Texas and New Jersey have different ideas about ‘packing’ back to school

While Linden Mayor Derek Armstead was sharing backpacks with children in his New Jersey community to help prepare them for the new academic year, a 4-year-old who was packing a loaded handgun took the deadly firearm to his Texas elementary school.

These events indicate a strong difference in opinions among the residents of the two states when it comes to having access to deadly weapons.

Investigators determined the gun belonged to the student’s parents, and police arrested the Texas child’s 30-year-old father, who was arrested and charged with making a firearm accessible to a child and abandoning or endangering a child, charges that could lead to up to two years in prison.

School administrators at John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Corpus Christi learned a student had a weapon on campus around 9 a.m., according to a letter sent to parents from West Oso Independent School District Superintendent Conrado Garcia.

The school went on lockdown as a Corpus Christi police officer on campus took the weapon and secured it.

The handgun was loaded, Corpus Christi Police Department said in a news release. Police and school officials did not say how the weapon was first discovered.

The incident comes as a new school year ramps up across much of the United States, with parents, students and public officials wary over the mass shooting that left 19 fourth-graders and two teachers dead in May in Uvalde, Texas.

The annual ‘”Back” Pack to School’ event at the Raymond Wood Bauer Promenade and provided Linden students with free book bags and supplies in preparation for the upcoming school year courtesy of Armstead, the Linden City Council, the Mayor’s Youth Commission, the Department of Parks and Recreation, Applebee’s Restaurant, Communities in Cooperation, and the Special Improvement District.

“Our backpack to school event is nothing more than our effort to help our families,” said Armstead, a father of six. “School supplies can be costly, particularly if you have more than one child attending the school system. Anything we can do to help families in these most difficult times helps.”

Armstead said over 1000 book bags with supplies were distributed and the Linden Health department provided those in attendance with information and giveaways, including COVID-19 home test kits.

In 2015 Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law that allowed people with handgun licenses to carry concealed handguns on college campuses, and last year he enacted a law that allows anyone to carry a handgun in a public place in Texas without a license.

In contrast, New Jersey has some of the nation’s toughest gun laws.

It is estimated that at least 46% of Texans own guns, while New Jersey and Massachusetts have the lowest gun ownership rate of 14.7%

Texas reported deaths from injury by firearms at a rate of 14.2 per 100,000 population, while New Jersey’s firearm-related death rate was about a third of that figure or only five per 100,000 population.

The annual hospitalizations for firearm injury between 2000 and 2016 in Texas were consistently above the United States’ national average, while New Jersey’s rate was consistently below the national average.

There were 4,164 gun-related deaths in Texas in 2020, a year when New Jersey experienced only 443 gun-related deaths. Children were involved in 485 of those gun-related deaths in Texas but only 31 of those in New Jersey.

Scientific research has provided reliable proof of whether a gun policy is fair and effective and how they affect outcomes, such as violent crime, suicide rates, or unintentional injury or death.

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