Granite School District officials in Salt Lake City, Utah, confirmed that a sixth-grade male was in custody on Monday after bringing a firearm and ammunition to school with the apparent intention of ensuring he could protect himself and others in the event of an assault on the school.
The incident follows Friday's shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, where gunman Adam Lanza forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School with a Bushmaster AR-15 and killed 26 people — including 20 schoolchildren.
"He has alluded in his defense that he brought [the gun] as a way to defend himself and his friends if there was a Connecticut-style incident at the school," district spokesman Ben Horsley told the Salt Lake Tribune. Authorities did not comment on where the gun was obtained, and Horsley added that it was unclear whether the ammunition was the proper caliber for the gun.
Some witnesses alleged that the boy had been seen on a playground pointing the weapon at another child's head. Students later informed a teacher of the gun at around 2:00 p.m. Horsley noted that these incidents are murky, and that it is always difficult to reach definitive conclusions when the key witnesses are children.
Fortunately, no one was injured, the gun was never fired, and the district was not placed on lockdown.
Monday's incident at Granite School District raises the question of how the prevalence of guns is affecting American youth, and just how easy it is for children to gain access to firearms. A 2006 article in the Washington Post quotes a study that concluded, "39 percent of kids knew the location of their parents' firearms, while 22 percent said they had handled the weapons, despite their parents' assertions to the contrary." Parents that had talked to their children about firearm safety were just as likely to be unaware of their children’s' handling of the household gun as those who had not, according to the study.
Since the shooting, gun rights advocates have been pushing the narrative that arming teachers is the best way to deal with the threat of mass shooting incidents – essentially an argument that the solution to guns is more guns. Representative Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) and State Representative Dennis Richardson (R-Ore.) were on the record as stating that they wished the Sandy Hook Elementary School had been equipped with a defensive firearm. A Tea Party group claimed Sunday "had [Trayvon Martin shooter] George Zimmerman been at the front door instead of some mechanical card reader, those children would still be alive."
The gun lobby is quickly joining Republicans in calling for schools to arm themselves, saying teachers need to be armed in order to defend students. Jim Irvine, Buckeye Firearms Association chairman, told the Marion Star, "if it makes sense to use armed adults to protect dignitaries or trucks of money, it also makes sense to use them to protect children."
Of course the gun lobby is calling for more guns. They are, after all, the ones who make money off of the manufacturing and sale of firearms.
Children, however, are not like dignitaries traveling in a convoy or trucks of money. For one, as this incident proves, children are unpredictable and may not have a good understanding (or any understanding) of firearms safety. Introducing guns into schools is a sure-fire way to make sure there are more gun accidents in schools. As teacher Daniel Dawer commented on a previous PolicyMic piece on guns in schools, "arming teachers and principals would invite the possibility not only of accidental discharge, but also of gun use at inappropriate times."
As we discuss appropriate reactions to the Sandy Hook shooting, perhaps the question of whether or not more children should be exposed to more guns should be at the forefront of our minds.