In December of 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT became just the most recent name to be added to the list of schools now infamous for the terrible tragedies to occur within. While it may on one level be anecdotal rather than statistical in nature, the school shooting that claimed the lives of 20 children and 6 adults in Sandy Hook seems to represent a trend of growing visibility for deadly gun-related violence in schools. It also highlights an interesting dichotomy as we attempt to understand the implications of gun violence in schools, both as a chronic issue in urban or inner-city settings an as a perhaps less chronic but more salient issue in suburban schools. The research proposed here will attempt to discern the implications of gun violence in both of these contexts, broadening the discussion on gun violence in schools to include consideration of the distinctions between urban and suburban experiences. It is presumed that while incidences of greater tragic magnitude seem largely to occur in suburban public education facilities, these wholesale massacres may undermine awareness of the more common daily risk of gun violence in our inner-cities.
Before proceeding to a research endeavor that would attempt to determine the proportion of gun violence in urban vs. suburban settings, it is necessary to consult some of the research and literature which are available on the subject. Here, an extensive body of work has been composed over the last decade and a half, largely in response to a number of high-profile school shooting incidences beginning with the Columbine shootings in 1999.
The text by Welch (2013) identifies gun violence as a pubic health issue. Raising the relevance of shootings at Newtown, in an Aurora, Illinois movie theatre and at Virginia Tech, the article provides the present research with a grounding in the regulatory discussion. Especially in the wake of Newtown, efforts at driving strong gun control legislation have produced a sharp cultural and ideological divide in the United States. The article contributes recognition of this debate to the present research endeavor. Consequently, its most important role to our research is its insistence that rational and collaborative efforts between two sharply divided sides may bring about the legislative change necessary to draw down gun violence risk in schools.
Particularly, Welch identifies gun violence as a problem of public health, reframing the discussion away from Constitutional arguments or ideologies regarding criminology. According to Welch, "rational public policy can work. Sensible gun legislation, which is accessible through a public health approach to gun violence, neither marginalizes nor stigmatizes any one group. University administrators must fully engage the entire arsenal of resources available to confront this pernicious threat. The academic community can create powerful networks for research, collaboration and information sharing." (Welch, p. 1)
This resolution regarding the academic community is also of value because it calls upon the very communities who have faced the threat of gun violence to act in response to it. The Welch article promotes the notion that public schools and universities must lead the way in improving their own safety outlook.
The article by Whitehall & Webster (2013) expands on the ideas discussed in the text by Welch. In the perception of the researchers here, gun control is to be viewed as a public health issue. However, in the text by Whitehall & Webster, the greater focus appears to be on the implications of gun violence in urban settings. Here, the daily threat may be much higher than that represented in the article by Welch. As such, the article indicates, many cities have adopted "CeaseFire, an evicence-based public health program that uses specialized outreach workers, called violence interrupters (VIs) to mediate potentially violent conflicts before they lead to a shooting. Prior research has linked conflict mediation with program related reductions in homicides." (p. 1)
According to the article, there has remained a need to better identify those mediation methods which have been proven effective. The primary thrust of the article, as it relates to the present study, is that outreach and engagement of students in the urban context may go a long way toward the prevention of gun violence. Though the research in question is couched in the urban context, there is a clear applicability to the suburban gun violence epidemic as well. The call for improved conflict mediation should be seen as a goal for educators, guidance counselors and school community leaders in general but,…