Gunshots echoing across the school grounds? The parents are terrified. The children stopped noticing.

Gunshots rang out at 8:13 a.m. and echoed across the high school football field and high school lawn. They continued for 49 minutes without interruption: an AR-15-style rifle, with .223-caliber bullets, blasting at 94 decibels through a community that didn’t even stop to wonder if a school disaster was unfolding.

It was just a normal morning in Cranston, Rhode Island, where more than 2,000 children attend school less than 500 yards from a police shooting range. There, local police officers hone their gun skills, sometimes until 8:30 at night.

Some days they shoot Glock pistols, like guns used in mass shootings at Virginia Tech, the Charleston church, and Thousand Oaks, California. Other days, they use AR-15-style semi-automatic rifles, similar to those used in the murders in Newtown, Connecticut; Las Vegas; Parkland, Florida; Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas.

Many parents have tried in vain to move the stove to a more remote area or close it to block out annoying sounds. They have written letters in support of a bill in state legislature that would ban outdoor shooting ranges within a mile of schools. But police opposed the legislation and the bill is now “awaiting further study.”

“This facility is necessary to train and qualify all members of the department with the weapons they carry to fulfill the mission of protecting the public,” said Police Chief Col. Michael Winquist.

Excessive noise, even in general, is detrimental to children’s health and well-being, research shows, and medical experts say the sound of gunshots, which could trigger a fight-or-flight response, can even be worse.

But while many students say they remember being deeply disturbed by the gunshots at first — frozen, diving under desks — they are now displaying what public health experts say could be a potentially more dangerous reaction: desensitization.

“I remember thinking, ‘We shouldn’t get used to this,’” said Valentina Pasquariello, who graduated in June. “But it got to the point where you have to get used to it: you have no choice.”

Sara Johnson, a professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who has studied how guns and other chronic stressors affect child development, said students are “doing mental gymnastics to feel safe in that kind of way.” environment and make peace with it. .”

Although the situation in Cranston is unique, Dr. Johnson and others said it reflects a country where the threat of gun violence has invaded the daily lives of schoolchildren.

“Whether or not you go to school in front of a shooting range,” Dr. Johnson said, “you are asked to adapt to the challenges of growing up in an environment where guns are involved.”

One morning last month, the first explosions of the day occurred when Maranda Carline, 17, a high school junior, was in first-period psychology class, eating Skittles and learning how childhood trauma can affect development. in the long term of a person. The sound of 50 bullets bombarded Maranda again as she left for her next class at 9:01 am; Another 50 arrived at 10:56 a.m., as she hurried to finish an essay on the ban for her history midterm.

Maranda has long memorized the steps of active shooter training, as much by heart as solving an algebra equation: barricading the door. Hide in the corner. If necessary, he will wield scissors and knock over trash cans, chairs, or anything else he finds.

But her mother, Carmen Carline, wasn’t sure Maranda would follow these steps in a real-life situation, for the simple reason that she wouldn’t know it was real.

“When a gunman shows up at my kids’ school, hears the bullets and no one even looks up (no one has that kind of healthy fear that drives you to seek safety), that’s what I’m afraid of,” she said, breaking down in tears.

Asked if the gunshots were distracting, Maranda paused and then said, “I guess it’s a little reassuring, because it means there’s police nearby.”

His mother intervened: “That’s how they sell it to children.”

Amid the explosions that day, Cranston, a city of about 80,000, embodied the euphony of a New England fall: leaves falling on driveways, basketballs hitting the pavement of cul-de-sacs; engines whirring in a Dunkin’ drive-thru line.

Decades ago, residents said, gunfire from the range was sporadic and quieter, like popcorn popping in the distance, as local officers learned to use guns. But police departments grew, as did the number of federal agencies and other groups using the range. So did the types of weapons and, with them, the noise.

During the Covid pandemic, adults who had traveled to work stayed home all day and couldn’t believe their ears. In 2021, the range became a source of tension. A petition for “peace and tranquility” circulated.

In September 2022, residents went to City Hall with stories: the new art teacher bending over and asking for confinement; visiting athletes on a track inviting you to “go out on the grass”; A resident stepped on a spent 9-millimeter shell casing in front of the high school.

One council member, Jessica Marino, said tradition should take priority: “I think the field is in the right place, because it’s been there for a long time,” she said.

Another board member at the time, Matthew Reilly, a student at the middle and high schools, said, “It was never a traumatic situation. My friends and I, and I can only speak from personal experience, it never really affected us.”

The police department’s training academy applied for $1.6 million through the American Rescue Plan to fence the shooting range, but the grant was denied.

The department said it reduced the number of outside groups using the field (ending agreements with airport police and federal agencies such as the FBI) ​​and that it had replaced sound-absorbing panels and added berms and bushes to dampen noise. .

“These are our last efforts,” the department’s second-in-command, Maj. Todd Patalano, wrote to the mayor and police chief in a February 2023 email obtained by The Times. “At this time, we will not make any further adaptations.”

For Antonella Pasquariello, a mother of three, a memory of school pick-up time plays like a slow-motion movie in her head: She pulled up to her car, rolled down the window and watched as “little, cute kids came out of the car.” school”. , unfazed, when the sound of artillery hit the building.”

He looked at bus lines and tennis courts to “make sure bodies didn’t fall.”

Haunted by the experience, she wrote to the superintendent asking why shootings couldn’t be banned during school hours. She was referred to the mayor, who responded that it would “take time and funding.”

Ms. Pasquariello was taking her goldendoodle, Cleo, for a walk when the shooting resumed at 12:03 p.m. She heard the sirens: Without sirens, there are no school shootings, she said. They broke again at 2:47 p.m., when the junior varsity Falcons took the football field to practice, and then at 3:21 p.m., when the elementary school kids got off their buses.

When Pasquariello’s youngest son August came home from school, she asked him about the shooting. She said she didn’t hear any.

At dusk, José Giusti watched his six-year-old daughter, Gianna, practice cartwheels under a cacophony of bullets.

Mr. Giusti works for the city of Providence’s licensing department, which enforces noise ordinances. He and his wife, Alyssa, know that, according to research studies, children who live in noisy environments have higher blood pressure, elevated cortisol levels, and hyperactivity. So far, Gianna seems to be doing well.

At bedtime, Gianna walked around in her cheetah pajamas and unicorn headphones. Afterwards, her parents put her to sleep with a white noise machine to block out the sound of the gunshots.

Audio produced by Adriana Hurst.