The culture is changing. The day has long since passed when the unfettered right to own a firearm supersedes the rights of our children to feel safe in their schools. The Parkland, Florida, students, in the wake of 17 deaths and multiple life-threatening injuries to students and faculty, shone a bright light on this reality: the NeverAgain movement insists that a society that values their guns above the safety of their children is neither sane nor viable.
In the hours after the latest horrific school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, that state’s lieutenant governor opined that the answer to such unmitigated tragedies would be to remodel schools so that there are only one or two entrances. In addition to missing the mark entirely, imagine that, in the event of a fire, all students, faculty and staff could only exit through one or two doorways.
Another pundit went so far as to suggest that, since the Columbine and Santa Fe high school shooters all wore trench coats to conceal their long guns as they entered the venue of their mass slaughter, the answer might be to ban the wearing of trench coats to school ? not the availability of weapons of mass destruction but the wearing of trench coats!
Statistics consistently show that states that enact stricter gun safety measures suffer far fewer gun deaths. Such measures include setting gun ownership age limits, banning large capacity magazines, restricting or banning ownership of AR-15 and AK-47 semi-automatic assault weapons, universal background checks, gun safety education and ownership licensing, and closing of the gun show loophole on gun purchases.
New technology offers answers as well. Gun safety locks are available that would prevent a gun firing in the hands of anyone other than the gun’s registered owner. Thus, stressed, traumatized, bullied and suicidal young teens could not pick up their fathers’ firearms and wreak havoc in their schools.
And this underscores another issue in the frequency of school gun violence, one that is arguably far more complex: the health and well-being of our young males. When too many of our boys feel alienated and ostracized by their peers and their environment that they believe the only way out is mass slaughter, we are clearly failing these children. Each one of us must take a hard look at this and ask ourselves what we can do individually and as a community to wrap our arms around our boys, to help them feel valued, appreciated, loved, and empowered in healthy ways.
I witnessed an example this past Saturday: parents who brought their young boys and girls to a United Way Day of Caring event at an Ashland Supportive Housing group home. These volunteers painted the interior of one of ASH’s three group homes for the developmentally disabled. The parents modeled helping others ? and having a lot of fun doing it ? and the children experienced being thoroughly appreciated for their time and effort given in the service of others.
Real answers to gun violence exist, and key to realizing them is electing legislators at all levels of government who are committed to ensuring the safety of children and families above the unfettered rights of gun owners.
Nancy Parker lives in Ashland.