With parents readying their kids to go back to school, gun control and gun safety has been on the minds of lawmakers.
Four months after State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released a report that New York City schools are not prepared for a mass shooting, nearly 30 City Council Members signed a joint letter to Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza to fill in the gap.
Signatories from Queens included Council Members Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica), Peter Koo (D-Flushing), Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton), Robert Holden (D-Middle Village), Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens), Paul Vallone (D-Bayside), Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) and Francisco Moya (D-Corona).
“It has come to our attention that New York City schools are not sufficiently prepared for a mass shooting incident,” wrote the council members. “In these challenging times, our schools are at risk for random acts of violence.”
The city representatives want Carranza to use everything in his disposal as the leader of the largest public school system to keep students secure, according to the letter.
“The annual school safety plan, mandated by the New York State Safe Schools Against Violence in Education Act, is the comprehensive policy for school administration and staff on how to protect our children from threats,” the letter continued. “It is alarming to know that erroneous, outmoded and untimely safety plan submissions are prevalent in our school system.”
With the 2019 to 2020 school year on the horizon, the council members have urged Carranza to make sure there are new and better plans submitted to the SAVE Act that are timely, accurate and comprehensive in protecting the boundaries of schools so that children can feel safe, according to the letter.
Gaps included poor attendance of monthly safety meetings by the School Safety Committees, the DOE not requiring every school to submit floor plans for emergency response, and school plans being in insecure locations and having incorrect phone numbers, according to DiNapoli’s report.
Other gaps included schools not fulfilling their promise to meet the minimum in school safety drills, missing information from district-wide safety plans and failure to submit school safety plans to the State Police.
DiNapoli recommended that city schools get up-to-date with all city and state regulations for school safety, comply with the State Education Department’s rules on floor plans, that schools establish a minimum of how many people will attend the school safety meetings, that school safety meetings are meaningful, and that plans are accurate and complete.
He also recommended that drills were monitored to ensure they are being completed within the required time frame and that district-wide plans are well documented.
In a separate op-ed that was featured on the Daily News, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer went further and asked Republican lawmakers across the country to sign on to universal background checks.
“In my office in Washington, I keep photos given to me by the parents of children killed at Sandy Hook elementary school next to pictures of my wife and two daughters,” said Schumer. “Those photos are a searing reminder of the tens of thousands of American lives lost each year by gun violence, and the moral imperative we have to do something about it.”
Schumer argued that over 90 percent of Americans support universal background checks and he hopes that Republicans will sign on to bipartisan legislation that was introduced in the House of Representatives to address the matter of gun violence.
“There are evidence-based solutions that, if enacted, would reduce the number of gun deaths in America,” said Schumer. “We must require background checks for all gun sales.”
In the meantime, local city representatives will focus on protecting children in New York City schools.
“As a city, we must do everything reasonably possible to protect our children from any threat that may arise while they are in the care of the DOE.”