America, We’ve Hit Rock Bottom: Who Will Save Our Children as Gun Violence Hits Closer and Closer to Home?
According to a recent investigative news report by KPRC Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Robert Arnold, did you know that the Texas Education Agency’s website shows that last school year there were 405 terroristic threats reported, with 89 threats (nearly 25 percent) of those reports coming from the Houston Independent School District (HISD) alone?
Right in our own backyard.
Has America truly “hit rock bottom” as it relates to its seemingly callous and reactive approach to dealing with gun violence in America, particularly concerning American schools?
Ironically, two days after the Forward Times reported about the disturbing connection between the social media postings of domestic terrorists and gun violence in schools, another tragic mass shooting took place just a little over 35 miles outside the city of Houston.
America is once again reeling as a 17-year-old, Dimitrios Pagourtzis, walked into Santa Fe High School on May 18 wearing a trench coat and using a Remington 970 shotgun and a .38 caliber pistol to fatally murder eight students and two teachers. Pagourtzis also seriously injured several others during this evil-induced domestic terrorist attack that has once again rocked the nation.
An approach by elected officials to proactively do nothing to make schools and students safer, while having access to data and information to see that this epidemic is real, places more and more schools and students in imminent danger and at risk of a future domestic terrorist attack.
As the Forward Times reported last week, officials at the Harris County District Attorney’s office have stated that at least 140 criminal cases involving threats against students and school campuses have been filed with their office since the Parkland school shooting in February, with most of the individuals being criminally charged with terroristic threats being between 12 to 16 years of age. The Forward Times also stated that much of the gun violence tied to the schools can seemingly be prevented with a simple focus. If you see something, you must say something – before it is too late. Several high profile community leaders and elected officials in the Greater Houston area have stepped up and are using their bully pulpit to say something.
On the day of the Santa Fe shooting, Houston Police Department (HPD) Police Chief Art Acevedo took to social media and delivered a strong and blistering message to his followers on Facebook later that evening, saying:
To all my Facebook friends. Today I spent the day dealing with another mass shooting of children and a responding police officer who is clinging to life. I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve shed tears of sadness, pain and anger. I know some have strong feelings about gun rights but I want you to know I’ve hit rock bottom and I am not interested in your views as it pertains to this issue. Please do not post anything about guns aren’t the problem and there’s little we can do. My feelings won’t be hurt if you de-friend me and I hope yours won’t be if you decide to post about your views and I de-friend you. I have never accepted the status-quo in anything I do and I’ve never accepted defeat. And I won’t do it now. I will continue to speak up and will stand up for what my heart and my God commands me to do, and I assure you he hasn’t instructed me to believe that gun-rights are bestowed by him. The hatred being spewed in our country and the new norms we, so-called people of faith are accepting, is as much to blame for so much of the violence in our once pragmatic Nation. This isn’t a time for prayers, and study and Inaction, it’s a time for prayers, action and the asking of God’s forgiveness for our inaction (especially the elected officials that ran to the cameras today, acted in a solemn manner, called for prayers, and will once again do absolutely nothing). I close by saying, I wish those that move on from this page the best. May God Bless you and keep you.
After his social media post went viral, Acevedo was invited to be a guest on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” this past Sunday, where he challenged elected officials to listen to their constituents and focus on doing something now as it relates to gun reform and strengthening gun regulations.
“Well, let me tell you, people at the state level and the federal level in too many places in our country are not doing anything other than offering prayers,” Acevedo told “Face The Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan. “I’m grateful that I’m working in a city with a mayor who is transformative, Sylvester Turner, and what we’re starting to see is that local governments are starting to make a difference, and I think that the American people, gun owners, the vast majority of which are pragmatic and actually support gun sense and gun reform in terms of keeping guns in the right hands. We need to start using the ballot box and ballot initiatives to take the matters out of the hands of people that are doing nothing that are elected into the hands of the people to see that the will of the people in this country is actually carried out.”
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner released a statement regarding the Santa Fe shooting, reminding everyone that the tragedy at Santa Fe High School “is a painful reminder that our children are vulnerable in the very place we send them to be nurtured and educated.”
Turner echoed the sentiments of HPD Chief Acevedo in his statement by emphasizing that offering expressions of support is simply not enough.
“As we care about protecting travelers and visitors to federal, state and locally owned buildings, we must also show the same sense of urgency, concern, and compassion toward children and adults in schools,” stated Turner. “Schools must be made to be as safe as airports and government buildings. The next steps should be policy changes to provide school districts in our local communities and across Texas with resources to keep students and teachers safe. School districts across Texas should consider installing metal detectors in all campus buildings. Metal detectors are a deterrent to anyone who might try to bring deadly weapons into schools. They also can detect weapons carried by the undeterred. The cost of installing metal detectors may be an obstacle for some school districts. Therefore, I call on state elected leaders to make funding metal detectors and other security measures in schools a priority across Texas. When schools open in the next school year, metal detectors should be in place to provide additional safety for our children. We must make a change now because our children’s lives are worth protecting. I will explore further possible policy changes in consultation with the Mayor’s Commission Against Gun Violence, whose members I will announce in a few days.”
