Like all parents, I find school shootings horrifying. I was dismayed, however, to hear that the police chief and the school board collaborated, apparently with little or no public notice, to install a cache of AR-15s and shotguns on school grounds. The county has bent over backwards to solicit public input on a number of issues affecting the community—why were we parents not shown a similar level of consideration from LAPS when we’re talking about stockpiling guns at a school? I have already contacted Chief Sgambellone and asked that we have a well-publicized meeting between police, schools, and parents on this issue. I hope other parents and teachers will echo that request.
Further, I share the concerns expressed about the safety of these gun lockers. Even several gun aficionados have pointed out that this seems like a security problem. “If it is a cache of weapons sitting there all of the time with a common key so that arriving officers have access to it, it doesn’t sound very safe,” said one commenter on the website Bearing Arms, which has picked up this story. “If one of those keys gets out, the weapons are no longer secure. A cache of weapons sitting there unguarded and waiting with a lock to be picked doesn’t sound very secure to me.” I don’t see how an AR-15 in a gun locker somewhere on campus is going to be any handier than an AR-15 in the officer’s patrol car. If there’s a case to be made, let Chief Sgambellone make it to all of us. Give us the opportunity to ask these questions.
A third critical point is that the emphasis on school shootings as a major threat to our kids is just inaccurate. Guns are a threat to our kids, no doubt, but school shootings are very rare. Much more common is a kid getting his hands on his parents’ unsecured gun and accidentally shooting himself or another kid. Deliberate self-harm is also a serious risk: Gun suicides are one of the leading causes of death for children in New Mexico. A common thread running through all these killings (including school shootings) is easy access to unsecured guns. I hear and believe all the parents who say they support Sgambellone’s proposal because “we have to do anything and everything to protect our kids.” But we’re not matching our actions to the actual risks. If we’re serious about protecting our kids from gun violence, we should lock up our guns, store the ammo separately, and advocate for safe-storage laws that mandate these practices. This, rather than throwing more guns at the problem, is what will protect our kids.