Opinion

Schools, community play a role in preventing gun violence | Editorial

Whether or not school shootings have increased in recent years, as there has been public debate over, every shooting that happens reminds us how vulnerable our places of education are. Recent shootings in the Portland area and in Seattle have felt especially close to home.

Vashon’s public schools have plans in place for responding to a shooting, as required by law, and the schools have taken added security measures to combat such an incident. It’s notable that the school district is now taking the summer to try to make its plans even stronger. The district seems to be approaching the issue methodically and logically, considering what has helped schools in other incidents, remembering our unique situation as an island and connecting with local law enforcement in its planning.

Our schools’ preparedness, however, is just one layer in our community’s response to gun violence, and school officials know this. Vashon Islanders can’t do a lot to influence gun control legislation, but we can consider what could play a role in violence in our own town. The school principals say they make an effort to prevent and address bullying and to reach out to students who struggle, for more reasons than one. As an island, we should also reach out to the most vulnerable among us, for instance by continuing to support our social service agencies. Vashon Youth & Family Services is currently looking to restore funding for programs that provided education for parents and support for some of the highest-risk youth on the island. These programs and others help some youth get what they need to stay healthy and make good choices.

The district is also smart to consider how weapons are accessed, hoping to start a community conversation and get gun owners who haven’t already done so to think about the best safety practices. Simply restricting access to weapons can prevent a tragedy, and we hope the district gains traction with any effort in this direction.

No one measure or even multiple measures will assure that the sort of violent attacks that all too often grab headlines will never happen in our small community. But on an island known for supporting one another, we can work together to further weave a sort of safety net against violence. There are a lot of positive things happening already. Considering what leads to violent outbursts can prompt moves that make for a healthier population in general. Odds are against a shooting on Vashon, but efforts such as planning an emergency response, supporting those most at risk and advocating for gun safety can only lead to positive things and could work to stop other tragedies as well.

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