UNION — An assistant U.S. Attorney and an ATF agent visited Foster Park Elementary School Wednesday to ask the students to help keep their school safe by taking a pledge against gun violence.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lance Crick was among the members of the U.S. Attorney’s Office to meet with students across the state as part of the South Carolina’s 11th annual Student Pledge Against Gun Violence.
Crick and ATF Special Agent Robert Horne met with students at Foster Park to tell them about the roles they play in law enforcement, to answer questions, and to encourage the students to make good decisions, especially where guns are concerned.
“We see a lot of folks who make bad decisions,” Crick said. “We’re here to talk to you about making good decisions and to ask you to be our eyes and ears.”
Crick called on students to be “extra careful and responsible when you see a gun,” comparing guns to snakes. He asked the students if they would pick up a snake and was told “no.” He urged them to treat guns like they were snakes.
“A snake is just like a gun,” Crick said. “If you see a gun, think about that snake, because it could hurt you like a snake.”
Crick told the students that if they see a gun they should not only not touch it or pick it up, they should immediately go tell an adult, especially at school.
“We want you to be our eyes and ears when it comes to keeping your school safe,” Crick said. “If you see a gun at school never touch it. Go tell a teacher or a coach or a counselor. If you hear someone talking about bringing a gun to school or having a gun at school, go tell a teacher or a coach or a counselor.”
During their presentation, Crick and Horne also discussed their jobs, with Horne telling students that he works for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms or ATF, a federal law enforcement agency that investigates crimes involving alcohol, tobacco, and firearms. He said he and his fellow ATF agents “go after violent criminals” involved in gun and drug activities and arrests them and turns them over to attorney’s like Crick for prosecution.
Horne brought with him several of the tools of his trade including a tactical shotgun with a flashlight mounted on it; a helmet and bullet-resistant vest; chains and handcuffs; a collapsible baton; and his sidearm.
The main purpose of Wednesday’s presentation was to encourage students to sign a pledge against gun violence. The pledge proposes a partnership between the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Foster Park Elementary School, and the Union Public Safety Department “in observance of the Day of National Concern about Young People and Gun Violence.”
Wednesday was the Day of National Concern and the pledge for elementary school students states that the student who signs it pledges that “If I see a gun, I won’t touch it. I will remember that any gun I see might be loaded. I know how important it is to keep myself safe.”
Crick, who was scheduled to visit a number of school across the Upstate this week, said he has been coming to Foster Park for several years as part of the campaign against gun violence.
“Foster Park is a great school and it is a priority with us that we keep it and all our schools safe,” Crick said. “Unfortunately, you’re seeing stories from around the country where students are bringing firearms or other weapons to school. So it is very important for us to be in the schools to discuss with students gun safety and keeping our schools safe.We just appreciate the opportunity to visit Foster Park Elementary and partner with the students, teachers and administrators to facilitate this.”
Shirley Mitchell, school secretary at Foster Park, thanked Crick and Horne for their presentation and for their departments’ continuing interest in keeping the school’s children safe.
“We’ve been doing this for several years,” Mitchell said. “The students just love it and we’ve not had any problems with guns in the school.”
A statement released by U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles stated that the Student Pledge Against Gun Violence is part of South Carolina’s Project CeaseFire, which is the state’s implementation of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods program.
The goal of Project Safe Neighborhood is to reduce gun violence. The Student Pledge Against Gun Violence “is a national program that recognizes the role that young people, through their own decisions, can play in reducing gun violence.”
The campaign, which culminates in the Day of National Concern, is “a means for beginning the conversation with young people about gun violence.”
Nettles stated that “students from around the country will join together in pledging to do their part to end gun violence. Over the years, millions of students nationwide have signed the pledge.”
This year, those millions include approximately 67,672 students at 138 schools in South Carolina who Nettles said have agreed to take the pledge against gun violence.
In addition to Foster Park, those schools include Union County High School where Crick also spoke.
The pledge for middle and high school students states that:
“I pledge I will never bring a gun to school;
“I will never use a gun to settle a dispute;
“I will use my influence with my friends to keep them from using guns to settle disputes.
“My individual choices and actions, when multiplied by those of young people throughout the country, will make a difference.
“Together, by honoring this pledge, we can reverse the violence and grow up in safety.”
Nettles stated that “once again our office is pleased to take this opportunity to reach out to South Carolina students and engage in a dialogue with students about gun violence and the importance of making right choices.”
Visit the national Student Pledge website at www.pledge.org for more information.
Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.