Gun Violence during COVID-19
Following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and March for Our Lives rally, school districts searched for an answer to end school shootings. In 2020, mass school shootings became obsolete, but it took a worldwide pandemic to do so. While there were concerns about the quality of online schooling, educators and parents realized the unsettling advantage of their students being kept at home.
However, gun violence did not decrease altogether. According to the Gun Violence Archive, about 20,000 Americans were killed by gun violence in 2020. This is more than any other year in the past two decades. Most of our attention was focused on pandemic safety and regulations. Yet, as things start to return to normal, the other chilling normal of American life includes shootings.
In the past month, we’ve seen a concerning increase in mass shootings in public spaces. The Washington Post reports studies on how the pandemic fueled gun violence. Researchers say that “the spread of the coronavirus hampered anti-crime efforts, and the attendant shutdowns compounded unemployment and stress at a time when schools and other community programs were closed or online.” Additionally, after the killing of George Floyd, the public’s confidence in law enforcement declined. These protests combined with the pandemic also led to a surge of firearm sales.
LEFT: Photo from shooting in Boulder, Colorado. RIGHT: Photo from shooting in Atlanta, Georga.
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As fears of gun violence increases, many school districts are back to practicing active shooter drills, despite students attending remotely. Certain states are required by law to provide drills in the case of a school shooting. Administrators in Arlington, Virginia wrote “Although in a virtual setting, we are still obligated to provide safety drills for students.” Though students can practice keeping quiet and hiding under their desks at home, are schools prepared to protect students from the pandemic and gun violence once they fully reopen?
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Schools are reopening with new policies regarding distancing and masks, but some are advocating for policies to prepare schools for the possible increase of school shootings. Kenneth Trump, the president of National School Safety and Security Services claims that the pandemic could have exacerbated conditions where certain students are more likely to act out in violent ways. The isolating environment of quarantine put significant mental stress on people everywhere; however, untreated mental health issues can lead to a higher risk of violence. Nicole Hockley, co-founder of Sandy Hook Promise, also voices her concerns about schools reopening post-pandemic. Though COVID-19 did provide a temporary solution to school shootings in America, the solution created unintended consequences for further violence in a time when the nation isn’t prepared.