Laura Pritchett opinion featured image

On Valentine’s Day — a day of love — parents across Fort Collins received emails informing us our children had been in a lockdown drill at roughly the same time that 17 children were being killed in Florida. This was in 2018, but I remember my kids’ stunned faces as they told me their drill instructions, which included advice such as: “If running to safety is not an option, then hide to keep yourself safe. And if you must fight to save your life, fight with all your might, using anything within reach as a weapon.” 

Yes, kids, please fight with all your might against a grownup with a semi-automatic. 

My god, what a sad curriculum. What a sad country.  

Laura Pritchett

I am so not interested in discussing distressing interpretations of the murkily-written Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, created at a time when muskets were the weapon of the day. Some conversations aren’t worth having.

What I am interested in is brainstorming real solutions—with likeminded people who also felt a real crack in their hearts that day. Whose knees buckled. Whose tears rose up and stung. 

That Valentine’s, after getting my kids a snack and settling them into some activity, I walked into the kitchen and sank to the floor and wept—and if you didn’t react as a parent that day, or on the 163 days of mass shootings in the U.S., I’m not sure what would move you. But what came after was almost sadder, because it was so predictable.

My teenage daughter and her friends helped organize a walkout in Fort Collins, which spread to the other schools, and which surely had to be the largest walkout in our school district’s history. Kids poured out of the high schools and toward the town center, and parents rode their bikes or walked alongside, especially near the coal-rolling trucks filled with counter-protesters who heckled them from the roads. This was the first act of civil disobedience for most, born out of a mix of desperation and courage. 

Even as she organized it, and even as she was walking in a stream of kids, even as the kids gathered to pass the mic and speak, my heart sank even lower. Why? I knew what you know: Nothing would really change. We would go on. More innocent people would be shot. She protested, marched, wrote letters, made calls, and put advocacy ahead of more youthful activities—and I watched, knowing. Anxiety settled into kids’ nervous systems, and we stood by.

I grew up on a ranch, with guns, with family members who hunted and shot clay pigeons —but my salient memory of childhood was not guns. Tragically, that is not true for youngsters today, who have been forced by our irresponsibility and inaction to have it forefront in their anxious minds and hearts.  

In honor of my children and the children who lost their lives on Valentine’s Day, I joined Moms Demand Action. This group was founded by a mother of five right after the Sandy Hook tragedy, based on the belief that all Americans should do more to reduce gun violence. No group has “risen so far, so fast, influencing laws, rattling major corporations, and provoking vicious responses from hardcore gun rights activists,” according to a Mother Jones article, and my hope is that politicians and corporations are indeed influenced by this league of red-shirted courageous citizens (which do not just include moms). This is a grass-roots organization born of care and love.  

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

This month, and in partnership with the League of Women Voters, they hosted an overview of successes in 2021 at a “Colorado Takes Action for Gun Safety” Zoom gathering. We heard from representatives such as Jennifer Bacon (District 7) and Cathy Kipp (District 52), who caught us up on six new laws on gun safety, which cover stolen weapons, domestic violence, background checks, and local regulation of firearms. We learned what’s on the docket for 2022 in terms of gun safety bills, and I left with actionable steps provided by such organizations as the American Public Health Association.

Although I’m all for background checks and safety locks, the fundamentally important thing we can do is elect gun-sense politicians who don’t take NRA money. The list of Colorado gun-sense candidates is excellent—but should be longer. The Colorado politicians who take the most NRA money should be ousted immediately. 

There are other good people and organizations doing good work and they could use our support. If not Moms Demand Action, there is the Colorado Coalition Against Gun Violence,

Coalition to Stop Gun ViolenceGun Owners for Safety, and Colorado Faith Communities United to Stop Gun Violence, to name a few. They need supporters and advocates and people willing to spend some time calling legislators. 

Valentine’s Day. Dead children. We continue to need the push of people. People who find our children’s school drills unacceptable, people who want to foster a culture of responsible gun ownership, people who have common sense and some awareness of human nature, and above all else, people who believe in childhood.