Vargas: With school shootings making headlines, you have to ask yourself where kids are getting guns

By Joe Vargas

Once again, one of our nation’s schools has been the scene of a mass shooting. Yesterday, a student came to the Marshall County High School campus just as school was starting and, for reasons yet known, went on a shooting rampage.

In the aftermath, two 15-year-old students were dead and 18 others were injured. The response by school staff and law enforcement officers was quick, but still not quick enough to stop the carnage.

We should not be surprised.

The list of school shootings over the years is mind-boggling. A headline in today’s New York Times reads, “School Shooting in Kentucky Is Nation’s 11th of Year. It’s Jan. 23.” It’s been a dangerous year so far.

We should all be asking the question, “Where are these kids getting guns?”

According to research by Everytown, more than half of the students in their study obtained the firearms used in school shootings from home. Teens and unsecured firearms are never a healthy mix. A National Violent Injury Statistics System (NVISS) study found that 83 percent of teen suicides in which a firearm was used obtained the guns from home.

While there is talk of creating prison-like campuses with metal detectors, uniformed security, and even armed teachers, there is an even simpler remedy.

If we want safer schools, we all have to be more responsible with securing our firearms.

Hiding them is simply not enough. One study found that 22 percent of children questioned said they had handled their parents’ hidden firearms.

Teens are emotionally unpredictable. You just never know sometimes. For those of you thinking, “Not my kid,” ask any educator, law enforcement officer, or coach how often parents have no clue what their child is really like.

Last year in Chico, CA, a 7-year-old brought a loaded firearm to a school campus. According to news reports, he obtained the gun from his mother’s bedroom.

We live in an environment where active shooter drills on school campuses are a fact of life. Police departments all over the country use school campuses for training on a regular basis.

“See Something, Say Something” has created safe environments for students to report potentially dangerous behavior by fellow students. As a result, it is rare to find a school district where weapons have not been taken from students by police. The Trace reports that 269 guns were seized off school campuses during the 2016 school year.

Easy access to firearms by minors is a big  problem. Creating a safer school environment begins with educating parents about responsible gun ownership. That means locking up firearms and making absolutely sure they are not accessible.

This sensible and easy step should be priority No. 1 in making our schools safer.

Joe is a retired Anaheim Police Department captain. You can reach him at jvargas@behindthebadgeoc.com.