LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – After a school shooting in Texas on Tuesday claimed the lives of 19 children and two adults, Arkansas parents and educators had tough conversations about what can be done to prevent tragedies like that from happening in their communities.
Jeff Hood is a father of five who lives in Little Rock. He is a community activist who has spoken out against gun violence for years.
Following the school shooting, Hood said he and his wife decided to keep the kids home Wednesday.
“If you’re going to be honest with your kids about such things, you have to say, ‘I don’t know what could happen,'” Hood said.
Hood knows the psychological toll a mass shooting can have on a person. In 2016, he organized a protest in Dallas. During the march, a radicalized man open fire on officers, killing five. Hood was 40 feet away.
“I’ve had to go to therapy, all kinds of stuff,” Hood said. “It’s something I still deal with every single day. I never imagined I’d have to worry about my kids going through this.”
Hood said Little Rock has already seen the impact of gun oversaturation in the community. Dozens of homicides plagued the city to start the year, and he said he fears a school could be targeted here.
“At what point do we say we need to quit putting guns in the hands of people who can do tremendous harm with them?” Hood said.
Christy Kam is a special education teacher in Arkansas. She lived in Jonesboro in 1998 when two students killed five classmates at Westside School. Since then, she said things have only gotten worse.
“I never in my wildest dreams would’ve thought people would just wake up on the regular and go, ‘I’m going to kill kids today,'” Kam said.
Kam said she thinks guns in teachers’ hands could be effective.
“In my opinion, one of the best things to do is deputize teachers that are willing to go through and get that training,” Kam said.
Kam said she keeps a toolbox in her classroom filled with objects she would use to charge at a would-be shooter, like screwdrivers and bug spray.
“I’m always all about safety and what I can do while I’m in the classroom to protect my kids,” Kam said.
Hood said it’s important for kids and teens struggling with depression to get love from their communities and find a way to help them without giving them a reason to turn to gun violence. “If we decide to go down the path of love, we will develop trust with our neighbors,” Hood said. “It will ultimately lead to less incidents like this.”