This morning, a young man walked into an elementary school in Newton, Connecticut and opened fire. As I write this little is known about the victims, except that 20 of them were children. Young children.
News coverage by the networks and social media went hand-in-hand with commentary about gun control. Some pundits said it wasn’t appropriate to speak about gun control on this day of tragedy. Others advocated the position that today was the most appropriate day to discuss this issue.
Whatever your personal politics on the subject of gun control, we know this to be true: America has more mass shootings since Columbine then all of the other nations on earth put together.
We are doing something wrong.
We live in a nation where we are not safe from violence. Not anywhere. We are raising a generation of children that doesn’t believe that any place is safe. We are raising a generation that has lockdown drills in school; they are taught what to do if a shooter comes into their school. Think about that for a moment.
On 9-11, I was PTA President at my children’s elementary school. The teachers and administration put a great deal of thought about what to tell the children about the terrorist attacks. How, we parents asked ourselves, do we teach our children about the possibility of an attack that we cannot predict or prevent? Parents were frantic with fear, and the school phones rang off the hook. Parents were asking if they should come pick up their children, and where they safe?
One of the school secretaries, overwhelmed herself and trying to keep her calm, told me that it was ridiculous to take a child out of school. “School is the safest place your children can be,” she said.
Our school districts now plan for this type of tragedy. Police departments work together with the schools, forming and revising those plans. Our students have multiple lockdown drills every year. Our children will never have the experience of schools as a safe haven where nothing bad ever happens. While our schools are certainly as safe as we can make them, that safety is no longer assured.
That’s what needs to drive the discussion about gun violence. We need to think about what we are teaching our children. Are we teaching them that the right for a militia to bear arms is more important than ensuring their safety?
We need to talk about anger in our society. We need to talk about real solutions, not just offer sympathy and prayers for the victims and forget about it until we are shocked by yet another horrific shooting.
My sister was killed by a drunk driver as she crossed the street to her school bus. I’ve lived my entire life knowing that children die. But never did I think, growing up, that I had to worry about getting shot in a school. Or my church. Or a mall.
It’s time to talk. To each other, to our elected officials. Time to step up. Time to put safety first. Time not to walk away and wait for the next tragedy. The time to do something about our country’s violent nature is now, before more children die. If we don’t do something now, we’ll never do anything.