Yesterday, a gunman opened fire at Canyon Springs High School in North Las Vegas. An 18 year-old man was killed, an entire high school was briefly placed on lockdown, and the rest of the state is contending with another tragic act of gun violence almost a year after we suffered the deadliest mass shooting in the nation’s history.
Today CCSD officials held a press conference to address this shooting, several other incidents of guns found on campus, and what can be done to ensure school safety. So what can be done? It probably starts with the acknowledgment that guns play a major role in this problem.
What happened at Canyon Springs?
Witnesses have said that several shots were fired after 2:30 PM yesterday. The young man was hit by one of the bullets, and later taken to University Medical Center (UMC) to be treated for his injuries. He didn’t survive the gunshot wound.
Clark County School District (CCSD) initially did not confirm whether or not the victim was a Canyon Springs student, but indicated at today’s press conference that he was indeed a student when CCSD Superintendent Dr. Jesus Jara said, “As a parent, and as a lifelong educator, I am terribly saddened whenever we lose a student.”
Though police initially feared there were three victims of the shooting, thus far only the young man was found shot and wounded. Still, it’s a traumatic experience for a community that’s still recovering from last year’s 1 October attack, and a community that suffered a record-breaking year for homicides.
“It is not our problem alone. It is a national problem. It is one we can not solve ourselves.”
– Dr. Jesus Jara, CCSD Superintendent
At today’s press conference, CCSD Police confirmed that there have been seven incidents involving guns on campuses this year, including one that occurred just this morning at Desert Rose High School. They also noted that several of the guns found on campus in recent months have been traced to other incidents, and they urged parents to safely store their guns so they’re not easily accessible to children.
CCSD officials also asked students and the larger community to utilize the Safe Voice Nevada portal to report any future threats. Thus far, CCSD has received 730 tips from the Safe Voice Nevada and has investigated all of them. Echoing the now famous U.S. Department of Homeland Security slogan, CCSD Trustee Carolyn Edwards urged, “If you see something, say something.”
Clark County School District is holding a press conference on yesterday's shooting at Canyon Springs High School. https://t.co/0vtW8wqQwZ
— Andrew Davey (@atdleft) September 12, 2018
During the press conference, Dr. Jesus Jara stated, “I promise that we will do everything in our power to ensure that schools are safe, and our students have the peace of mind that they deserve every single day.” He continued, “It is not our problem alone. It is a national problem. It is one we can not solve ourselves.”
Yet when asked if there’s a connection between Nevada’s lax gun laws and these growing incidents of guns found on campus, Dr. Jara demurred. He previously announced the creation of an advisory group that will recommend solutions to this problem, but wouldn’t (yet?) commit to advocating any policy changes to the Nevada Legislature returns to session next year.
“Where are these guns being obtained? […] How have these kids been able to access these guns and bring them to school?”
– Linda Cavazos, CCSD Trustee
After the program, I spoke with CCSD Trustee Linda Cavazos about yesterday’s shooting and the larger problem of gun violence affecting local schools. She first noted, “Ever since the school year began, with all the number of guns that have been confiscated, [I was concerned] that it was not going to be a question of if a shooting happened, but when it was going to take place.”
Cavazos then pointed out that CCSD has been seeking input from school administrators and teachers on pursuing new safety measures, such as installing more metal detectors on campus, as well as what she described as “changing the social and emotional climate on campus” that could have been contributing to some of these incidents. She then pointed out a few questions that the district and the larger community must ask: “Why are kids bringing loaded guns to school? Are they gang related, or are they just regular kids bringing these guns to school with a [different] agenda?”
Cavazos continued, “Where are these guns being obtained? […] How have these kids been able to access these guns and bring them to school?”
“We can not ignore that the common denominator in all these incidents are guns. Where are these kids getting guns?”
– Linda Cavazos
From there, I asked Cavazos the same question I asked Dr. Jara about whether there’s a relationship between Nevada’s gun laws and these gun incidents on campus. She responded, “We can not ignore that the common denominator in all these incidents are guns. Where are these kids getting guns?”
Cavazos then (speaking as herself, and not for CCSD) expressed hope that the Legislature consider changes such as requiring safe storage of guns, as well as a “Red Flag” law to allow family members or law enforcement to seek a court order temporarily restricting one’s access to guns when one exhibits “red flag” behavior suggesting a serious threat to oneself or others. For Cavazos, “I do think we need to look at the accessibility of different types of guns, different types of ammunition. […] I think that would be extremely helpful.”
In the meantime, Cavazos urged both the district and the larger community, “We need to be more proactive, not crisis reactive, after something happens.” She continued, “We need to bring our parents, and students, and our larger community in as active participants, in lobbying the Legislature. This needs to be our priority.”
The Nevada Legislature won’t return to session until February 4, 2019, so the district, the Legislature, the new Governor, and the larger community have a little time to figure out the next course of action. If anything, this latest tragedy suggests that Nevada doesn’t have all that much time left to embark on a real course of action.