ATF steps in to help with JCPS gun problem

This school year, JCPS has seen 16 students with guns on campus. According to multiple sources, more than half of them were loaded.
Published: Mar. 10, 2022 at 3:11 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Louisville’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Field Division is stepping in to help with guns being brought into schools within Jefferson County Public Schools.

“Of course that’s alarming to us,” Special Agent in Charge of the ATF’s Louisville Field Division Shawn Morrow said.

This school year, JCPS has seen 16 students with guns on campus. According to multiple sources, more than half of them were loaded. Three or more pellet or airsoft guns have also been confiscated.

The incidents include video of a gun pointed at another student at Iroquois High School, a Stuart Middle School student with 28 bullets in a 30 round magazine, and a 10-year-old with a handgun at McFarren Environmental.

“This is an epidemic of kids bringing guns to schools,” Mark Barden, a founder of the Sandy Hook Promise, told WAVE News Troubleshooters. “If there are issues that, that are occurring that are manifesting themselves that make students feel like they aren’t safe, to the point to where they feel like they need to bring deadly force in their backpacks to school, there’s something very wrong.”

Barden lost his son Daniel in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting 10 years ago. Since then, the organization has advocated for changes to prevent students from bringing firearms to school. Sandy Hook Promise is credited with averting more than 60 acts of violence with a weapon and seven planned school shootings.

The organization has a number of tools available for districts, students, family members and staff. For example, they created the Say Something program, which teaches the warning signs and empowers students to reach out to a Trusted Adult for help, they said.  The Say Something Anonymous Reporting System allows for students to anonymously report their related concerns.

School districts in 47 states have implemented the free program. JCPS is not among them.

“We need to be addressing how kids are getting their hands on guns in the first place,” Barden explained.

According to the Sandy Hook Promise, the student got the gun from home, a friend, or a relative in 68% of gun incidents at schools.

Typically, the ATF does not investigate or charge juveniles.

“That changes a bit though when we have firearms that are introduced on schools grounds and in particular if we have somebody who tries to commit a violent crime,” Morrow said.

Morrow said he has directed his field office to prioritize the JCPS gun issue, emphasizing communication between them, JCPS Security, and LMPD. Morrow has also offered their toolkit to other agencies in order to find out what happened to the guns.

“The full history of the gun,” he explained. “Where did it come from, how was it transferred, how did it make its way into that student’s hands, and whether or not it’s been used in other violent crimes.”

They have access to the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network, or NIBIN, which is based in Louisville. Its tracing technology serves several neighboring states, almost like reading a gun’s internet footprint.

“If someone is a member of a gang, if someone is involved in violent crime than we need to know that to keep the community safe,” Morrow said.

Last year, the number of school shootings set a new national record. These figures include incidents where four or more people were shot but were not classified as mass shootings.

According to ‘Everytown,’ an organization that tracks gun violence statistics, approximately 21% of gunfire incidents at schools were unintentional. There were non-fatal wounds, fatalities, and incidents in which the gun was fired but no one was injured.

“That’s very serious no matter what,” Barden said. “Best case scenario is OK, it wasn’t serious, but if it was serious, you want to make sure you are taking all the right steps to avert a tragedy.”

Morrow agrees.

“It’s important that we get this right,” he said.

JCPS did not respond to an interview request.

Click here to learn more about the Say Something program, also known as the Sandy Hook Promise.

These are the reported guns found on campuses so far into the 2021-2021 JCPS school year:

  1. 8-11-21 Iroquois High School
  2. 9-28-21 Lassiter Middle School
  3. 10-06-21 Seneca High School
  4. 10-07-21 Stuart Middle School
  5. 10-15-21 Pleasure Ridge Park
  6. 11-01-21 Liberty High School
  7. 11-04-21 Western High School
  8. 11-04-21 Doss High School
  9. 11-16-21 Moore High School
  10. 11-18-21 Iroquois High School
  11. 11-22-21 Western High School
  12. 11-23-21 Atherton High School
  13. 11-23-21 McFarren Preparatory Academy
  14. 1-04-22 Pleasure Ridge Park
  15. 1-26-22 Pleasure Ridge Park
  16. 1-31-22 Shawnee High School

Pellet/airsoft guns:

  1. 8-18-21 Pleasure Ridge Park
  2. 11-03- 21 Iroquois High School
  3. 3-8-22 Waggener High School

A student at Pleasure Ridge Park was chased into the school from the parking lot on Jan 27, 2022. The suspects, one of whom was armed, were apprehended by an unarmed School Security Monitor as they entered the school.

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