Commentary: Houston, We Have a Problem

School Days,

Michael F. Shaughnessy
Eastern New Mexico University
Portales, New Mexico

Every once in a while, some one that I interview neglects some important piece of information and wants it included in one of my interviews. So, I have to write to Jimmy Kilpatrick and say facetiously “Houston, We Have a Problem”. This is not exactly correct, but Jimmy is close enough to Houston to be able to use the phrase from that great movie- I think it was The Right Stuff with Tom Hanks.

Anyway, I sadly have to write today and title this column “Houston, We Have a Problem “. Apparently, in today’s local paper, there was a brief article entitled “Kindergartner takes gun to school” ( I am reproducing it word for word  below)

HOUSTON- A kindergartner who brought a loaded gun to his Houston elementary school Tuesday was among three students injured when the gun fired after falling from his pocket as he sat down for lunch, officials said. One bullet was fired about 10:35 a.m. in the Ross Elementary School Cafeteria, spraying fragments at the students, said Houston Independent School District Assistant Police Chief Robert Mock. “It dropped on the floor, under the table. It was loud, it was so loud,” 6 year old Kennedi Glapion said as she was being picked up from the school by her grandmother.

The above appeared in the Clovis News Journal April 20th page 5.

Now, the issue is, Houston, we have a problem. What is a kid doing with a gun, how does he get it into the school ? (presumably in his backpack? ) and where does he get this gun from and where are the parents? Who is supervising this kid as he leaves the home and heads off to school? And what did he plan to do with this weapon?

There are other issues here- The above report says three students were injured. I presume or assume that the EMT’s were called (I don’t know this for a fact, however).

And the issue is that these EMT’s (many of whom double as firefighters) certainly have other things to do than deal with a situation like this that could have been prevented if parents were aware, responsible and mature adults.  Many EMT’s do rotations in the local Emergency Rooms as well, and they should be commended for this.

I know many EMT’s and firefighters.  I have played basketball with many of them over the years and they are among the finest people that I know. They are some of the most caring, professional individuals that walk the earth.  I admire and respect them all tremendously.

Some are paramedics, and some risk their lives fighting fires, dealing with smoke inhalation, and caring for individuals in crisis. In another decade, I actually did the Basic and Intermediate EMT, although I am way too old to be driving around in an ambulance nowadays.  But kindergarten kids with guns, and children with gunshot wounds is something I was never prepared for in EMT training.

And the issue is that no kindergarten kid or even first, second, third, fourth, fifth—heck, no elementary, middle school kid or even high school kids should be bringing a gun to school. School is a place for education and learning.

Houston, We Have a Problem. You can call it availability of guns, you can call it lack of parental supervision, neglect on the part of parents (where did the kid get this gun from? And why was there no trigger lock?)

I hope the judge or whoever is involved in this case finds out the answers to some of these questions.

I cannot speak for the entire Emergency Medical Services nationwide or EMT’s nationwide, but I do think they have better things to do than deal with kindergarten kids with guns. This is a sad situation.

I commend the EMT’s for their work, and I commend each and every firefighter/EMT that is now dealing with fires in West Texas and Eastern New Mexico. Like the police, they risk their lives every day and rarely get the recognition and acknowledgement they deserve.

I guess I should also commend the kindergarten teacher too. It is a sad situation- and I doubt if the teacher’s teacher training program prepared him or her for such an event.

Used with the permission of