Rash of gun-incidents near Vegas schools raises concerns

Rash of gun-incidents near Vegas schools raises concerns

(Nev.) Officials at the Clark County School District are considering installation of metal detectors at school sites following a rash of gun-related incidents in and around the Las Vegas-area district.

“It is clear there is a problem,” Superintendent Jesus Jara said at a news conference last week. “It’s not our problem alone, it’s a national problem. But my real concern is making sure our 320,000 students are free to learn in a safe environment.”

Although mass shootings in Florida, south Texas and western Kentucky, for good reason, received broad coverage this year—there have been  seven incidents in or nearby Las Vegas schools just since August 14.

Most recently, an 18-year-old high school student was shot to death near a baseball field at Canyon Spring High School in north Las Vegas.

A school safety task force was established by Gov. Brian Sandoval in the wake of the Feb. 14 rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida where a former student killed 17 people.

The task force issued its recommendations in July, which included an increase of state funding for campus police officers, as well as improved mental health services over the next 15 years.

The Las Vegas Strip was also the site of one of the nation’s worse mass shooting last October, when a gunman opened fire on a crowd attending a country music concert, killing 59 and wounding more than 500.

The majority of the instances around Las Vegas schools in recent weeks were related to the discovery of students or someone on campus having a weapon.

But, Clark County School District Police Chief Jim Ketsaa said, typically the guns that are confiscated at school have been used in other crimes.

Jara said he would be establishing a gun safety advisory team that would include principals, teachers and students, as well as community stakeholders. He said the charge will be to consider additional safety measures, including metal detectors to screen incoming students, and the creation of a special school police gang unit.

Less certain are proposals coming from the governor’s statewide task force—for one, because Sandoval’s term will end in December and two, because much of what was recommended will cost money, and the Republican-led majority in the state house has been reluctant to fund new programs.

There is also a federal task force on school safety being headed-up by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. That panel, which has not concluded its work, is looking at remedies that don’t involve the role of guns in school violence.

So far, the biggest news from DeVos on the issue has been a proposal to use existing federal grants for student wellness and health as a source of funding to buy guns for arming teachers and school personnel.

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