ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Following national news of a school shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, local officials are taking steps to protect local schools. In a press conference Wednesday, they outlined a “zero-tolerance,” anti-gun initiative for public schools.
“So far this year, we’ve dealt with 13 incidents involving guns on Albuquerque Public Schools’ (APS) campuses,” Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) Superintendent Scott Elder said. “It’s left many of the staff, students, and families fearing for their safety. . . We’ve had a steady chorus of students and staff demanding that we do something about the gun threats on their campuses.”
To address the concerns, APS, the City of Albuquerque, local law enforcement, and the county’s District Attorney’s office announced a “zero-tolerance” policy regarding firearms at schools. “For APS students, that means an automatic one-year expulsion,” Superintendent Elder said. “It also means being arrested and prosecuted.”
Superintendent Elder said APS is taking additional steps to beef up security, including additional locks in the 6,0000+ classrooms throughout the district. APS is also giving law enforcement the ability to control live cameras in schools and implementing “ALICE” active shooter training, Elder said.
Intervention programs and counseling for kids is also a key element in their plan. “We have, now, violence intervention programs – for the first time in APS’s history, in partnership with the City and [the U.S. Department of Justice] – at Washington Middle School,” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said during the press conference. “We have ‘de-escalation’ and violence interruption programs at West Mesa for the first time in our city’s history.”
Keller noted that elected officials and law enforcement are putting in work to keep kids safe. He also turned to New Mexico’s citizens, pointing to a new gun storage law recently passed by the state’s legislature. “Families have a responsibility,” Keller said. “Yes, you have a responsibility to care of your firearm for your kids.”
Breaking Bad actor and former local Bernalillo County politician Steven Michael Quezada also addressed the community: “I want to make sure that the kids that live in my neighborhood, the kids that are now the children of the people I grew up with, do not start their life as a felon,” Quezada said, “and just bringing a gun to school will do that.”
Quezada added that the push to keep guns out of schools isn’t an attack on the Second Amendment. Instead, he noted, it’s about responsible gun ownership.
“I had a person come to my office saying, ‘You know, my children, I’ve trained them all on how to use a gun . . . why do I have to lock them up?’,” Quezada recalled. “And I said, ‘Good for you. I’ve also taught my children how to shoot a gun, but have you taught your children how to deal with their first heartbreak? Have you taught your children how to deal with their first mental breakdown?’ Because if they have access to your guns, that’s going to be the first path that they take.”