BORDEN COUNTY, TEXAS
A PLAN TO ADVOCATE FOR GUN SAFETY WITHIN THE EDUCATION SYSTEM
OCTOBER 2022 – SYDNEY HELMER
Everyday in the United States, 12 students lose their lives from gun violence, and another 32 students are injured as a result. The statistics continue to show an increase in school-located violence with a documentation of 948 incidents of school shootings since 2012 when 27 lives were taken at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Organizations such as Everytown, March for our Lives and The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) have formed in order to address the issue and to minimize the incidents of gun violence in schools. The concern has also precipitated an ongoing political debate both in favor of, and against the National Rifle Association (NRA). Those in favor of the NRA argue that guns keep the lives of community members safe and believe that handguns offer a modicum of defense against violence. On the other hand, those opposed to the NRA argue that “the NRA is responsible for the ease with which a person can obtain a gun and for the proliferation of firearms in our society.” In the hopes of making a change, this plan proposes that a small group of teachers opposed to gun ownership and concerned about school violence relocate to Borden County in Texas, a jurisdiction renowned for its high per-capita gun ownership
Just this year, there have already been 113 events of shootings on school property, resulting in 41 deaths and 82 injuries. The biggest school shooting of 2022 occured in Uvalde, Texas on May 24. At 11:30 am, when Salvador Ramos entered Robb Elementary School with an AR-15-style rifle in hand. Ramos took the lives of 19 students and two teachers in a matter of minutes. Prior to the violence, Ramos was given the nickname of “school shooter” and had a history of making comments towards women regarding rape. As stated by his former classmate Ramos “would get severely bullied and made fun of a lot. People would, like, actually call him school shooter and stuff like that.” Yet, Ramos was still able to purchase two AR-15-style rifles and 60 30-round magazines without any background checks when he turned 18 years old. Weeks before the shooting, Ramos sent his friend a photo of an AR-15, along with gun magazines. The friend questioned him, “I was like, ‘Bro, why do you have this?’ and he was like, ‘Don’t worry about it,’” the friend said. “He proceeded to text me, ‘I look very different now. You wouldn’t recognize me.’” Yet, he was never stopped or questioned by authorities. As recent as September 27th, a shooting occurred at Roxborough High School, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Five suspects fired shots at an after school football game taking the life of one student, and injuring four more.
Six faculty members lost their lives during the school shooting in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Ten years later in 2022, two teachers were killed at the Uvalde Massacre. There is more than physical suffering and loss that afflicts those in the educational profession. Holly Van Tassel-Schuester, a teacher and survivor of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School describes the after-math by saying “many days I just wanted to hide away and avoid the world around me. As much as my family and friends reached out, they were not the people I was able to communicate with. The thoughts of having to repeat the events of February 14th were too difficult.”. Teacher Arnuflo Reyes reflects on his experience as a survivor of the shooting in Uvalde, Texas after losing 11 of his students “I pretty much had already given my life … to God and said, ‘You know, please don’t let my children die in vain. If it’s my time, it’s my time.”
The AFT is formed by a group of teachers across the country who stand up for the rights, opportunities and quality of education for their students. There are currently 1.7 million members of the AFT, who all share a common goal of making a change in the educational system. Members of the AFT consist of early childhood educators, k-12 teachers, higher education professors, nurse and health professionals, public employees and retirees. Of their wide range of causes, gun violence prevention in schools is the most relevant and important. In order to further the idea that Americans want a change in terms of gun control, the AFT performed a survey that found that “57 to 71 percent of Americans, and 53 to 62 percent of respondents from gun-owning households, support a nationwide ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.” In order to make a change, members of the AFT are collaborating with other organizations to create a plan to improve safety in schools nationwide and are working with politicians to take legal action.
In response to the spate of gun violence at schools, teachers across the United States have begun to organize in an effort to address the problem at its root and to impact positive change. Teachers have coalesced to form nationwide and local organizations committed to pressuring state and local legislatures and officials to take effective measures to remediate the problem of gun violence in schools.
A group of members of the AFT will move to Borden County, Texas. Borden County, originally established in 1876, was named after Texas Patriot Gail Borden. Borden was born in New York in 1801, but moved to Texas in his late twenties. He was known for his development of condensing milk and opened many factories as a product of his success. The town was named after Borden, due to his contribution to improving local schools and churches. With a population of 652 residents, Borden County is one of the smallest counties in the state. Counties in Texas range from a population of 57 residents to 4,728,030. The county was originally inhabited by ranchers and farmers and is now known for its oil production. The small county is home to a courthouse, Borden County School, a post office, the Texas Department of Transportation, Coyote Country Store and Cafe and The Blue Paw Store and Cafe.
Borden County is most famously known for the highest per-capita handgun ownership rate in the country. Nearly 108 of its residents possess their own handgun, which is equivalent to 16% of the population. This is consistent with the state’s overall gun ownership. As of 2022, there are 588,696 registered guns in the state of Texas.
With the hopes of making changes around the country, a small group of teachers from the AFT will relocate to Borden County, Texas. They will get teaching positions at Borden County School, where their income will be $66,950 per year, $9,309 more than the average teaching income in Texas. Additionally, the overall cost of living in Borden County is 16% less than average across the U.S.
The AFT is engaging in a movement to actively relocate its members to local communities, including Borden County, in order to educate communities and participate in local politics. Both the residents of Borden County and the teachers will benefit. The residents will receive a different point of view on the issue of gun and school violence, and perhaps will create a safer community in which parents will be comfortable sending their students off to school in the morning. The teachers will have an opportunity to be heard by the residents of a community, which historically has adopted an opposing viewpoint, while earning above the average national teaching salary of $61,730.