Editorial: Gun seizures at APS schools a very troubling trend - Albuquerque Journal

Editorial: Gun seizures at APS schools a very troubling trend

It was just a few sentences during a wide-ranging panel discussion by the leaders of the three largest education institutions in central New Mexico. But the information was news to many, and concerning.

In answering a question during the July 13 meeting of the Economic Forum, Albuquerque Public Schools superintendent Scott Elder mentioned the number of guns that had been seized at APS campuses in the past year.

An APS spokeswoman confirmed Thursday that officials seized 10 firearms that were brought to eight different APS schools between Aug. 13, 2021, and May 24, 2022. Those include Washington and Hoover middle and Rio Grande, Siembra Leader charter, Manzano, West Mesa, Del Norte and Volcano Vista high schools. (Three of the 10 guns were recovered at Rio Grande High.)

This list does not include a fatal shooting on the sidewalk bordering West Mesa in February or the non-fatal shootout across the street from Sandia High School in September. Both incidents involved students with guns.

No one knows how many unreported guns were on campuses.

Any way you look at it, the numbers are disturbing, especially considering two students were fatally shot on or near APS school campuses this past school year.

In one of those fatal shootings, authorities say a 13-year-old boy brought his father’s handgun to Washington Middle School, pulled it from his backpack and shot 13-year-old Bennie Hargrove multiple times after Hargrove came to the defense of a bullied schoolmate.

“This was an incredibly difficult year … and I’m afraid that now that Pandora’s box is open, it’s not going away anytime soon,” Elder said at the forum.

APS spokeswoman Monica Armenta said all the schools notified students’ families of the gun seizures via the school district’s emergency notification system. “Our practice is to share information with school communities as early as possible in situations involving staff and students’ safety without compromising police interventions, investigations, or the safety of all at the moment,” she said. She added the incidents were reported to authorities. Good, and charges should be filed. There have to be serious consequences for taking a gun onto school grounds.

Current APS policy calls for expelling for at least one calendar year students caught with firearms at school or at school-related events. Armenta says that’s because bringing a gun onto school property is a federal offense.

Elder told the business leaders at the forum APS is training students and teachers how to respond to an active shooter and the school district has been improving security cameras, upgrading door locks and building fences. APS school board members have recently discussed adding recommendations to families to make their homes safer, including keeping firearms unloaded, locked up and stored separately from ammunition. Several school board and community members have indicated support for the proposal.

But recommendations are only as good as those who take them to heart and act on them. Elder’s revelation about guns at APS schools is scary stuff. Kudos to all the students, staff and teachers who saw something and said something, and all the administrators and school resource officers who acted promptly.

Please keep it up. With 10 confiscated guns on campus in a single school year and an unknown number never reported, guns are too present in our community — especially among young people.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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