In the aftermath of the mass-shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, we at ICNV asked how our community newspaper could provide a constructive platform for addressing the scourge of gun violence in American schools.
We called on three of our contributing writers to address the issue, offering their special perspectives and suggestions. Carolyn Inmon writes a SchoolWatch column for ICNV. As a retired teacher, who taught K-12 and in community college, Inmon brings a long-time educator’s perspective to the gun violence issue. Phyllis Agran is a practicing pediatric gastroenterologist and Professor of Pediatrics at UCI Medical School. She is a nationally recognized expert in injury prevention and control, and writes her regular column for ICNV, titled Rx for Child Health & Safety. Former Irvine Mayor Larry Agran is a public interest attorney who writes a regular column, CityWatch, for ICNV. We think you’ll be interested in the views of these three outstanding contributors.
–Franklin J. Lunding, Publisher
For most of my teaching career, public schools have been regarded as very safe places — for students, teachers and staff. Now, the appalling reality is that the growing number of gun violence incidents in our schools, including mass-shootings with semi-automatic weapons, are turning our public schools into unsafe workplaces, subject to mass-casualty violence at any moment.
Teachers will do their fair share — and more — to ensure safety; they always have and they always will. But none of us signed up to be heroes in active shooter, mass-casualty situations. It’s time for IUSD and the City of Irvine, as well as the Irvine Teachers Association to show some real leadership and engage students, parents, grandparents and other interested Irvine citizens in serious public hearings about what steps must be taken to enhance school safety. More School Resource Officers (police officers) in our schools? More secure entrances? More secure classrooms? Use of more real-time cameras? How about the City and IUSD taking a stance on national proposals to ban military-style assault weapons, as we’ve already done under State law in California?
– Carolyn Inmon
At this point, the epidemic of gun violence in our schools has risen to the level of a national public health emergency. According to ABC News, since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre five years ago, there have been more than 200 school shooting incidents with more than 400 casualties. Clearly, the easy access to firearms — especially AR-15s and other semi-automatic, military-style assault weapons — has made it possible for shooters to kill many people in a matter of minutes.
These weapons, which have no purpose but to kill other humans, should be banished from civil society. Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of our own U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, assault weapons were banned in the U.S. from 1994 until 2004, when the Congress allowed the law to expire. Now, the national ban on assault weapons should be reinstated — perhaps coupled with a government-funded “buy-back” program — to get these weapons out of our local communities, states, and all channels of interstate commerce.
– Phyllis Agran
So, will this be the time that, finally, we achieve a re-instituted national ban on the sale or possession of AR-15s and other military-style assault weapons? Will we, at long last, make demonstrable progress to control gun violence nationally and improve gun safety everywhere?
The fact that this time — for the first time — high school students across America appear to be organizing a real movement, is cause for hope. These young activists have both the necessary energy and idealism; they don’t yet suffer from cynicism; and their social media skills can be a huge advantage. My advice to these bright young activists? Be smart. Be strategic in your politics. Make it clear there are millions of you who will soon be voting, and that your mission is to hold all elected officials accountable for their actions — and for their inaction.
Here in Irvine, I’d pay special attention to the candidates in our own 45th Congressional District. (Irvine comprises about 40 percent of the entire 45th CD.) Mimi Walters, the incumbent Republican Congresswoman, has a long and dreadful record of opposing just about every sensible gun safety proposal — both when she was a State legislator and, in recent years, as a Member of Congress. She is running for re-election to Congress, facing a tough challenge — first, from a half-dozen Democratic candidates in the “top-two” June 5th primary. Then, one of them will be facing Walters in the November runoff election. My guess is that the gun control issue — especially where the candidates stand on banning AR-15s and other assault weapons nationwide — could be decisive in the 45th CD.
– Larry Agran