December 1997 and April 1999 will forever be etched in my mind because a student (students in the case of Columbine) walked into their school and caused a senseless tragedy. Here we are, twenty years later, having the same types of conversations we were then. Why?!?! I want to scream that word out loud every time I see another tragedy unfold in another school in another town. I want to understand why this keeps happening without our political leaders taking steps to curtail these tragedies. We, as parents, should not be afraid to send our children to school.
Every single time this happens, thoughts and prayers go out by the millions but that us simply not enough. Now, with that being said, I am not anti gun, I am for more mental health resources within communities (I’m for more resources in communities as whole for mental, physical and other programs). I am a mother to two beautiful girls and a child that grew up during the first generation of school shootings that happened on a more frequent basis.
A Bit of History
The first school shooting that I remember was Heath High School in Paducah, Kentucky. It occurred within the region which I live. Three students were killed and others injured. I remember, as a 14 year-old, wondering what would possess a kid to do something so awful. Then just 16 short months later, Columbine happened. Again, I was dumbfounded. I just did not understand why this happened. 15 people lost their lives… what a senseless tragedy. I remember thinking that something was going to be done to resolve these incidents. Man, was I so wrong.
I was not a super popular student. I was bullied at times. I learned to let it roll off my back, even though it was hard at times. I hung out with all different kinds of kids… the Jocks, the Goths, the Smart Kids. I’ve always believed that as long as your nice to me then we can get along. I could not imagine hurting another human being over the bullying I experienced.
An after effect of these events were threats (some real and some just to try to get out of school) against schools. In my freshman year alone, we had at least 4 bomb threats. This was the doing of a student, for whatever unknown reason, until one of his friends had enough after a threat on a particularly cold day. We all had to go straight outside, no stopping at your locker to grab your jacket or coat. It was cold, like huddle together to keep warm cold.
“Firearm attacks during school hours: 7 (incidents resulting in injuries or deaths: 5)
22 January: Italy High School, Italy, Texas – A 16-year-old student opened fire with a semi-automatic handgun in the school cafeteria, wounding another student.
22 January: NET Charter High School, Gentilly, Louisiana – An unknown person fired shots at students from a vehicle in the school parking lot. One person was injured (though not by gunfire).
23 January: Marshall County High School, Benton, Kentucky – A 15-year-old student opened fire with a handgun on school grounds, killing two and injuring 18.
25 January: Murphy High School, Mobile, Alabama – A student fired a handgun into the air during a fight with another student. No injuries were reported.
26 January: Dearborn High School, Dearborn, Michigan – Shots were fired during a fight in the school parking lot. No injuries were reported.
31 January: Lincoln High School, Philadelphia – A fight during a basketball game resulted in the shooting death of a 32-year-old man outside the school.
14 February: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, Florida – A 19-year-old former student opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle, killing 17 and injuring 14.”
That is 7 incidents during school hours with 20 casualties. Twenty casualties.
Where as a society have we gone wrong? What is possessing these students to pick up a gun and terrorize their fellow students and school staff? Again, WHY???
This Mom’s View
This is merely my opinion. I am only one person in a country of millions. I only hope with this post to spark a productive, open, honest, and most importantly civil discussion.
In my eyes, this is not just a gun control issue, a mental health issue, a race issue… this is a respect for human life issue above all else. Yes, there are many components to this issue and it is complex.
Let’s start with the one issue that everyone jumps on immediately: gun control. I was raised around guns. My father hunted deer for us to eat. I learned to shoot a BB gun at the age of five. I was taught to not only respect the weapon itself, but to respect the life of both animal and human. I was taught that if you picked up a gun, be prepared to shoot and it should only be in self-defense in your home or you were getting dinner.
When did it become so popular to own automatic rifles? The way I see it there is no use for an automatic rifle in the civilian world. They are made for war. They are made for soldiers not for hunters or people who shoot for sport. We need to make it more difficult to obtain these weapons. Clips that hold tens of rounds need to be banned as well. There is no true purpose for these in the civilian population. If you want a gun for self-defense, there are many handguns, shot guns, and rifles that can be purchased. We do not need a gun that is automatic and has a clip that hold 100 round for self-defense or hunting.
If you cannot buy alcohol, you cannot buy a gun of any type. Period. Why would we allow someone we feel is not mature enough to drink alcohol to legally buy a gun? Background checks need to be mandatory across the board in every state. Period. Want to own a gun, show proof that a gun safety course has been completed. It should be harder to buy a gun in our country, not impossible but there should be more steps to get approved.
This is another band wagon that gets jumped on all the time. Are there people who should not own a gun due to a severe mental condition, yes. However, you cannot group all people with mental health conditions into one category. It has been studied and proven that people with a mental illness are much more likely to be the victim of a crime than the perpetrator of a crime. As a woman who is bipolar and has never had violent tendencies, why would I not be able to own a gun as long as I pass a background check and go through the process to do so. I am not saying that every person who has a mental illness should own guns but you cannot judge all by the actions of one. More often when you come to the people who are commuting these mass shootings they have anger issues or violent tendencies that are not treated. That does not necessarily mean that they have a mental illness. In addition, how would we even determine the individuals who are not able to get a gun due to mental illness. Would it not break doctor-patient confidentiality?
In our country, we do need more resources in the community for not only mental health, but physical health, food and nutrition, social services, community outreach, and so many other things. We have to treat this as a whole not just lumping it up and saying automatically that the perpetrators of the crime are mentally ill.
How Do We Move Forward?
Arming our teachers or having armed guards in our schools are not the solution. First, where would the money for this come from? If we cannot properly fund our schools to give the teachers the supplies they need then how is it in the budget to pay for this. It’s just not possible and I would be more nervous about having an armed presence in my child’s school. Second, it is not their responsibility to pick up arms to defend our children. Their job is to educate our children. While I find it amazing that there have been teachers and staff who have stepped in harm’s way to protect their students, we should not require then to do so.
Our lawmakers have to come together, put their differences aside and fix this issue. They need to quit listening to the lobbyists and whoever their big donors are. They need to do what is right for the American people who elected them and out in place the proper precautions and steps to take care of our children. We need to have restrictions on automatic rifles and clips that holds many, many rounds. As I said above, there’s no place for it in the civilian population. We, as the American people, have to get out and vote. We need to hold them accountable to do this and to act quickly. It’s been over twenty years since the Heath High shooting and nothing, essentially, has changed. This is unacceptable and our lawmakers need to understand that they need to either listen to their constituents or start looking for a new job. Their immediate responses of “thoughts and prayers” after these tragedies are just not good enough. We need them to act and to do it now.
We, also, need to teach our children to respect human life. We need to unplug and spend time talking to them. We need to get our children to socialize and see people in many different situations different from our own. We must teach them that it is absolutely unacceptable to bully another person for any reason. That every single action has a consequence and that they have to accept that consequence. It seems that as a society we have become so focused of “me” that we’ve lost our identity as a community that is giving, understanding, and willing to help our fellow Americans. Now, I am not saying that every family is this way but I have seen far too many children who dream of being YouTube stars and are constantly plugged into their devices. I, myself, have been guilty of letting our oldest have too much screen time. We, now, monitor and time her electronic use. I feel that above all else this is a result of the loss of respect for human life. We have to find a way to get that back and teach it to our children.
So, now, you are maybe wondering what you can do:
– Write your lawmakers and tell then that you demand immediate action
– Find a location for the March for Our Lives and join in.
– Vote! Every vote counts! Not just in the national or big state level elections but even down to the local levels. Do your research and make your vote count!