The sound of gunfire near school? Just another day in Cranston

Photo credit: Element5 Digital

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies

For most American students, the prospect of hearing gun shots rings through the hallways or around athletic fields is a modern terror. But in Cranston, Rhode Island, middle and high school students have become used to the sound, thanks to the nearby Cranston Police Academy Training Complex. Here, officers use AR-15-style rifles or Glock pistols at the gun range. This New York Times article by Emily Baumgartner details this unsettling reality for Cranston High School West and Western Hill Middle School students and parents.

A study out of Brown University found that teachers and students believe the loud gun shots intrude on classroom learning. As the researcher of two studies that examined the impact of elevated train noise on children’s classroom learning, I was not surprised at the study’s finding. And, the sound of gun shots at this range reaches up to 94 decibels (dB), a sound level louder than a bulldozer and potentially dangerous to human health.

Rhode Island Rep. Brandon Potter’s constituents alerted him to the police’s outdoor gun range. At the start of March, he introduced legislation to prevent gun ranges being placed near schools. Potter clarified that he’s not opposed to guns or gun ranges, but believes that children should not be exposed to loud gun shots. He believes that hearing gun shots daily would lessen the effectiveness of active shooter drills. He added that individuals exposed to gun shots regularly would be less likely to react quickly to an actual school shooting. 

Potter also learned that a new teacher at the high school went into an active shooter protocol when she first heard the gun shots. But while she prepared for potential violence, her students laughed — now normalized to the sound. Potter adds that sports teams who visit the high school drop to the ground when they hear the gun shots.

Potter attended the high school in the early 2000s. He said that the noise from the gun range has worsened over the years as more people use it, and wield louder firearms. His bill is currently being held for further study as the House Judiciary committee reviews public testimony.

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