Wake County resolution encourages firearm safety

The Wake County Board of Education celebrate the unanimous passing of the Safe Gun Storage Resolution. On March 19, members voted in a public session on the resolution, which will provide educational resources to families about the importance of gun safety in the home. Board members from left to right: Sam Hershey, Dr. Wing Ng, Lynn Edmonds, Chris Heagarty (Chair), Ms. Monika Johnson-Hostler ,Tyler Swanson, Cheryl Caulfield, Toshiba Rice)
The Wake County Board of Education celebrate the unanimous passing of the Safe Gun Storage Resolution. On March 19, members voted in a public session on the resolution, which will provide educational resources to families about the importance of gun safety in the home. Board members from left to right: Sam Hershey, Dr. Wing Ng, Lynn Edmonds, Chris Heagarty (Chair), Ms. Monika Johnson-Hostler ,Tyler Swanson, Cheryl Caulfield, Toshiba Rice)
Photos by @WCPSS on X

According to U.S. News, there were 346 school shooting incidents across the United States in 2023 alone. But when looking to reduce those statistics, a common issue for legislature is deciding between respecting citizen’s right to bear arms, and the safety of children in schools. In March of 2024, the Wake County Public School Board met to discuss the passing of a new resolution that would allow schools to distribute educational instruction and resources to families about the importance of safe gun storage in their child’s home. By encouraging safe gun storage in the home, the board hopes to reduce youth gun violence and prevent senseless deaths, reducing needless emotional trauma. The resolution won’t affect much of the daily lives of students and families, but will lay the groundwork for open discussions about gun safety. These discussions may include providing recognition for the fact that a large majority of active shooters were current students or recent graduates in incidents of gun violence on school grounds. March 19, 2024, the resolution was officially passed by the board in a public meeting. The decision was unanimous, and many local law enforcement agencies and school officials attended to voice their support. 

Wake County Board of Education Chair Chris Heagarty stands by as member Lynn Edmonds approves and signs the resolution. Edmonds is the member in charge of district 5, Athens Drive’s district. (Photos by @WakeCountySchools on YouTube)

“I’ve been active in the work of gun violence prevention for almost ten years through Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, and to now be a member of this board and in a position to take such an action is deeply meaningful to me,” said District five (home to Athens Drive) board member Lynn Edmonds.

Edmonds has been an advocate for the resolution with involvement in other gun safety organizations. The School Board members have all generally been supportive of the resolution, noting that education can only bring positive change to the community.

“If this resolution and our commitment to educating parents and the community about safe gun storage prevents one act of accidental harm, it’s worth all our time and energy,” said Edmonds. 

Gun control is a very controversial issue throughout the United States, and some families may be concerned with WCPSS taking a stand on the issue. However, in a country with rising numbers of gun owners and rising numbers of gun violence on school grounds, proactive measures need to be taken. Per the resolution, “an estimated 13 million American children live in households possessing at least one firearm, and 4.6 million of those live in a household with at least one loaded and unlocked firearm.”

“Whether targeted, unintentional, self-inflicted, so many of these tragedies could have been prevented by restricting [children’s] access to firearms . . . everything that we can do on the front end to prevent that and stop that is a tragedy averted,” said Chris Hegarty, chairman of the board..

Even with unanimous support, the resolution took weeks of preparation, editing, and revising to properly phrase the decision in a considerate and respectful

The Board of Education along with several other county administrators meet before the public meeting to have a work session. This is when members revise and adjust different sections of the resolution. (Photos by @WakeCountySchools on YouTube)

way to all members of the community. One concern brought up in the final work session before the ruling was about the mention of people with mental health disorders and their relation to shootings. 

“The language around ‘more than 90% of active shooters display mental health symptoms’ [previous phrasing of the clause] the one thing I have to say is that only four percent of violent crimes are committed by people living with a mental illness. If we put emphasis like that on mental health, that’s a huge stigma . . . that language is dangerous for mental health communities, people living with depression, people living with anxiety and people living with suicidal ideation,” said Toshiba Rice, the school board’s newest member. 

The wording was ultimately agreed upon to be more mindful of reducing the generalization of those with mental health issues. During the reading of the final version of the resolution, leaders of local law enforcement agencies were able to voice their support. This includes Apex Police Chief Chase Armstrong, Morrisville Chief of Police Pete Acosta, Raleigh Police Deputy Chief Rico Boyce, and Wake County Sheriff Willie Rowe.

Raleigh Police Deputy Chief Rico Boyce speaks about the significance of the resolution. Boyce states that awareness and responsibility are key for gun owners to ensure the protection of children. (Photos by @WakeCountySchools on YouTube)

“I’m grateful to stand in solidarity with my law enforcement colleagues throughout the county as well as all the staff with Wake County Public School System. The joint effort is a testament to our shared commitment to prioritizing the safety and well-being of our community, especially our children,” said Rico Boyce, Raleigh Police Department Deputy Chief. 

Aside from the impact of a reduction of gun-related violence among young people, the resolution has another purpose: to hold the gun owner accountable. Parental figures are responsible for securing their firearms properly. In past cases where a child has taken a firearm from their home and used it with the intention of harm, the adult would additionally face charges. By ensuring proper education, these adults will have a better understanding of the potential consequences of these situations.

“Gun safety is not just about laws and regulations, but raising awareness and responsibility. It’s about ensuring that every individual who owns a firearm understands the gravity of ownership and is fully prepared to handle and secure it with the utmost care,” said Boyce. 

The resolution may only be the start of open conversations about firearms with the potential for future movements. The message from both law enforcement and the school system is clear: students in school should be concerned about their education, not protecting their lives.

“Initiatives and programs dedicated to teaching these fundamentals can significantly reduce accidental shootings and save lives in and outside of our schools. Secure storage is non-negotiable, firearms should always be unloaded and locked away with ammunition stored separately. This simple step can turn curious hands from turning a moment of negligence into a lifetime of regret,” said Boyce.

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