Since 1970, there have been 2,052 school shootings in the U.S. There have been calls for stronger gun control since JFK was assassinated, which was before I was born.
I always brushed it off. Those shootings don’t happen in small towns like mine. Gun control is for the hardcore liberals who want to eliminate the second amendment, I had thought.
But this shooting in Texas hit me differently. All of a sudden it was personal to me, even though I didn’t know anyone involved. I don’t even live in the same state.
Perhaps it was the smallness of the town; I live in rural Colorado. Maybe it was the fact that it was an elementary school; I teach in an elementary school. Or that the shooter had no clear reason for targeting children; I am a mother.
Whatever the reason, this school shooting shook me to my core.
I recalled the image of my class of 9- and 10-year-olds when I told them that the bucket filled with cat litter in my room is for a modified bathroom in the event of a lockdown. I pictured my classroom door that opens in the wrong direction, making it impossible to barricade it. I pictured my son’s text messages earlier this year when his school had an active shooter threat, and he was stuck in his classroom for hours. Fear had gripped my heart as I waited to hear that he and the other kids were ok that day.
I pictured the little girl in that classroom in Texas, calling 911 over and over again for help and seeing no one; no one but dead and bleeding classmates with whom she had just played soccer with at recess. I pictured the grief the parents of the children killed in Uvalde felt when they learned that they would never again be able to tuck their babies in.
All they did was send their kids to school that morning.
I pictured the teachers who just wanted to make a difference in children’s lives, who showed up that day with lesson plans and made last-minute copies and went to their classrooms to teach their students to read and write, and then never made it home for dinner that night. Never will make it home for dinner again.
I pictured the man who loved his wife so deeply that her murder caused his heart to stop beating. I pictured the little girl who had not yet seen blood in her underwear covering herself in the blood of her classmate, just to survive.
And I thought as I wiped tears from my cheeks…this has to stop. We can all agree that the senseless killing of children in schools has to stop.
And then I pictured the gun in my house.
The one I like to shoot at the gun range. The one I shot at my hunter’s safety class. The one for which I will complete my concealed-carry class.
I pictured my brother’s guns. The ones he kills animals with to fill his family’s freezer. The ones he guides hunters with. The ones he has used to keep predators from killing his livestock. He is a responsible gun owner.
But then I pictured this 18-year-old kid, buying two assault rifles in a very short amount of time with the intent to take the lives of the most innocent victims he could find. His owning guns is a problem.
And after this realization, for the first time, I found myself agreeing with the hard-core liberals; we need stronger gun-control laws.
We need a commonsense compromise between the people who would start a revolution if you tried to take any of their guns away and those who feel as though removing guns is the only solution. First, we should make 21 the legal age to own a ‘black gun’ (semi or fully automatic, high-capacity defense gun). There has been a shocking increase in shooters under the age of 21, making it absolutely crucial to increase the legal age for gun ownership. The bill just passed by Congress last week does not contain this provision, though it expands the background check of potential buyers under 21.
Next, we should require the gun owner to pass a class much like a concealed-carry class, take the certificate to the local sheriff’s office, get fingerprinted, and pass a mental and criminal background check and a mental health evaluation. The evaluation would require teaming up with mental health providers in the sale of guns and these mental health checks could help prevent self-inflicted gunshots because over half of the gunshot deaths in the U.S. are suicides.
We should insist that a permit can only be issued once these steps are completed. Only after this built-in waiting period could you purchase your “black gun.” This wait time shouldn’t be an issue, either. Only those planning a heinous crime need an AR-15 tomorrow.
The bipartisan legislation approved by Congress and signed by President Biden isn’t everything we need to reduce criminal killing, but it’s more than we’ve been able to accomplish in a generation. Still, we can and should do more.
If we can save the life of even one child who simply wanted to find out what happened at the end of his Magic Tree House book that day and instead, left in a body bag, then we can’t hide behind excuses and need to support compromise. I want to make school safer for kids. Don’t you?
Melissa Good lives in Montrose. She is a 2021-22 Teach Plus Colorado Senior Policy Fellow.
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