Talon News - Good Local News

By Jacque Ritchie


TALON recently caught up with activist/teachers Dr. Cynthia Mortensen and Holly Gregory for a conversation about guns on campus.



TALON recently caught up with activist/teachers Dr. Cynthia Mortensen and Holly Gregory for a conversation about guns on campus.

Mortensen and Gregory are spearheading a campaign to allow trained school personnel to carry firearms on campus. Kidslivesmatterofsanjuancounty (KLMSJC) is a flegding FB group that invites discussion about the gun issues and has gained over 100 followers in the last week.

AHS English teacher, Mortensen, 53, is a USAF vet who served in Iraq, during TDesert Storm. Mortensen holds doctorate degrees in Christian and Religious Studies and Social/Behavioral Sciences from Liberty University. Currently she serves in the Army Reserves and the USAF Auxilary Reserve as a chaplain. Mortensen also teaches online classes for BYU and works with cadets in AHS's ROTC program.

With quiet resolve Mortensen retells the events of December 7, 2017. "We had just gotten into class and the kids were doing their quiet reading. That's what we do for 10 minutes at the beginning of every class. It was a cold day but I had the window open a little bit." Mortesen said she had 24 sophmores in her class that day. "We were just sitting there and we heard something. It sounded like a bang and my first thought was, somebody was up in the hills duck hunting or target practicing. I mean I go up in the hills all the time so I'm just thinking well, it's a little early for that but, hey."

Mortensen said she recognized the noise as gunfire right away, "So we went back to doing what we were doing, then all of a sudden we heard it again and we just said, 'Oh crap.' At that point I started to move toward the door and that's when they came over the speaker and said, 'This is a lockdown. This is not a drill. Please make sure your doors are locked. Get your students secured. So yeah, I went over there and made sure the door was locked." Mortensen said, since that day she always keeps her classroom door securely locked, "Like Fort Knox; you don't have an ID, you don't have a pass, you are not gettin' in this door." Mortensen continued, "Then we got kids secure that wanted to be hidden into an area...I just said, 'Hey, you guys this is a serious situation and you know, you can get down,' and you must understand, we had the scanners so we heard there was a shooter." Mortensen and her class were located in the 200 building which is located next to the 900 and 500 buildings where the shooting was taking place. Yeah, you know we heard there was a kid that was shot and we thought, 'Oh my gosh! What is going on here? Then we hear over the radio, we could hear everything that was happening, and every time you hear a gunshot, I kept going back to Columbine I was just praying...there was a lot of praying going on at Aztec High School that day." At that moment Mortensen, who is a gun collector and a former SJC reserve sheriffs deputy, said she wished that she'd had a weapon, "As soon as it happened I thought about that...there were some of the kids who wanted to fight, I told them that we have a better chance of surviving if we have a group that will attack. So, I was like what can we use to hit or strike a blow? Like a book, a golf club, a baseball bat things of that nature. The whole time I kept thinking, 'I just wish I had my gun.' I had all these lives I had to protect and no way to do it. So since then I've been dealing with my own anger about it...When you are in the military or any kind of police situation, they give you the tools to do your job. Well, we are teachers now and our job is to educate. But I became more than a teacher that day... I became a human shield. Knowing at any minute those bullets could come through that door; through the wall. Just in my mind, when it all started happening I was just...Where's my flack jacket? Where's my helmet? Where's my M16?" Mortensen said she knows the families of most of her students and they are familiar with her record of police/military service, "One of my students asked, 'Hey, Dr. Mortensen I'll bet you wish you had one of your guns right now' I said, 'Darn right, I sure wish I did'"

Mortensen instructed her charges to text their parents and let them know what was happening. As they did, the parents reportedly were asking, 'Please tell us your teacher has a gun.' "So at that point people were just wanting me to protect their kids. (After,) a lot of people came up to me at McGee Park saying that 'I should have been able to protect myself and the kids.'"

Since the incident, Mortensen said that she has had overwhelmingly positive parental feedback in her efforts to allow teachers to carry weapons on campus, "People are telling me, 'Someone needs to wake up and allow teachers to protect themselves and their students while on campus!'" Mortensen reports that since December parents have been calling and emailing her from, "all over the county" saying that they wish their students could be in her class.

