Straight out of the gate, I am going to let you know that this is not the type of article I usually write. Normally, I am very careful to avoid voicing my political opinions on this blog. I try to stay in my lane as it were. Gun violence is definitely not my usual scope. However, a headline caught my attention this morning that made my heart hurt. It had such an affect on me, that I cannot stay silent. It was this.
“Florida lawmakers to approve bill allowing teachers to be armed.”
There is so much wrong with these ten words, that I scarcely know where to begin.
Gun violence is a huge problem in America. It’s a problem I thought I understood the scale of, until I went to research this piece. In the month of April alone, there were 35 mass shootings. That is more than 1 per day. I struggle to wrap my mind around this, as I scan the seemingly unending list of numbered but unnamed victims. So far this year, 120 people have lost their lives in mass shooting events. Hundreds more have been injured.
I don’t know why this phenomenon has come about. In the 20 years since Columbine, mass shootings have become literally a daily event. I can’t tell you why this is. Neither can I speculate as to why this seems to be a uniquely American problem. I don’t know what the answer is. I do, however, know what the answer is not. More guns.
The idea that the solution to gun violence is more guns, is akin to thinking the obesity crisis can be solved with more cheese burgers. It is ludicrous.
As I read this story on the RTE website, I felt my stomach turn. My morning coffee soured on my tongue. I experienced a deep sense of foreshadowing, and all I could think was how long will it be before we see a headline reading “Florida teacher shoots unarmed student.”
I understand that, as Americans, your right to bear arms is protected under your constitution. Similarly, I understand that a lot of you are fiercely protective of this right. For many American people guns are a part of life. But what about your child’s rights?
Surely a child’s right to be educated without terror should be just as inalienable. It makes me incredibly sad to think of the lasting impact the trauma of gun violence will have on the survivors. However, the ripple effect goes far farther than I think we realise yet.
The kids in school now are the first generation of children who have had to deal with this crisis as part of their reality. They are the first who have had to practice drills, and make their way through metal detectors. They are constantly reminded that the threat of violence is very real. I honestly cannot imagine trying to survive in such a high stress situation. Let alone trying to learn in it.
These kids are in their formative years. The time spent sitting in classrooms and fooling around in the hallways will absolutely shape the adults they will become. How can they hope to grow into trusting, whole hearted adults when they spend the years between 5 and 18 facing clear and present danger every single day? Your children are growing up in a warzone. Unfortunately, there will be no refugee status for them.
On March 15th, New Zealand had a mass shooting incident of its own. Within one week, their Prime Minister had taken steps to ban automatic weapons. America, and in particular Florida, seems to be taking the exact opposite approach. Putting guns in the hands of those who may never ordinarily have owned them.
Teachers, educators, those responsible for nurturing your young child’s mind and imagination. Those responsible for empowering your son or daughter to reach their potential, will now be able to literally end their life. I have dealt with angry, bad tempered teachers in my time, but I never had to worry about them shooting me.
It is not a question of if an innocent child gets caught in the crossfire, or if a stressed-out teacher mistakes a child reaching for a cell phone for an attack. It is a question of when. Under the new legislation, teachers would be required to undertake 144 hours of training before carrying guns, but that doesn’t reassure me.
The internet is littered with “Florida Man” memes. We all like to joke about the crazy, surreal things that go on there. Somehow, I don’t think that particular Florida Man headline would evoke the same response.
There is a saying that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now. Some would argue that American gun laws should have been tightened up on April 21st 1999. I would count myself among them. However, it’s not too late. The time to to speak up and take whatever action we can, is now.
This outrageously wanton loss of life is becoming part of our culture, we cannot allow ourselves to be numb to it. We need to stand up and fight for every child’s right to come home from school. We owe them that much at least. Be well xxx