GUNS IN SCHOOLS: Richland Two partners with other school districts and agencies for gun safety initiative
COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — According to Every Town for Gun Safety, guns are the leading cause of death among youth in South Carolina.
Just this year in the state, there have also been five incidents of gun fire at schools and 29 instances of firearms discovered on school grounds according to the Be SMART program.
“In the last 5 years alone, 170 children and teens have been cared for at Prisma Health Richland Hospital due to gunshot wounds. Those are only the ones that made it to us,” said Dr. Bo Cofield, CEO of Prisma Health Richland Hospital.
“We got to do more. We got to do more in this country and in this state,” said state superintendent Molly Spearman when asked about school shootings on Wednesday.
Richland Two School District intends to do more. Thursday, it hosted an initiative to support responsible gun ownership in partnership with the group Be SMART.
“As superintendents, we all lay awake and struggle with this issue. It’s the one call we don’t want,” said Richland Two superintendent Dr. Baron Davis.
Be SMART is made up of volunteers and it says that issues of gun violence in schools have only become worse during the pandemic, during which they say there has been a 64 percent increase in gun sales.
“With easy access, increase in gun sales and increased mental health issues, we have seen more guns in schools,” said Poorneema Ramasamy, Be SMART volunteer.
It’s why the group is promoting gun safety.
“Kids cannot be the ones expected to behave responsibly around guns. As adults, we take ownership,” Ramasamy said.
The group is partnering with other school districts in the Midlands. Many superintendents were eager to sign a memorandum of understanding today along with law enforcement and health leaders.
“I am uniquely the only one here that has had the unfortunate experience of going through not one, but two school shootings in two different school districts,” said Dr. Shawn Foster, Orangeburg County superintendent.
“This is about taking a stand and doing what’s right for and by our children,” said Dr. Penelope Martin-Knox, Sumter County superintendent.
One superintendent reminded everyone that it will take more than school districts and law enforcement to end gun violence in schools, asking for the community’s help.
“We can put up metal detectors and create all kinds of policies and procedures. At the end of the day, if it is just us involved in that effort, we won’t be successful,” said Dr. J.R. Green, Fairfield County superintendent.
Every Town for Gun Safety data shows that 54 percent of gun owners do not store guns safely. It’s something Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott says is an easy change to make.
“Simple things. A gun lock. A free gun lock that you can get,” said Sheriff Lott.
The partners today hope that other school districts can get on board with this initiative.
“The first thing in order to learn is feeling safe,” Spearman said.
The Be SMART program says that research shows a 78 percent lower risk of self-inflicted firearm injuries if guns are stored securely as we as an 85 percent lower risk of unintentional firearm injuries among children and teens.