Gun Violence in Schools

Dr. Corinne Masur

This week Philadelphia got the double whammy.  On Sunday, an e-mail alert went around to staff of local colleges and universities. A message had been posted on social media threatening an act of violence on an undisclosed college campus in the Philadelphia area on Monday morning.  Tuesday, a gunman was reported to be on the campus of Philadelphia Community College and the campus was put into lockdown. Masterman, a public magnet school for junior high and high school students across the street and Friends Select School, a Quaker k-12 school in the neighborhood also went into lockdown.

My son attends Friends Select.  As I was leaving for work that morning, I received a recorded message on my cell phone saying that due to the presence of a gunman at the Community College, Friends Select faculty, staff, and students were locked in the school until further notice.

I was shocked.  I was frightened.  But more than anything, I was angry. How many mass shootings, how many threats of violence, how many SWAT teams storming schools and colleges and malls and neighborhoods, how many frightened children and panicked adults is it going to take until we realize as a society that allowing citizens to own handguns and assault rifles is just not working for us?  How many children need to be killed, injured, threatened, locked down or locked in until we decide that it is not actually necessary to allow ANYONE to own guns that are manufactured specifically for the purpose of shooting other people?

And what effect does it have on the child who has to practice lockdown at school?  How about the child who is actually placed in lockdown? And what about the children who witness SWAT teams swarming their school or their neighborhood?  Or those who, horrifically, witness or experience gun violence directly?

For these children, the world becomes a less safe place. Their schools cannot protect them from violence. Their neighborhoods, streets, and homes become spaces not of refuge, but of danger.

We know that the family provides the greatest opportunity to love and be loved and to feel safe and protected.  Ideally, schools provide an extension of the home, where they feel safe and secure. In order for children to be able to focus and learn, this is absolutely necessary. It is destabilizing to children, to their sense of safety and trust, and to their general wellbeing when they experience the threat of violence in spaces that are meant to be the most secure.  And worse, children and adults alike are prone to anxiety and to post traumatic symptomatology following experiences of violence, threatened or real.

My next door neighbor hunts deer.  He has a deer rifle and is responsible about where he keeps it during deer season and throughout the rest of the year.  I do not choose to hunt but I don’t mind that he does.  This is different from owning an assault rife meant to kill numerous people at once, or a handgun that can be hidden in a pocket or a backpack.

Now is the time to say NO MORE.  Now is the time to protect our children and their teachers and, for that matter, ourselves, from the violence that guns bring to our communities, our homes, and our schools.

Let us know what YOU think about this issue! And tell us what you think can be done to keep our families safe.


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