or find any kind of firearm or weapon.

Guns are constantly evolving and changing, but the laws have not. Australia had one mass shooting in 1999 in Port Arthur, and after the massacre, the government introduced to gun safety. Australia hasn’t had one since. Japan has never had a single mass shooting. Canada has had three and the United Kingdom had one. They both introduced gun control immediately. Yet the United States has had around 300 incidents since 2013 and nothing has changed. Nothing was introduced or improved.

“If you actively do nothing, people continually end up dead, so it’s time to start doing something,” senior Emma Gonzalez from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School said at a gun control rally on Feb. 17.

In this case, the fault is on the shooter, the people who allowed him to possess guns, the people encouraging him to buy more accessories for his gun, the people who saw him using them and did not take them away from him, and most undoubtedly the fault is on Congress.

According to National Rifle Association (NRA), the President of the United States has accepted 30 million dollars from the NRA. Many other politicians are taking donations from the organization. In 2017, President Donald Trump repealed former president Barack Obama’s regulation that would have made it easier to block the sale of firearms to people with certain mental illnesses.

Politicians sitting pretty because of the funding from the NRA are saying nothing can be done. These are the politicians “sending thoughts and prayers” to the victims while they receive millions of dollars from the NRA. Trump has openly pledged his loyalty to the NRA. The corruptness is exploding at the seams.

Guns must be regulated and restricted, mental illness needs to be taken seriously, and lobbying must stop.

How individuals can help:

13 school shootings were recorded in January 2018. Six school shootings have occurred just in the first two weeks of February, only midway through the school year. The frequency of school shootings is increasing at an alarming rate, and they do not occur so frequently anywhere else in the world. Most of them are preventable. Schools are supposed to be a safe place for all students, and students should not feel threatened to enter the school building, a place where they are required to be. We, as a nation, can no longer ignore this issue. It is time to speak out, take action, and protect one another from senseless gun violence.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health issues, talk to your primary care doctors or another health professional. You can also contact an emergency service to help you, your friends, your family, or students. If the situation is potentially life-threatening, get immediate assistance by calling 911. If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Instead of emphasizing the murderers involved in these shootings, media should be used to honor the victims and the heroes that emerge from these horrific events. If the media covers the killer’s childhood life and family, giving this individual undivided attention, someone else craving attention could decide to gain access to a weapon and possibly kill someone or themselves in order to gain attention.

No community, no town, no person is safe from gun violence. Steps towards a safer future that needs to begin today. We are overdue for a change before more innocent children lose their lives.

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Fed up with countless mass shootings in America