Trigger Happy

By Gerrard Simpkins and Critt Johnson

Ever since the first recorded school shooting on April 9, 1891, when 70 year old James Foster fired a shotgun at a group of students in the playground of St. Mary’s Parochial School in Newburgh, New York, the number of shootings has risen.

With over 40 school shootings last year, concern is rising about the safety of schools across the nation. A solution is needed now more than ever.

Everyone is familiar with the school shooting that took place April 20, 1999, in Littleton, Colorado, at Columbine High School, resulting in the worst high school shooting in U.S. history leaving 13 dead. The first shots were fired at 11:19 a.m., the first phone call made to authorities was made at 11:27 a.m. — nine minutes went by. Now imagine if they had the technology that would alert police right away when a gunshot is fired. This technology now exists and could save many lives and cut down on injuries in tremendous ways.  

With the concern rising for safety in schools, new technology is being developed and implemented everywhere. This technology can detect if a gunshot has gone off and alert the police right away. The U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan have started using this technology.

SST, Inc., a producer of the technology, states on its web cite, “A gunfire locator or gunshot detection system is a system that detects and conveys the location of gunfire or other weapon fire using acoustic, optical, potentially other types of sensors, as well as a combination of such sensors. An array of microphones or sensors either co-located or geographically dispersed, it is an processing unit thats uses a user interface that displays gunfire alerts.” They are used by law enforcement, security, the military and also businesses.

A bill has been filed for the 2016 Virginia General Assembly by state Del. Scott Taylor for blueprints to implement the technology in Virginia public schools. The biggest problem with the technology is that it is very expensive, for small buildings the price can be $20,000 and for bigger buildings $100,000.

When it comes to Bishop Sullivan security, people feel relatively safe here.  

“I think it’s safe. There’s not much you can do to stop it if somebody walks up with a shotgun shooting up doors, even in public schools where they have a resource officer and police. Most of the time they’re not right there when it happens. You just try to make it as safe as you can, and then you have procedures in place if something does go on,” said Principal Dennis Price.

This was evident when an undercover law enforcement man was let into Bishop Sullivan so he could point out the security weak spots in the school about six years ago.

“The policeman came in the first time in full uniform and was not confronted. The next time he dressed up as a contractor and was confronted after about 5 minutes. Students were warned not to open doors for people they don’t know, and the school learned to keep doors locked during school hours,” said Ed Keyes,  Director of Buildings and Grounds.

With so many people having cell phones in today’s age, there might not be a need for this technology. The cost of the technology might be too much and may not even make schools any safer.

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