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Run, Hide or Fight

Who came up with the brilliant idea that more weapons somehow equals less violence? More firearms simply will not reduce the incidence of school shootings.
Jorge Ramos is an Emmy Award-winning journalist and news anchor for Univision.
After the shooting, students were evacuated from the school while police SWAT teams secured the area around Stoneman Douglas high school. Crédito: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

For those of us living in the United States or Mexico, it’s unlikely that we’ll always be protected from a well-armed gunman with murderous intent. So we’d all better come up with a personal plan. Just in case.

In the United States there are said to be more guns than there are people. In some areas of the country, buying a gun is easier than getting a prescription filled, and officials lack the political will to stand up to the National Rifle Association or other groups to restrict their distribution or use.

Mexico faces a different problem. Drug traffickers and other criminals have a vast supply of weapons — most of them smuggled into the country from the United States — and ordinary citizens don’t generally put their trust in the police or the federal government to protect them. If someone is robbed, or even kidnapped or killed, they know the crime will almost certainly go unpunished.

I live in Florida, a state where politicians think the best way to fight gun violence in schools is by giving teachers their own pistols. The ludicrous argument goes something like this: We must fight fire with fire, and weapons with other weapons, even in the classroom. Elected officials don’t dare take the more logical and reasonable step: banning the use of rifles, pistols and other weapons of war. Who came up with the brilliant idea that more weapons somehow equals less violence?

Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, a former naval officer, signed into law the measure allowing guns in the classroom. Teachers who volunteer will receive special firearms training, once authorization is given by their school district, but the bottom line is that your son or daughter’s third grade math teacher could soon be packing a firearm along with his times tables. What if the gun discharges accidentally? What if someone is mistaken for an attacker? How will children react if a teacher becomes abusive, knowing that he is carrying a handgun?

More firearms simply will not reduce the incidence of school shootings. Since 1999, over 228,000 students in the United States, in 234 schools, have experienced shootings firsthand, according to The Washington Post. It was in 1999 that 12 students and one teacher were killed at Columbine High School in Colorado, the deadliest school shooting in United States history at the time.

Near my home in Parkland, Florida, 17 students and teachers were killed in a rampage just last year. And it will happen again. And again. And again. And yet again. That’s why students in the United States now brace themselves for the worst.

And when faced with the worst, some students have become heroes, but lost their lives in the process. Kendrick Castillo, 18, lunged at the shooter who burst into the room during his literature class recently at a STEM School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado; Riley Howell, 21, did the same thing, tackling a gunman at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He was shot three times. Both students died. But they probably saved many lives.

When threatened by a gunman, a number of police forces in the United States and the Department of Homeland Security itself recommend we do one of three things: First, run; if you cannot run, hide; and if all other options fail, fight.

Mexico’s problems with violence stem from different causes and require a very different approach. Criminal gangs have control over some areas of the country; millions suffer under the yoke of poverty and inequality; corruption is rampant. The drug war has been an utter failure. Weapons are smuggled in easily from the United States. In short, the Mexican government is unable to safeguard its people.

Even worse, nothing appears to be improving. Over 230,000 Mexicans were killed in the past two six-year presidential terms. Already, the first quarter of 2019 — under a new presidential administration — has been the bloodiest on record.

Of course, we can allow for a longer honeymoon with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. And he cannot be blamed for what happened before he took office. However, a recent shooting in Cuernavaca — two people were killed in broad daylight, in front of TV cameras, while the perpetrators showed not the slightest fear of the authorities, or the law — is a huge and urgent call to the new administration.

Similar stories can be heard all through the country. At what point can previous administrations no longer be deemed responsible for such killings? From the moment López Obrador’s new National Guard becomes operational? To me, violence is the main problem to be solved in Mexico. And running away is not the right option, not in Mexico, not anywhere in the world.