There have been over 142 school shootings in the United States since October 2015. That is over 5 shootings per month. That is 47 young lives lost. They will never graduate, have kids of their own, hug their parents again, or be given the chance to find their calling in this world. Another 109 people were injured in these shootings. Many more lives shattered. Childhoods that were ended prematurely.
Recently threats to bring gun violence to our schools have been made by students at several of our island’s schools, including Keaau, Pahoa and Konawaena High School. In the case of Konawaena High School, the 17-year-old was arrested and questioned and then given back to his parents. The juvenile has been charged with terroristic threatening. This should not be the end of what happens next. This person threatened the lives of our kids. Is there any more serious threat than that?
We should be given some assurance that the boy does not have access to firearms. To allow the police to make this assurance to us, we need a law that allows the police to confiscate all firearms from the household of someone making this type of grave threat. Once such a threat to use a gun against others is made, the entire household should lose its right to have such weapons. The child has clearly shown he does not properly respect the weapon.
It is a small price to pay for the child’s parents or guardians to lose temporary access to their weapons to assure that their child cannot harm any of our kids. Part of good parenting is to take some responsibility for your child’s behavior. This child’s nonchalant and dangerous treatment of a killing tool as a toy should have some consequences that result in protecting the rest of us. The firearms that are confiscated can then be held until the person making the alleged threat is either convicted or exonerated. Having a gun should come with some responsibility to the rest of us that the owner of the gun knows how to properly respect and use the weapon. If losing their firearms is the cost of assuring the rest of us that we are safe from the threat, it is a small price to pay.
Further, given that we have had several threats of violence at our island’s schools in the last week, it is far past time for our county to post a police presence at public school campuses during school hours. What more important asset do they have to protect?
While this may not be the income generator that ticketing for safety checks may be, it is a far more important assignment. State law requires parents to place their children in school. Public schools have the responsibility of protecting our kids while in attendance. We already have police officers on duty. The choice of where these officers are posted is part of prioritizing how public funds are spent.
Kids need to know that it is safe to go to school, and parents need to believe that their kid’s safety and protection comes first. There is far too much violence in the form of fights and threats taking place at our schools. We should not tolerate this behavior longer. A police presence, empowered to act on threats and assaults, may well change the school atmosphere for the better.
Raymond J. Kirchner is a resident of Kailua-Kona.