Residents ponder how to stop further gun violence in schools

Everytown for Gun Safety, a non-political national grassroots efforts to stop gun violence, released a sobering statistic recently. According to its data, 74 school shootings have occurred since the December 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Thirty-nine of those tragedies, the group said, occurred in K-12 schools.

Protecting children in their classrooms is a hotly contested question raised in the wake of every school shooting. But when it happens in our own neighborhood, the answer and a solution become all the more urgent.

From the coffee shops to the conference rooms around town this week, conversation wasn’t about the weather. Instead, folks were trying to make sense of something so senseless and cope with their emotions.

Barb Spaulding sat alone at a table in Cafe Delirium on Wednesday, reading her Bible and periodically dabbing her eyes with a napkin. The Fairview resident is the mother of two girls, one a junior at Reynolds High School. Her daughter was not on campus the morning of the shooting, she said, but knew what was happening after her friend had texted her from the school. by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: ANNE ENDICOTT - Barb Spaulding from Fairview comforted her daughter, a junior at Reynolds who was not on campus at the time of the shooting. The pair found solace in their faith and were grateful to teachers and law enforcement for preventing more deaths.

“My daughter sent me a text, saying, ‘Mom, I need you now,’” Spaulding said. “I ran home and we prayed. I wrote a three-page prayer about everything that happened. I just think we are a nation that’s gotten away from God. There’s so much violence in video games and movies, and it’s just so sad.”

Spaulding and her daughter watched TV as details of the shooting unfolded and were devastated to learn a 14-year-old student had died. Spaulding said losing a child was beyond her comprehension, but she was relieved that early intervention by police officers prevented further carnage.

“Your heart just breaks for Emilio’s family,” she said. “I’m very thankful law enforcement and (PE/health teacher) Mr. Rispler were able to prevent this from becoming a mass shooting. I’m still having a hard time not crying.”

At Origin’s Coffee and Tea House in Gresham Town Fair, a group of retired Gresham residents were simply looking for an explanation for the number of school shootings.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: ANNE ENDICOTT - Dan Loftin worried about the impact on teens with the availability of dangerous information on social media and the Internet. “Social media is a problem, I think,” said Dan Loftin. “(Tuesday), it proved to be a valuable tool for parents to get a hold of their kids, but everything’s out there. You want to make a bomb, it’s there.”

While some view the solution to gun violence as simply prohibiting weapons ownership, Loftin’s brother, Hayden, said it boils down to gun owners being responsible.

“You can’t get rid of all the guns — that’s just not going to happen,” Hayden said. “The answer is responsibility. People need to lock their guns up to make sure their kids can’t get them.”

Mary Hubbard’s heart went out to the students and families of Reynolds High School, but said people need to be more aware of those around them. by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: ANNE ENDICOTT - Left to right, Hayden Lotfin, Mary Hubbard and Dick Sparks all agreed that gun owners need to be more vigilant about securing their weapons. Hubbard also said people need to be more aware of the emotions of those around them.

“I’m not saying every parent isn’t in tune with their kids, but I don’t think they know what their kids are doing sometimes,” Hubbard said. “There is a point where people need to be aware of the messages their kids are sending out. They’re not doing well in school, their bedroom is all black. There are messages out there we’re not getting.”

Sandy resident Andrea Hansen was enjoying a caramel apple with her preschool son and young daughter in Troutdale, questioning whether her son would ever grace the door of an elementary school.

“Every shooting has changed my perspective,” Hansen said. “Do we put our kids in school? We talk about it all the time, but we don’t know. We might home-school. But how many kids have to die before we do something about this? Is this what our world is coming to?”

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: ANNE ENDICOTT - Sandy resident Andrea Hansen is questioning whether her children will attend traditional schools. Every shooting, she said, changes her perspective and makes her lean more toward home schooling. Hansen felt gun owners should be more vigilant about locking up their guns and wondered if the future of school security would include metal detectors.

Doug Daoust may be the mayor of Troutdale, but he is first and foremost a parent. He admits to being shell shocked over this week’s events at the school his two daughters attended, and said the bottom line is making sure no child is afraid to go to school.

“Do we put metal detectors in a school with 3,000 students?” Daoust asked. “I don’t know how you would do that. One thing we could do is make sure there are resource officers in the schools. They make the kids feel safe, and it makes me feel safe as a parent. I think they’re the answer. Without them on Tuesday, we would have had a lot more fatalities.”

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