Florida shooting sparks local mental health talks

Alleged shooter Nikolas Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida. The shooting has brought issues of gun control to the forefront of people’s minds, but this time a greater concern for mental health is being discussed in Kirksville.

Following the mass shooting, high school students in Southern Florida have participated in walkouts in support of Parkland and as a call to action for legislators to increase gun control, according to a South Florida Sun Sentinel update Tuesday. The student protests join calls from law enforcement and school administrators for gun control and mental health reform.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel and Miami Beach Police Chief Dan Oates have argued in statements to media that state and national gun laws and mental health privacy laws are too lenient, according to the Miami Herald. Law enforcement officials are lobbying for laws that keep AR-15s out of the hands of citizens, and they argue mental health privacy laws prevent officers from confiscating weapons from individuals with reported history of warning signs, as was the case with Cruz.

But the debate isn’t just happening in Florida, nor is it only a national issue. On Tuesday, hundreds of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America members lined the hallways of the Missouri Capitol, lobbying for stricter gun control laws. It has also become a topic of concern for local schools in Kirksville as mental health awareness rises. In the past few years, the Kirksville community has lost several students to suicide at the high school level and in the Truman State University community.

In a recent school board meeting, the Kirksville R-III School District board addressed what the district could do to focus on mental health issues in light of the recent shooting. District officials said the schools have already begun to implement training programs that educate staff about being trauma sensitive, according to a Feb. 14 article in the Kirksville Daily Express,

Randy Mikel, Kirksville High School principal, said it was important to see an initiative starting at the school board level, according to the same article. His statement was echoed in by school board member Jeremy Houser in the article.

“It sounds like it’s something that needs to be enrolled into our vision and the district say, ‘Here’s where we want to be with this, be proactive to reduce our chance of ever having an on-campus shooting, reduce the chance of suicide and all these things,’” Houser said in the article.

Houser was reported to have pushed for the formation of a committee to address these issues as soon as possible, according to the article.

For more information concerning the Florida shooting and local responses, pick up The Index next Thursday, March 1.