A divided Loudoun County School Board on Tuesday adopted a resolution on gun violence prevention penned by member Joy Maloney (Broad Run).
After a lengthy debate—including consideration of an alternative resolution introduced by Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles), which was amended to include several passages from Maloney’s resolution and then voted down—the board voted 5-2-2 to approve Maloney’s resolution, with Eric DeKenipp (Catoctin) and Debbie Rose (Algonkian) opposed, and Morse and Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) abstaining.
“I think that we’ve seen over the last few weeks, months, that as much as we as advocates and leaders are feeling cynical that anything will get done, our young people are ready to take up that charge and continue, and they are not cynical,” Maloney said. “They believe that they will make change and they are bringing hope back into this.”
Maloney’s resolution cites reporting and data from academic journals and news publications, mentioning statistics such as that young people and adolescents in the United States are 14 to 23 times more likely to be killed with a gun than in other high-income countries; that 19 children per day are killed or get emergency treatment for gunshot wounds; and that since the shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, 136 students and school employees have died in school mass shootings.
It also mentions some of the efforts the school system has put into making its schools safer, such as mental health support, increasing the number of counselors, and implementing stronger school entrance control.
While the specifics and language of the resolution drew skepticism from other board members, DeKenipp and Rose were its most vocal critics. DeKenipp, who told the board “I’m armed every day, I’m armed right now, I’m not a threat to anybody in this room” and dismissed concerns about high-capacity magazines by saying he can reload his weapon in seconds—“we’re that good, we’re that trained”—said his experience with firearms had not turned him against them.
“I’ve lost more friends to gun violence, for lack of a better term, more than I’d like to count, and the reality is, I don’t blame the weapon,” DeKenipp said. “I blame the dirtbags that were behind the trigger.”
He also criticized language about reducing the lethality of gun violence, arguing “the purpose of guns is lethality. They’re designed and built to cause harm, that’s the reality of it.” He argued the resolution, which the board discussed for an hour, “doesn’t do anything, and it is a waste of time.”
Rose, meanwhile, criticized the statistics presented in the resolution, and said “it’s not OK for folks to come up here and ask, what are you doing. There’s a lot, and we have been doing a lot.”
“I’m all about doing it right, and I do do what I can,” Rose said. “My actions speak louder than not raising my hand to support a ‘whereas’ and a ‘therefore.’ I anticipate this isn’t going to make me popular, but fortunately I don’t do this job to be popular, I do it to do what I think is right.”
The board also heard from number of students, parents, and teachers at the meeting asking them to pass Maloney’s resolution. Teacher Mary Katherine Gregory told the school board about plans she and other teachers have in the case of a school shooting—such as charging the shooter with a chair, or attacking them with chemicals in a science lab, or simply taking bullets for the kids.
“Imagine it: a school turned into a warzone. Let it sink in, let it startle you, let it turn your stomach, let it fill your eyes with tears,” Gregory said. “Just imagine the chaos, the fear, the split-second life and death decisions. Sit with it, let it be real, because it is real, and it’s heartbreakingly possible in any school at any time.”
Ann Neiberger-Miller, one of several members of Moms Demand Action at the meeting, said a yes vote on the resolution wouldn’t signify a political direction.
“Instead, a yes vote is a duty of care in our school system,” Neiberger-Miller said. ”A yes vote does not threaten the Second Amendment, and shows you recognize the seriousness of this issue.”
And eighth grader Annie Greenman was among those who reacted to Morse’s comments at a previous meeting that students can be outraged, but should not be scared.
“If we are not afraid, we will not speak out, and if we don’t speak out, change won’t happen,” Greenman said.
After the vote, Maloney said the resolution’s adoption sends a message to students “that we’re also supporting them, that we are doing what we can to address this issue, and that we support their calls to do more.”