What to do about guns in your child's school

A FOX 5 I-Team investigation reveals new frightening numbers about an epidemic sweeping our nation's public schools - students who smuggle guns onto campus.

Last year, the I-Team provided the first real picture of how many guns wind up in Georgia schools. In a five-year period, more than 300 handguns or rifles.

Now, the most recent school gun numbers have come in. The problem isn't getting better. It's getting bigger.

"The reality is is that they're walking right straight through those schoolhouse doors every day without anybody having any understanding about what really might be inside that book bag," said Mark Kissel, president of the Georgia Association of Secondary School Law Enforcement Executives.

So what do about it? Shawn Cox thinks he might have some answers.

"I'm the first one since I've been incarcerated that's ever taken a gun to school that I've met," Shawn told FOX 5 I-Team reporter Randy Travis while sitting in Coastal State Prison in Savannah.

Like a typical high school drama, this one involved a boy and a girl. Shawn saying he heard a girl he liked had been sexually abused by a boy he knew. So in January 2012, Shawn woke up ready to teach that boy a lesson. He sneaked into his brother's bedroom, grabbed his brother's 9 mm handgun from a dresser drawer and then headed to Tift County High School with 10 rounds of ammunition, prepared he said, to use them all.

"If I pull a gun out, then there's no turning back. It's already out," Shawn remembered. "If I shoot, then, I'm going to keep shooting. I mean, I wasn't planning a Columbine, but that's the way that I kept thinking that it would have went. And I'm glad it didn't."

Cox was one of more than 300 students caught with a gun on a Georgia campus during our earlier five-year analysis. He didn't get a chance to pull the trigger. But some of those students did - like the one who shot Telvis Douglas at Price Middle School in Atlanta back in 2013.

"I really wasn't wondering about a gun getting into school because it's at school. Like a second place you call home. You should be safe there like you could be safe at home," Telvis told us.

One year later, we checked state records again. In the 2013-14 school year, another 71 guns turned up in Georgia schools. That's up from 57 in 2012-13... up from 49 in 2011-12. Up, up, up.

"I've seen people take guns to school," Shawn remembered. "I've taken it. I suffered the consequence."

His plan was to confront the boy at lunch. But in first period, someone tipped off a teacher that Shawn had a gun. Deputies showed up and pulled him out of class. The gun was never used.

"Really, I didn't want to shoot nobody," Cox promised. "I mean, I can't say I would have or I wouldn't have. Because I didn't pull it out. And quite frankly, that's a great thing. I mean, God's gift that I got arrested."

Shawn grew up in Tift County playing football and soccer... Wanted to go to the University of Florida.

Instead, he almost wound up murdering his classmates in the school cafeteria.

"God saved me. I made a mistake and God saved me," he said.

But how to save future students… from future would-be shooters?

Here Shawn's biggest idea -- metal detectors at every entrance to every school in Georgia. Atlanta and DeKalb County already have them at every middle and high school. Fulton County uses portable wands at some schools. But most districts say metal detectors are just too expensive and unreliable.

Others suggest making parents criminally responsible if they don't secure their gun at home and a child takes it to school. That's the law in some states. But no one in the Georgia General Assembly has made that proposal.

That leaves a final idea. Perhaps the most important.

FOX 5 I-Team: Is it possible to stop guns from getting into schools these days?

School police chief Mark Kissel: I don't think so.

So the president of the Georgia Association of Secondary School Law Enforcement Executives says his people need to know when those guns arrive.

"If you go all the way back to Columbine, somebody knew those kids had those weapons to begin with and there were plans being made," said Kissel. "And in most often times, nobody wants to get involved in the picture."

In every Cherokee County school, posters urge students to call police if they think someone has a gun, a special number that guarantees anonymity and rings straight back to school police headquarters in Canton. There's also a toll-free state number that can be used for any Georgia school. 1-877-SAY-STOP (877-729-7867)

FOX 5 I-Team: You don't know the name of the student who turned you in?

Shawn Cox: No, I didn't even know like, I heard that someone had said something but I don't know how they found out. I'm glad it happened.

So is the south Georgia community of Tifton, happy to avoid being included on a list of school tragedies that seems to get longer every school year.

"If a kid's out there thinking about taking a gun to school, then they should look at my situation," warned Shawn. "I'm in prison now. For something I did three years ago."

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