I Would Die for Your Kids, but I Shouldn't Have To
Updated: Jun 7, 2019
Guns are at the forefront of our minds. Whether you are for or against them, we can all admit that they are an issue that cannot be ignored or pushed to the back burner.
Looking back on when I decided I wanted to be a teacher, I never thought of my job as a potentially dangerous one. I am not a firefighter, police officer, nor a prison guard. I'm not a construction worker or a high-rise window cleaner. Danger was not a part of the deal – yet, it is now.
Out of some crazy irony, fate or coincidence, I recently turned on Hulu and started streaming South Park and an episode called "Dead Kids" began to play. Wouldn't you know…it was about school shootings. Honestly, if you think the episode is foul, you are right, but it was foul in the right ways. It brought attention to something that needs exposure, made bad jokes about how we are becoming desensitized to the topic and threw in our faces how terrible the gun issue is becoming.
When I arrive at school each morning, I walk in and immediately assess my surroundings. I look at all the doors. I scan faces and movements among the staff and students. I perk my ears up to any alarming sounds. I can't wait to be in my room. When I'm out in the hallways, lunch room, and/or corridor, I am exposed along with everyone else. I have a solid plan for my room. I have barricades I would use out of an art cart and rolling cabinet. I have weapons including fire extinguishers and chairs that I would easily toss to deflect or slow down a terrorist. I have my door closed and locked. I am as ready as I can be. For now.
Everyday I think about how I would protect the students and then myself. As a teacher, I want nothing but the best for all students in this school, and as soon as they step in my classroom I feel an obligation to protect them. My mind races through the scenarios to a point of anxiety. If you were to ask me if I would do anything to protect your children – I would. I would take a bullet for your child. It terrifies me to have to even think about it, but I would do it. It means I could possibly leave my children without a mother if it came to that, but I would do it to protect YOUR children. Most good teachers would. Most good people would.
There are many facets of this topic I struggle with, one of them being the outside perception of what schools and their employees are doing to help with this epidemic. Though I don't have exact figures as this is all so new, I can tell you first-hand the amount of money that goes into our new armed officers, cameras, doors and building security measures. The cost of remodeling to make buildings safer is astronomical. Schools are already struggling to provide basic educational supplies and materials, and we are now having to relocate and fund aspects of schools that were never a major issue until now.
In 1999, Columbine experienced the first major school shooting. There were a few years of reprieve, then one shooting that took several lives in 2005 in Minnesota. In 2007, 33 people passed in the Virginia Tech shooting, 28 in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary, and just this year two mass shootings IN schools; Parkland, Florida and Santé Fe, Texas.
If I were talking about mass shootings in general, the growth in the past several years is massive, but I am just talking about schools. No concerts, churches, marathons, nightclubs or restaurants – just schools. A place where children come to learn and grow. CHILDREN.
Of course, mass shootings do happen in other countries. Germany, China, Russia, Switzerland have all suffered mass shootings in recent years. Unlike the US legislature, German and Swiss lawmakers responded to massacres by changing the law to avoid such shootings from happening again.
In Germany, automated and semi-automated firearms were banned in 2008 (with the exception of hunting and sport-shooting, which require permits), in response to the 2002 Erfurt massacre, when a 19-year-old killed 17 students at school. In Switzerland, a country with similar attitudes toward gun ownership as the US, the law was changed in 2008 to necessitate stricter ammunition storage after a man killed 14 and injured 14 more in a regional parliament in 2001.
China and Russia’s governments are also narrowing the law on who may own guns, and what kinds of guns.
China, which already has very stringent gun laws but is experiencing an increase in gun ownership, has taken further steps including outlawing hunting rifles, which are very common in rural areas. In Russia, licenses are required to purchase guns, and amongst the requirements are medical certificates. To control unauthorized gun ownership, the government is discussing a law to discipline doctors who issue false health reports to people applying for gun ownership.
What do I want to see as a teacher, a mother, and an active citizen? Change. I want to see gun ownership laws tightened.I am not standing up and saying I want all guns taken away. We worked for our rights to own and carry. but I want those who have the guns in their hands to be responsible sound minded people. If you do own, I want to know it will never fall into the hands of someone who is mentally ill. I want to see the U.S. proactively react when tragedy strikes. I want politicians and leaders to learn from those around them and take action.
What I don't want to see is a complete reversal of progress. In February last year, the president signed a bill to overturn Obama-era regulations that restricted people with severe mental problems from buying guns. Those restrictions had been put into place after the 2012 massacre of schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut, by a young man with a history of mental illness. And now President Trump is proposing cuts to the 2019 budget that will remove mass amounts of funding for background checks for gun purchasers.
We can vote for a better future. We can rally for change. We can make thoughtful consumer choices and thoughtful ways to store what we do purchase. We can treat the people who care about this with respect, like your teachers, administrators, and the politicians that care. We can have thoughtful conversations. This isn't about taking away your right to carry or hunt or the like, this is about making sure guns are in the right hands for the right reasons.
I don't want to go to work in fear anymore. I don't want to be worried sick for my children. I don't want my kids to have to think about if they are safe in school or if they practiced a drill enough to save their own lives. I don't want to defend what we have to do in schools to try and maintain safety. I want change. Don't you?