Gun Control & Mental Health Public Forum with Superintendent Dr. Martirano at River Hill High School

By: Tigerlily Johnson
Staff Writer

All across the country, students have participated in several walkouts due to the mass school shooting in Florida on Wednesday, February 14th. On Tuesday, February 20th, the Florida state House declined to pass a ban on semiautomatic guns and large capacity magazines. Florida students planned a walkout on Wednesday, February 21st at noon to combat this decision and put pressure on Congress to pass more gun reform, but their determination has spread across the country and pushed other students to do the same. On February 21st at Hammond, many students participated in the walkout and contributed to the protests against gun violence sweeping the nation. There have been several walkouts that have taken place since then, including one on April 20th to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting.


In wake of these tragedies across America, a public meeting  was held on Tuesday, February 27, at River Hill High School addressing gun safety and mental health. The forum was open to the public, and River Hill’s auditorium was filled with passionate teachers, parents, and students. Howard County’s superintendent, Dr. Martirano, was the main speaker, and he talked about very controversial yet important topics. He was open to sharing his personal life story, and how he has been affected by mental health issues his whole life. Sitting in the audience, it was clear that the stories he shared connected deeply with students facing similar struggles.

DiPaula

Principal Dr. DiPaula speaking at Hammond’s gun control forum


The topic of gun control is very prominent and controvertial in today’s society. People have different beliefs about gun ownership, but the nation is generally split on the matter, with the two main political parties opposing one another. The public heavily influences how everyone percieve guns — protesting, news stations and publishing, and government officials. It has become a very politically charged topic; as of February 27th, only 60 days since 2018 began, there were 18 mass school shootings, all of which were committed with a gun.


The event that took place at River Hill served to provide a sense of relief, no matter how small, to worried parents, and assure everyone that change will occur. The forum was public, allowing concerned teachers, staff members, and parents to ask personal questions about gun control to a panel of adults belonging to specific organizations.


One parent brought up the topic of building a second door for every classroom — one to enter, and one to exit. While this would be a great idea for emergency escapes, it is simply not plausible due to the older layout of many school buildings. Newer buildings could definitely keep this renovation in mind due to the new model of school buildings, but it will not be able to be implemented in all existing schools.

Dr. Martirano discussed recent events that happened at high schools nation-wide, including various walkouts that many high schools are conducting and participating in. Hammond High School had a walkout on February 20th, which many students attended; the walkout was a huge success, and there are more planned for the future. Many students and teachers agree that a walkout is an efficient way to express a peaceful way of protesting. Dr. Martirano agreed with the movement, and is proudly standing by students. One thing that makes him click with students is always expressing that “the children are the future.” We must listen to the children, and let them lead the way. After all, we are the upcoming generation that will lead our country. Adults might as well listen to what we have to say.


“When people say: ‘Things like this don’t happen in Howard County’, that’s where we start having problems,” Martirano said. He is completely right. The second we let our guard down, the chaos comes. New ways to keep our schools safer were introduced, such as locking the front doors to all high schools, and there will likely be more safety measures implemented in the future as a result of the recent mass shootings.


Marjory Stoneman Douglas once said to “Be a nuisance where it counts; do your part to inform and stimulate the public to join your action. Be depressed, discouraged, and disappointed at failure and the disheartening effects of ignorance, greed, corruption and bad politics — but never give up.” Students are motivated by quotes like these with great importance behind them. These students are people just like us — anyone could be next. March alongside your peers in times like these. We are the future and refuse to be silent any longer.

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