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Teens are shaping current gun debate

In the wake of the shooting in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14, many student survivors have been speaking out against gun violence. Teenagers are shaping the current gun control debate by appealing to politicians, corporations and the general public.
Parkland and Tuscarawas County are separated by more than 1,100 miles, but the debate can still be heard in our area. The threat of gun violence in the area was felt when officials discovered a handwritten threat on a bathroom stall in New Philadelphia High School one week after the Parkland incident.
Sixteen-year-old sophomore Noah Miskimens wasn’t alarmed by the local incident. He said he felt safe among many of the teachers who were former athletes and felt staff would be capable of protecting the students in the event of any situation.
Miskimens is in favor of arming teachers. The topic has been a divisive part of the public debate. School boards in Ohio are legally allowed to authorize staff members to carry concealed weapons in classrooms and are not required to publicize the information. Some area schools that have already begun publicly arming teachers include Indian Valley, Newcomerstown and Coshocton.
“If they already have the right to basically be in a room with a bunch of kids like that, then they should have the right to conceal and carry,” Miskimens said. “They have a very deep background check when you’re trying to become a teacher.”
In Southwest Ohio, Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones has gained national attention as a proponent of the idea and has even offered free concealed carry classes to any teachers interested. Several groups opposing the idea include American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio.
The February incident at New Philadelphia High School resulted in a “Yellow Door Lockdown.” According to Miskimens, this requires students and teachers to remain in their classrooms until the situation is cleared. These types of lockdowns happen whenever an unauthorized person enters the school or when drug dogs are brought on campus.
The school is prepared for situations such as this, and students and teachers practice drills regularly. Miskimens can’t remember when schools first started drilling for active-shooter situations.
“I remember doing it in elementary school,” he said.
A more severe “Red Door Lockdown” would have prompted those in the school to grab a book or binder to defend themselves and to hide.
The New Philadelphia City School District was quick to share information with parents and the community via their website and Facebook. They have been working with the New Philadelphia Police Department to address the situation.
Several local groups came together to offer a teen mental health and risky behaviors program at the Performing Arts Center of Kent State University at Tuscarawas. The event was attended by about 900 people.
Margaret Delillo-Storey, head of school and mental health counseling at Perry Local Schools in Stark County, was a featured speaker. She offered a list of ABCs for engaging with teens and staying active in their lives. President of the counseling association and a counselor at Dover High School, Michelle Grimm, spoke about the need to destigmatize mental illness and let children know it’s OK to ask for help.  
When asked about whether he thinks recent events will spawn new gun-control laws, Miskimens doesn’t think there will be many changes in the future.
“I don’t think they’re going to go through with it because it says in one of the amendments to the Constitution that we have the right to bear arms,” he said. “And we’ve been bearing arms since the 1700s.”
He said he has grown up around guns and is a hunter and fisherman. He was taught about what guns can do, how they work and how to use them properly. He doesn’t hesitate to say what he think the cause of recent gun violence is.  
“It just makes me think people are just getting stupider and stupider,” he said. “And they need to use their heads and think a lot more before they do something stupid like that.”  
Public pressure has caused many large national corporations to sever ties with the National Rifle Association. Several airlines, rental car companies, banks and insurance providers have announced they will no longer grant discounts to members of the NRA.
Lawmakers in Columbus are currently proposing “red-flag” laws that would allow law enforcement to confiscate guns from an individual who shows warning signs of posing a risk to himself or others with a judge's order. The measure has received support from Gov. John Kasich but is opposed by groups like the Buckeye Firearms Association, which say it is a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
There are currently 21 gun bills pending in the Ohio legislature.

Published: March 12, 2018
New Article ID: 2018180309974