To most logical Americans, the tragedy of senseless killings at a school in Parkland, Florida, was the absolute last straw.
At least...you'd think it would be, right?
And yet, tone-deaf rhetoric remains. Take, for example what Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) said after a troubled former schoolmate with an AR-15 semiautomatic weapon shot and killed 14 students and three teachers:
"This is one of those moments where we just need to step back and count our blessings," he told reporters Thursday at a news conference at the Capitol. "We need to think less about taking sides and fighting each other politically, and just pulling together. This House, and the whole country, stands with the Parkland community."
Okay, Speaker Ryan, how would you answer the questions posed by Katie Brown, an Orlando teacher and mother?
Mrs. Brown addressed the questions of her students to her Florida senator, former presidential candidate Marco Rubio (R-FL):
Dear Senator Rubio,
My name is Katie Brown. I am a public school teacher in Orlando, Florida, and the mother of two elementary aged children of my own. It is for these two very important reasons that I write to you today regarding gun control in our country, and specifically in our state.
On Thursday, I spent the day explaining to all of my 136 eighth grade students where we would hide in my classroom if a shooter were to intrude on our campus. In my classroom, there is a wall of windows that look out onto a courtyard.
I explained that if there was a gunman in the courtyard, we would hide below the windows so that we could not be seen.
If, however, the gunman were in the building, we would hide on the other side of the room against a row of cabinets. I have no closets or similar place for us to hide, so my students would need to sit close together, in complete silence. I would stand next to the door, I explained to them, so that I could “protect” them.
But you and I both know, Senator Rubio, that I cannot protect them against semi-automatic weapons. Teachers are good, but aren’t that good, right? (wink, wink) Instead, I told them I would be sending them my strongest, very best thoughts and prayers while I stood there trying to listen to where and when the gunman might begin shooting at my students and me.
After these instructions, I assured them how safe our school is and did my best to make them feel secure and, more importantly, loved.
And then I asked if there were any questions. Here are the following questions I received that I could not provide answers to, and I was hoping perhaps you could answer these questions for my thirteen- and fourteen-year-old students:
“Mrs. Brown, what happens if I am out in the hallway when the shooter comes and no one will let me inside their classrooms?”
“Mrs. Brown, what will I do if I’m in the bathroom by myself and the shooter comes in?”
“Mrs. Brown, how will I know if my little sister is safe? Do I have to run without her or should I find her before I run?”
“Mrs. Brown, what will we do if they shoot through the lock on the door and come into the classroom?”
“Mrs. Brown, what do we do if you are killed? Will someone come get us?”
Since I believe the supreme responsibility of a government is to protect their citizens, especially children, I believe that you, Senator Rubio, must have the answers to these questions. And I’m so glad that you do because, honestly, it’s hard enough being a teacher without having to also become an expert on active assailant procedures in the course of my school day.
For the life of me, I can never seem to remember if we are supposed to hide or run if the shooter is in another building…
If, however, you have no answers to these questions (other than arming me and my teacher friends, which I am going to assume is a poorly-timed joke that Republicans are making right now and that this cannot be the actual line of defense that you are considering), then would you mind giving me the phone number of your contact at the National Rifle Association? I would greatly appreciate it if they could come out and talk to my class.
With all my thoughts and prayers,
Orange County Public School Teacher and Mother
What's the Solution?
The survivors in Parkland took matters into their own hands, challenging the the legislators to come up with better solutions than the pablum they've been feeding America.
Here's a few #GunReformNow solutions, which starts by upping the ante to own a gun:
- Raising the gun ownership age to 21
- 14-day waiting periods
- No sales by private owners
- No sales at gun shows
- 10-round magazine limit
- No bump stocks
- No cranks
- Licenses for all arms
- Child lock requirements
- Assault rifle ban
- Universal background checks
- Enforcing the Domestic violence ban
I'd add three more controls:
- Universal depression screenings twice a year for all school-age children. These screenings can save lives, literally.
- Create a 'triage' system, similar to ranking hospital emergencies, at the FBI for suspicious behavior
- Improve communications systems between law enforcement agencies.
Finally, here's something we can all do. We can all March for Our Lives.
On Saturday, March 24, the kids and families of March For Our Lives will take to the streets of Washington DC and around the country. All who march will demand that their lives and safety become a priority and that gun violence and mass shootings will end in our schools today. In Chicago, the March commences at 11 am at the Richard J. Daley Center, 50 W. Washington, Chicago.
Let's hope that these planned marches do for gun violence what the #MeToo movement did for sexual misconduct.