Life, Liberty and An Active Shooter Plan

I woke up to an email from my daughter’s middle school in my inbox this morning. The email explained that the school district had been working with law enforcement last night, trying to determine if reported threats of violence were credible. The police received several phone calls from students and parents, citing whispers about a gun in school. Today.

 

Las Vegas happened two days ago.

 

My daughter sat across the table from me. Between bites of cereal, she sang along with the radio.

 

Then she asked why I was crying.

 

She’s eleven. She loves books and music and sleeps with a stuffed animal. She is already terrified of mass shootings.

 

Should I tell her there were threats? While police believed there was no validity to the threats, there were armed police at the school today as a precaution. Was 6:45 this morning the time for another discussion about public shootings and a threat to her school? It seems like I ask myself these questions every day.

 

If you are a proponent of an unfettered second amendment, I have a few questions for you instead.

 

Why does your right to stockpile weapons of war trump my daughter’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

 

Is my daughter reveling in her liberty, in her freedom to fear for her safety in every public space? My child is scared of being shot on the street. At a concert. A movie. The mall. Or school. And there is precedent for every fear. Maybe it doesn’t curtail her actions or change her movements. But living in fear is its own type of prison, one fortified by every person who claims his right to collect guns is greater than her right to safety.

 

I was crying while I dropped my eleven-year-old off for school in front of armed police. There is nothing happy or freeing about worrying if your child will get shot at school. We reached a state in America years ago that the pursuit of happiness fell far behind the pursuit of money and ammunition from the NRA.

 

What part of “a well-regulated” Militia don’t you understand?

 

A well regulated Militia. It’s literally right there in the first sentence. How does “well-regulated” translate to barely regulated? Unregulated?

 

How about the security of the State?

 

How did the Bill of Rights get so twisted, that the security of the State doesn’t include citizens feeling safe on the street? Children feeling safe in their schools?

 

Part of the job of government is to regulate danger. We have laws relating to the operation of motor vehicles, food safety standards and recalls for products that “might” hurt an infant. Guns are treated as some magic object, free from the cumbersome burden of product safety research or regulation.

 

On the subject of research, why isn’t there more research into guns as a public health threat?

 

In 2014-2015, there were four laboratory-confirmed cases of Ebola which originated in the United States. This caused the CDC to revise guidelines, to monitor the patients’ friends and possible contacts. Nationally, staff was trained on Ebola containment protocols. The military was deployed to West Africa. Research led to changes in patient care and a coordinated public response across multiple countries and continents.

 

In 2017, 1516 people have died from gun violence. Yet the CDC isn’t allowed to research gun violence.

 

What about the right to an appropriate public education?

 

Off the top of my head, I know four kids who stayed home from school today. They didn’t go to school because they were scared they would be shot. The parents felt strongly enough to allow those kids to stay home.

 

As part of an appropriate public education, the middle school already has active shooter drills. Every kid has an “active shooter plan” in place. Most of the kids plan to run for the woods.

 

I’m not upset with the school district. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and they have to do what they can to keep the kids safe, including an “active shooter” plan. I appreciate their taking threats seriously, involving law enforcement and keeping the parents informed. I’m sure they feel as helpless as I do. But to claim that gun violence doesn’t impact learning is somewhere between obtuse and criminal.

 

What do I say to my daughter, every day? Do I ignore the threats? Do I discuss it? Do you truly believe these discussions make an eleven year-old feel free?

 

I sent my daughter to school today because I believe that if I keep her out of public spaces, out of school and away from her own pursuit of a best life, I let the gun interests terrorizing our nation win.

 

But what do you say to an eleven year old who is already scared? Ignore it? Do I suggest she just hug her stuffed bunny a little closer at night and hope for the best?

 

There’s not much freedom to choose, honestly. When she gets home today, we will have our first discussion about the idea of “if you hear something, say something.” I will teach my eleven-year-old to police the halls of her own school and community, to look out for her own safety and that of her peers. There’s little choice in a country so in love with guns that for many people keeping an arsenal is more important than keeping her safe.

 

You really want to argue that teaching my daughter to run for the woods in the event of a school shooting is allowing for the pursuit of happiness?

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