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On the very first day of school, during the very first lunch period, a national headline quickly became hyper-local.
Perry Hall High School and the community it is a part of quickly became chaotic as news spread that 15-year-old Robert Wayne Gladden brought a shot gun to school and fired it in the cafeteria wounding 17-year-old special needs student Daniel Borowy
Borowy's critical wounds were as physical as maybe the community's were emotional.
"We thought we'd be safe at school. It's a regular thing. Get on the bus, go to school, come home no big deal and then now, something like this happens and it alarms all of us," said a student who sat one table over from the shooter.
While shootings in schools are rare, the opportunity for it is not.
ABC2 News compiled a decade's worth of data from the state of Maryland on out-of-school suspensions.
From the 2001/2002 school year through 2010/2011, 117 students were suspended for firearms throughout our area , which includes all seven school districts -- an average of about 15 per year.
"We would like to see zeros for every single year in all of our jurisdictions, but we don't," said Dr. Daniel Webster.
Webster is the director of the Center for Gun Policy and Research at Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Firearm suspensions happen more often than many parents know.
Webster says to get that number to zero is not going to happen overnight.
He recently released a study called The Case for Gun Policy Reforms in America which, in part, calls for gun restriction to high risk groups, specifically those under 21-years-old.
"In my opinion I think the big focus should be on the community, what can we do to make guns less available to underage youth and to criminals," said Webster.
It is not all bad news, in the last two school years of our data there is a sharp decline in firearm suspensions in our area.
Dr. Webster says it loosely follows a recent national trend.
But to keep that trend moving in a downward direction and help avoid the kinds of incidents that happened at Perry Hall, Webster says it has to start in the community .
The Baltimore County Police Department responded to the Perry Hall shooting in part with a new gun lock giveaway it announced last month.
If you are a county resident, simply show up at a precinct and get up to three for free.
The county says about 625 have been given out so far, locking up guns so children can't have the kind of access Robert Wayne Gladden had back on August 27th.
It is the kind of proactive action Webster believes is the right kind of response.
County police also implemented the use of metal detecting wands to be used at a school resource officer's discretion. We asked to see how that works in a post Perry Hall shooting world, but our request was denied.
Both are measures now in place to help prevent another Perry Hall type shooting, school violence that not only caused physical wounds, but deep community ones as well.
"It affects us every day, our fear, but particularly if you had an incident like that so close to you in a place where you thought you were always safe. It's incredibly traumatic, and I think some of those kids are probably going to need support and help for a while," Webster said.
Safety -- it's being redefined by two shots in a cafeteria on the very first day of school.
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