On Jan. 10, the Duval County School Board voted to pass a resolution that aims to promote gun safety and security. The resolution identifies two plans the board aims to promote in their continuing effort to endorse gun safety in Jacksonville.
This recommitment to advocating for gun safety and security comes as America saw a record number of mass shootings in 2021. This was particularly evident in Jacksonville; Duval County found a total of 10 firearms on campuses during the 2019-2020 school year.
Mass shootings, incidents in which four or more victims are injured or killed, occur most frequently in public spaces involving larger crowds — concert venues, movie theaters, places of worship — many spaces of which were forcibly closed as the pandemic put many aspects of public life on hold.
While many theorized that mass shootings would decrease following these closures, the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit committed to providing access to accurate gun-related violence information, reported 691 mass shootings in 2021, 611 mass shootings in 2020 and 417 in 2019 — a clear indication that even these closures failed to prevent these tragedies from occurring.
A possible explanation for this phenomenon is that while the pandemic closed many of the aforementioned public spaces, it failed to prevent more ‘private’ mass shootings — ones that occur in smaller settings, often with fewer casualties and minimized publicity — from occurring. An illustration of this phenomenon can be seen in schools.
Everytown — an advocacy and policy research group advocating for gun safety in America — provides the public access to data on school-related gunfire incidents from 2013 to 2021. While across the United States online schooling occurred during portions of both 2020 and 2021, there was a significant difference seen between the two years in incidents of gunfire on school grounds.
|Linear model of incidents of gunfire on school grounds over time, deviated by location. (Danielle Dietz, Florida Political Review)|
From 2016 on, there is an evident steady rise in incidents of gunfire occurring on school grounds in the U.S. While the number of instances in Florida fluctuates much more sporadically, a calculation of Florida’s forecasted trendline using the data available indicates the existence of a positive correlation between incidents of gunfire and time in Florida.
Like many others, the Duval County School Board has previously attempted to work with the community in an effort to reduce the sheer volume of such incidents occurring. However, as the frequency continues to increase, the board reaffirmed their commitment, stating in their recent resolution that they “will continue to work with school and law enforcement agencies, health agencies and nonprofits to collaborate and increase efforts to inform the District community of their obligations regarding secure storage of guns in their homes.”
In fact, many gun safety advocacy groups see the promotion of secure firearm storage as a necessary step in the direction of curbing gun violence in America. Two advocacy groups, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, have successfully advocated for similar resolutions in school boards across the country and saw positive results.
|Representation of injuries resulting from incidents of gunfire on school grounds over time, deviated by location of incident occurrence. (Danielle Dietz, Florida Political Review)||Representation of deaths resulting from incidents of gunfire on school grounds over time, deviated by location of incident occurrence. (Danielle Dietz, Florida Political Review)|
Disregarding the decrease seen in 2020, the data also illustrates a corresponding increase in injuries and deaths as a result of incidents of gunfire on school grounds; 2021 saw a record number of injuries due to gunfire on school grounds.
While both injuries and deaths in 2018 appear as prominent outliers in this data, these points are explained by the mass shooting that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. While indicative of a larger trend of an increase in general violence, it is critical to note the Parkland massacre is the most deadly school shooting to occur in the last decade, and the fourth-deadliest incident of gun violence at an educational institution in the U.S.
The general premise of the Jacksonville School Board’s plan is attempting to encourage meaningful discourse with parents/guardians and students on the potentially devastating consequences when the importance of gun safety and security is disregarded.
While many dismiss ‘encouraging discourse’ as an empty gesture, communicating with parents may be more vital to decreasing the frequency of such incidents than many initially believe.
When the frequency of incidents of gunfire are deviated by the level of the educational institution in which such incidents occurred, it is clear that those students most likely to be living at home (primarily non-university students) are most significantly affected.
A proportional analysis of the number of incidents deviated by the level of the educational institution indicates that over the past decade, universities tend to experience the highest proportion of such incidents in a given year. However, the majority of incidents still occur at institutions in which students typically live with their guardians.
Consequently, the Duval County resolution specifically commits that the superintendent is to communicate to parents and guardians “the importance of secure gun storage and the legal obligations to protect minors from accessing irresponsibly stored guns.” Though the method of communication in which the superintendent intends to use has yet to be specified — both letters and flyers were offered as potential options — the message is to be shared with parents and guardians during the first quarter of school for the foreseeable future.
While the Jacksonville School Board’s commitment is the first of its kind in Florida, those working to curb gun violence in American schools are hopeful other school boards will take note and follow suit.
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Featured Image: Unmodified image by Lorie Shaull used under a Creative Commons License. (https://bit.ly/3GEfQsv)