The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School was shattering. News accounts relayed the horror of 6- and 7-year-olds killed while cowering in classrooms as teachers tried to keep them calm. People believed this would be the shooting—unlike Columbine, Virginia Tech, and others before it—to transform the nation’s gun laws. Parents of the victims became advocates for gun control and other methods to prevent gun violence, using their unspeakable losses to try to persuade lawmakers to expand background checks, limit access to semiautomatic weapons, and provide more resources for mental health treatment.
But the debate over guns rages on as fiercely as ever. Mass shootings haven’t stopped. Neither have shootings in schools, though they are rare: Since 2013, firearms have been discharged 144 times in schools, not including a shooting last week that killed two students and the gunman at Aztec High School in New Mexico.
Since Sandy Hook, schools have ramped up security: hiring police and practicing lockdown and active-shooter drills. But in some states, lawmakers want to arm educators, an idea many in K-12 passionately oppose.
Education Week recently talked to educators, experts, and parents about what’s been learned and why the debate about guns remains as divisive as ever.
Lori Snyder-Lowe, Superintendent
Morgan Local School District, McConnelsville, Ohio
“I would agree guns have no place in schools, however, there’s always going to be that threat that someone’s going to bring a gun into a school district. How do you react if someone’s killing children? Do you just sit by and hope you’re not the one and hope your kids are not the one, or do you react and do you try to defend them?”
Dewey Cornell, Education Professor
University of Virginia
“The idea is we don’t wait until there’s a gunman in the parking lot. We deal with young people before they’re even thinking about committing a school shooting, when they’re being bullied, when they’re feeling alienated, when there’s some other problem going on.”
Nicole Hockley, Mother of Dylan Hockley, killed at Sandy Hook
Managing Director, Sandy Hook Promise
“It’s important that people know that gun violence is preventable when you know the signs. It’s not so much about the bricks and mortar of a school. It’s not so much about school safety and do you have the security systems in place. This is about preventing it from ever happening in the first place.”
A version of this article appeared in the December 13, 2017 edition of Education Week as Perspectives on Gun Violence and Schools