Critics argue that arming teachers could make them targets in a SWAT situation. Mortensen says, "That's not what would go down at all. It's not like we would go shooting down the hall like the wild west, guns blazing or something. No, the police don't even do that. That's just not true...We would of course follow existing protocol, which means lock down. You get them in a safe position and shelter in place." Mortensen said that even if she was armed she would use, "every other option available" before using deadly force but in the case of a breach and a shooter entered a classroom there would be recourse. Mortensen argued that mistaken identity in that scenario was unlikely because an armed teacher would be in radio contact with the police and school personnel. "Things have changed. Teachers are the first responders, it only makes sense, we have the tools."

On the issue of banning the sale of assault style weapons Mortensen believes that any kind of weapons ban' could be a slippery slope that could ultimately erode the sanctity of the Second Amendment. "I think of Chicago when it comes to weapons bans. I mean they come up with all these regulations for law-abiding citizens and but you know what? People that are criminals are gonna get guns. I mean it would be wonderful to live in that kind of Utopian world but..." Mortensen argued, "Anytime you have gun-free zones, churches, synagogue, temples, hospitals even military bases...it's just like an invitation to bad guys, it's bizarre."

Mortensen said that as far as identifying a possible threat before a tragedy occurs, "You can't always do that and you can't always fix a family even when you see that a problem exists. But you can protect yourself and the people around you from these kids that are making these choices. That's my constitutional right to do that."

Holly Gregory is a drug and alcohol counselor a substitute teacher and the mother of a sixth grader. Gregory said, "This isn't something that we want to keep our Second Amendment rights because we want to keep our hobby or something, this goes beyond that; it is a way of defending ourselves, defending our home, defending our country. I'm just saying that this right was established for a reason." Gregory contended that when crafting the constitution our founding fathers had the fore-thought to predict modern weaponry, "As human beings we have the understanding that we are going to evolve...certainly our founding fathers knew that our technology and our guns would evolve...they didn't think they were gonna have muskets for the next 300 years."

Gregory a former college student of Dr. Mortensen at San Juan College was inspired to start the KLMSJC movement because of both the Aztec and Parkland, FL shootings, "We formed kind of a partnership and I thought; you know what? Something needs to be done! I knew with her (Mortensen's) background and her conservative beliefs and just from being in her class, I knew; She's the gal to have on your side! I knew this was something we could accomplish together."

Gregory and Mortensen are planning two marches. Anyone wanting to participate in the demonstrations be in Bloomfield Saturday March 3,from 10 a.m. to 12, meet across the Farmers Market on Hwy. 550. A second march is planned in Aztec March 10, on the corner of Light Plant Rd. and Aztec Blvd. across from the Conoco at 1 p.m. Mortensen said that her students have really taken up the ball on this one." The students are making posters and planning to attend en mass, "We want to have so many people that we block the road." According to Mortensen, unlike students in Florida who are lobbying for stricter gun laws, local teens have chosen advocate in favor of guns in schools. "We have a different culture here, it's a different mind-set here," said Mortensen. Mortensen emphasized the importance of training, background checks and psychological testing when it comes to school personnel carrying guns.

Of the newly formed movement Mortensen said, "Things are really moving fast now...my phone is ringing off the hook, the emails are coming, it's crazy...but this should have happened a long time ago like when Columbine happened." Mortensen conceded, "I know there are people who are scared to death of guns in school, there are even teachers that are concerned with that...and yeah, with any kind of security there will always be the chance that something bad will happen but we are doing this to save lives ultimately, it's proactive prevention and protection...We would also like to see more precautionary measures enacted, when it comes to the safety of our children we can't skimp. This is not a right or left issue this is a children's safety issue. We need to do whats right for our kids. I know there are people that don't agree and that's fine...we need to have a dialogue about this issue and stop attacking each other...Not every teacher is gonna want to do it, which is fine, I'm not gonna force them to do it, please just allow me to be able to protect myself and my kids."

This week the issue of arming teachers and gun control has taken center stage in the national conversation with the president becoming an outspoken proponent of arming school staff. If the president were to reach out, both Gregory and Mortensen agreed, "We'd be up for that, oh yes, we'd definitly visit the White House."


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