Can Our Youth End Gun Violence?
By TARIN NIX
The threat of gun violence became a reality that Española Valley youth had to face over the last two weeks, when two shooting threats at Española Valley High School and one false alarm at Chimayo Elementary School sent shockwaves through the community and garnered national attention.
As incident after incident happened, Española School Board members began to seriously question the district’s outdated emergency response plan, faulty surveillance equipment, and the City Council’s inability to fill the security resource officer position in the high school.
Members of the community and board members met twice throughout the nine-day ordeal to discuss shortcomings and areas for improvement. Superintendent Bobbie Gutierrez urged the board to invest in district-wide emergency response training, guard shack phone and repeater, updates to intercom systems, school badges for student and staff identification, an off-site district command center, and repairs to surveillance cameras at the high school.
School Board President Pablo Lujan and Vice President Lucas Fresquez expressed major concern over the news that the $35,000 investment made on security cameras the previous year had been neglected and needed more money. Nearly a third of all cameras were reported to be out of service.
During these meetings Lujan also voice disappointment that the security resource officer the Española City Council had promised the district in September had yet to be hired. Lujan stated that someone from the Española City Police Department could have been, “filling in while they found someone.” Lujan went on to note that the school board had, “paid for those services for the district” and wanted answers for why that person wasn’t at EVHS when the second incident occurred. Gutierrez informed the board that individuals were being interviewed that week and would update the board at the next meeting.
While the school board continues efforts around campus security, and the City and Rio Arriba County work on additional measures to increase safety in every community, it is the youth of the Valley that are taking a proactive stand to end gun violence.
Española Valley High School student government and council leaders rallied together after their lives and the lives of their classmates and teachers were threatened and organized a rally Tuesday to take a stand and make a pledge to never use a gun for violence. Española Mayor Alice Lucero, Superintendent Bobbie Gutierrez, Commissioner Barney Trujillo, joined EVHS student leaders and special guests Miranda Viscoli, Student Anti-Gun Violence Pledge Creator, Mary Lewis Grow, and Creator of the TV show MacGyver, Lee David Zlotoff.
Students read the names of 14 New Mexico youth that had been killed by a gun in 2015, as a reminder that gun violence affects everyone and it is up to the youth to stop gun violence for future generations. Lucero proclaimed that October 20 would be known at the Española Valley High School Anti-Gun Violence Day and commended students for taking the initiative to create the change needed in the community. EVHS Senior Ryan Baca encouraged students to sign the pledge and reminded them that, “one man can change the world but one bullet can change your life.”
Zlotoff ended the assembly and noted that when he was given a chance to create the story he wanted for MacGyver, he created a world were a guy could be a hero without using a gun. He told the room, “Your life is a story and you get to decide if there is a gun in your story or not.” A profound message that ended with students and staff eager to take a pledge to end gun violence.
While the pledge might not end gun violence, those attending felt that engaged youth might just be the best chance our community has at taking the first step in addressing violent crimes. Organizers invite everyone to join them in taking the pledge. The pledge reads: I will never bring a gun to school; I will never use a gun to settle a personal problem or dispute; I will use my influence with my friends to keep them from using guns to settle disputes. My individual choices and actions, when multiplied by those of young people throughout the country, will make a difference. Together, by honoring this pledge, we can reverse the violence and grow up in safety.