Gun control meeting sparks hope

On a night filled with tension and emotions, the Fairfax County School Board convened their first public meeting since the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Member-at-Large Ryan McElveen introduced a resolution calling for legislative bodies at the state and federal level to introduce legislative reforms to combat gun violence in American schools.

“The Fairfax County School Board will unequivocally call on Congress and state legislatures around the nation to adopt stricter gun control measures to protect our students and employees from the terror of gun violence that has plagued our country for far too long,” McElveen said in his statement after reading the text of the resolution.  

Multiple members of the board, in their allotted time to speak on the proposed resolution, decried the perceived status quo with regard to gun control legislation at multiple levels of government.

“Why do we need to be able to shoot a hundred people at a time? There is no purpose for all of this, other than the mass destruction of human life, and that is not Constitutionally protected,” Member-at-Large Karen Keys-Gamarra said.

The School Board is responsible for overseeing the security policies of Fairfax County facilities. Board Member Elizabeth Schulz proposed a comprehensive study of the possibility of revising and updating current security protocols. The specific language, when discussed at Thursday’s public meeting, was controversial because of the section that included a proposal to discuss placing more armed security personnel at schools in the County.

The proposal to consider increasing the number of armed security personnel at schools came in the wake of the news from Parkland that the School Resource Officer assigned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School did not enter the building for four minutes while the shooting was in progress. The officer subsequently resigned, but the debate about preventative measures in schools has moved to the forefront of the political arena.

Other members of the board were unequivocal on their positions on the proliferation of firearms in schools.

“I do respect our Constitution, but you cannot have a right without borders,” Keys-Gamarra said.  “Everything has to be evaluated with respect to our fellow human beings.”

Multiple activist groups attended the meeting with interest, as did other community members concerned about the potential threats in Fairfax Schools. The grassroots activist group Moms Demand Action had several members present. The group, which was founded in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012, attended in support of McElveen’s resolution, which called upon higher levels of government to enact legislation that would protect against future school shootings.

“We wanted to show the school board members we support their resolution, and we support the students, and we want to raise awareness about this issue, and we’re here to support students as they form their student’s demand action groups,” MDA Group Leader Ali Morrison said.

The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which was the victim of last week’s shooting, began lobbying for change and planning nationwide protests in the wake of the incident, a break from previous tragedies, where the communities have drawn inwards.

“Students are so tired of the status quo, and that things have not moved forward as quickly as they should,” Morrison said. “I think part of it was because, it was their own, and they’re getting to the age where they can vote, and they know that they can affect change.”

The Parkland shooting is the latest in a long string of school shootings that have occurred at regular intervals since the Columbine massacre in April 1999.

“They’re tired of living this way,” Moms Demand Action member Mary Ann Ressin said. “I never really thought that if you’re born after 1999, this has been your school life.”