After experiencing yet another act of violence involving the mass murder of American students at the hands of a domestic terrorist, it appears many elected officials have made the decision to seemingly wash their hands of the gun reform and gun legislation conversation, while offering up alternative narratives as to why the violence continues to impact the schools and students.
For example, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) chose to use the Santa Fe shooting to blame the nation’s school shootings on a myriad of things, and not the guns. This past Sunday, Patrick made several appearances on various Sunday news shows and appeared at a press conference where he blamed these horrific tragedies on things such as violent video games which he believes leads the people who play them to have less empathy towards the victims, while becoming numb to violence and more aggressive.
Patrick also blamed school shootings on the number of abortions that are happening in the country; families that have been broken apart with no fathers in the home; the “removal” of God from schools; irresponsible gun owners; school campuses having too many entrances and too many exits; and having too many unarmed teachers on school campuses.
Now, while the issues that Patrick brings are strong conversation starters, they clearly don’t address the immediate epidemic of the gun violence that is impacting American schools and students in real time. Let’s look at what happened this week alone in the Greater Houston area.
Just this past Monday, May 21, five separate incidents were reported where five students were arrested in the Greater Houston area for gun-related issues.
Early Monday morning, a Galveston County officer who was stationed at League City Intermediate in Clear Creek ISD arrested a student who had an unloaded weapon on campus. The arrest was made after another student became aware that the student in question was in possession of the gun and they subsequently reported it to an assistant principal.
Later on that day, a second student was arrested at Hargrave High School in Huffman ISD after school officials received a tip on the district’s tip line about that student having a gun. Upon confronting the student, authorities found a gun in his backpack and were able to ascertain that he also intended to harm himself. The student was immediately taken into custody.
A third student at La Marque High School in Texas City ISD was arrested after another student reported seeing a text message that was sent to another individual asking them to bring a gun up to the school for him. The student who sent the text message was arrested. While no weapon was found on the school campus, the district attorney still plans to file a terrorist threat charge against the student, according to Texas City ISD.
A fourth student was arrested by the Cleveland ISD Police Department at Eastside Elementary School in Cleveland ISD after bringing a BB gun to school and showing it off to classmates.
After an already event-filled day, a Friendswood Junior High student in Friendswood ISD became the fifth student taken into custody on Monday, after another student approached a school resource officer to inform them that they had been made aware of a social media threat made by the student in question. After being confronted, the student who made the social media threat was taken into custody by Friendswood police and charged with making a terrorist threat.
Without question, there is truly more of a heightened sense of awareness regarding the potential for gun violence in schools all across America since the Parkland and Santa Fe shootings.
A significant number of Americans are clearly seeking change and are not interested in hearing the same rhetoric over and over again relative to the gun epidemic. In a recent independent Quinnipiac University National Poll conducted days after the Parkland shooting, 66 percent of Americans surveyed want stricter gun control laws, with 67 percent of those surveyed wanting a ban on assault weapons. This sends a strong message to elected officials that the American people are engaged on this issue and are looking for something more than talking to be done.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott recently announced that beginning this week, he would host a series of roundtable discussions about school safety after the Santa Fe shooting, which many gun control advocates believe is not enough because it does not address the root issue.
This past Tuesday, a gun control advocacy organization, Everytown for Gun Safety, paid for a full-page ad in the Houston Chronicle, where a group of more than 40 students from across the state of Texas signed a letter calling on Gov. Abbott to take a more proactive approach towards gun control.
“Our job is to be good students. Your job is to keep us safe. You have failed at your job,” the letter in the ad reads from the students to Abbott. “We appreciate your thoughts and prayers, but without policy change, this crisis will not end…To tell you how it feels to go to school everyday terrified that we won’t come home. To ask you to be brave enough to stand up for public safety instead of pandering to the gun lobby, and work with Texans who, frankly, are terrified. We are dying on your watch. What will you do about it?”
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) issued a statement mourning the victims of the tragic Santa Fe shooting, but also addressing the importance of making gun reform a top legislative priority.
“We cannot sit back and allow gun violence to continue to take the lives of our students,” the statement from the NAACP reads. “Talk alone is not enough to address the issue of gun violence in our communities and schools; sensible gun reform must become a priority among our politicians and policymakers.”
Gun control is sure to be one of the most hot-button issues heading into the midterm elections, in that something will have to be done by lawmakers about this routine culture of gun violence that has permeated American society with seemingly no immediate end in sight without legislation.
The Forward Times will remain on the frontlines, continue to be a part of these important discussions related to gun violence and keep our readers informed on any new developments surrounding this important issue of gun violence in the United States of America.