Senator Ben Cardin visited what must be one of the safest schools in Maryland Thursday morning to talk with students about gun violence, both in and out of school. The school has security guards, cameras and an electric gate.
Driving up to the SEED School of Maryland in West Baltimore, Cardin was greeted by a security guard, who opened an electric gate while a camera recorded his arrival. He met a second security guard at the front door.
Cardin says while these security measures may work for the SEED School they may not work on all schools.
“It’s not practical in all schools we recognize that,” says Cardin. “So we want the school to do what is necessary to make their surroundings as safe as possible to make sure who enters school buildings and to take those types of precautions.”
Cardin, whose visit came less than a week after the national March for Our Lives demonstrations, faced tough questions from student leaders not only on school gun violence, but also community gun violence.
One student asked, why, when inner-cities are affected by gun violence regularly, it took mass shootings in suburban areas to get any momentum behind gun control legislation.
“I really think that it was a high school setting. Parkland is a—you’re correct—it is a suburban school,” Cardin tells students. “It relates to the issue that is a universal problem not just an inner-city problem.”
Given revelations of police abuses in a US Justice Department report and the recent Gun Trace Task Force trial, one student wanted to know if police are receiving racial sensitivity training.
Cardin said he met with community leaders in Sandtown-Winchester multiple times after the 2015 death of Freddie Gray in police custody.
“And they said something maybe some of you knew, but I didn’t. And that is community leaders would not work with local police even when they saw a crime in their neighborhood,” Cardin tells students.
Cardin said in order to reduce the number of illegal guns in the city he would like to see increased background checks and closure of what’s known as “the gun show loophole,” which allows private sales of guns without background checks.
Cardin said he was glad to see so many engaged students.
“Well, first, I was very pleased to see the first question I asked was how many of them had been engaged in what’s happened at Parkland and with other students to deal with gun safety legislation and just about every one of them raised their hands,” says Cardin.
One of those was Student Body President Jermya Williams. She says she was involved in the Ceasefire in her West Baltimore community of Edmonson Village.
“We did have a walk we did have a moment of silence for the lives that were lost I our city,” says Williams. “So yes I have been involved.”
She said she and her fellow students feel safe at their school, but still, they worry.
“But it is still having the input in the back of your mind like maybe someone may have a gun on them,” says Williams. “Maybe someone has a weapon or a knife you never know.”
Williams says she appreciated Cardin’s visit to address any questions on gun legislation that students may have “cause you know we cannot talk to the president and see what he thinks.”
Cardin challenged students at SEED to continue their activism.
“You’ve already made a difference; the question is, can you stay focused? What’s going to happen in June when you go on recess?” asked the students. “And the NRA is still working. They work 24-7, they work 12 months a year, and they never stop.”
Williams says students at SEED would like to receive training on how to deal with an active shooter.