Student voices chime in on preventing school shootings

The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., has made many schools rethink their safety procedures. It has also sparked emotional debates about the roots of violence.

To find out how the tragedy has affected young people, we brought together high school students from around the country into a Google Hangout to talk about new rules since the Dec. 17 massacre, their opinion about proposals to let teachers carry guns and ideas about how to stop the next mass shooting. The students are participants in the NewsHour’s Student Reporting Labs, which provides video journalism curricula and mentoring to classrooms and after-school programs.

Attitudes toward guns differed dramatically from major cities where illegal weapons kill hundreds every year, to rural towns, where many residents hunt and own guns.

Spencer Baldwin from Shenandoah, Iowa, said that many of his teachers are gun owners with concealed carry permits. “They’ve been trained to do that kind of thing and I think that having one in every classroom wouldn’t necessarily be a danger to the students.”

Students also admitted that video games and a violent media culture can numb kids to the brutality around them, but argued that the real problem has much more to do with home environments, mental health and bullying.

“We’ve had violent video games forever,” argues Ben Hudson from Magnolia High School in Magnolia, Texas. “When they see in video games they are killing people or if they see on a movie it kind of makes the whole violence thing — even hearing it on the news — like it’s not real, it doesn’t hit home as much… but I don’t think it would affect someone enough to pick up a gun and kill someone just because they played a video game of it.”

Students participated from Richwood High School in W.V., Desert Pines High School in Las Vegas, Daniel Pearl Magnet School in Los Angeles, Sentinel High School in Missoula, Mont., Magnolia High School in Texas, and Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School in Nashville, Tenn.