I’m devastated. I know you are, too. No matter who you are, what your politics are, or what religion you practice, you are devastated at the loss of four children, the injury of seven others in Oxford, and the tragedy of a 15-year-old boy who was so hurt that he hurt others.
I received a call yesterday afternoon from my dearest friend — the tone in her voice was nothing I had ever heard in our 20+ years of friendship. I was scared for her. Scared with her. Scared for her niece and nephew, at that time unaccounted for. I weep as I write this, recalling the minutes that seemed an eternity while waiting to hear that they were OK. Helpless. What a horrible feeling. Oddly reminiscent of 9/11.
I don’t like feeling helpless, so what do I do? I research statistics on school shootings, guns and legislation. Did you know that there are only 27 states that hold adults accountable for preventing access to their firearm by children? Michigan isn’t one of them. Did you know that 90% of school shootings by minors obtained the gun from their own home, or that of a relative? Think about that.
This morning I called my local legislators — state Rep. Bob Bezotte and state Sen. Lana Theis — to talk about how we can work together to support legislation to hold adults accountable for their firearms.
I left a message on Bezotte’s voicemail, and we had a productive conversation when he returned my call. Bezotte agrees that adults should be accountable for keeping their guns secure and out of the hands of children. While he didn’t commit to support the legislation currently in progress, he agreed that negligent gun owners should be subject to prosecution.
It was a great conversation. For someone who pretty much is opposite of me politically, we very much agree about the safety of the youth in our community through responsible gun ownership.
When I got through to Theis’ office, I explained to the man answering the phone why I was calling and that I wanted to speak directly to the senator. He took down my information and then told me that it was actually worse that the Oxford shooter wanted to kill kids in the school, and that that was the real problem, not the gun.
This is what happens when you choose politics over logic: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
Put your talking points away.
Instead, think about getting the notification from the school that there is an active shooter situation. Really imagine it.
Now, imagine driving to the assigned pickup location, not knowing where your child is or if they’re OK.
Imagine, too, the children running a mile for their lives through the snow with no coat, and then feel them collapsing into your arms because you are the nearest adult able to give them comfort and safety.
Imagine your eyes darting the crowd in desperate search for your children; feeling grateful your children are alive while simultaneously feeling guilty about feeling relieved that your children are still alive while others died.
Imagine looking into the tear-stained face of your child and trying to tell them they are safe — when you don’t really know for sure.
I don’t know about you, but my mind engages all of the things that can prevent this from happening again. What are the actionable, logical steps that can be taken today to prevent a tragedy like this from happening here?
How about locking up your guns. NOW.
If 90% of the guns used in these tragedies weren’t accessible, there would be an incredible decrease in loss of life.
While some may think it’s worse that a student wanted to kill his peers, the desire to kill will never be as dangerous as actually killing people. Let me repeat the data: In 90% of the school shootings committed by minors, the gun they use is from their own home, or that of a relative. That’s 90%.
I don’t know about you, but locking up the guns in your home seems pretty simple.
Addressing the mental health of the shooter or performing widespread risk assessments is a much more difficult and lengthy process to enact. Not that it can’t be done, or that it isn’t a worthy goal to work toward; it just can’t be done today.
You know what can be done today?
LOCK UP YOUR GUNS.
There are currently two bills in Michigan that are stuck in committee: One is 0550-553, which imposes a penalty for “failing to properly store a firearm resulting in death”; and the other is 5066-5069, which, among other things, requires firearm retailers to provide written warning to purchasers informing them of the penalties of failure to properly store the firearm. Click the links above for the details.
Truth be told, I am a supporter of the Second Amendment. I am a gun owner. My husband has a collection of various hunting rifles and weapons. I believe in the right to bear arms. I just don’t believe it means high-powered automatic or semi-automatic long guns (AR). I know that some legislation is useless, and I also know that when someone wants to kill someone, the law won’t stand in the way.
How do I know this? I know this because my father was murdered by a man who illegally obtained a firearm. Not much could’ve prevented it. But when it comes to school shootings, we know we can prevent some of the carnage by preventing access to firearms in the home.
LOCK UP YOUR GUNS.
According to Giffords Law Center, 4.6 million minors in the US live in homes with at least one loaded, unlocked firearm. Many children know where their parents keep their guns and have access to household guns — even if their parents think otherwise. Although 70% of parents reported that adolescents could not independently access firearms in their household, over a third of children belonging to those households reported being able to access the firearm in less than 5 minutes. For more shocking statistics visit Giffords.org.
LOCK UP YOUR GUNS.
Is this a mental health issue? Absolutely. Have we tried to include extra mental health support and education for the most vulnerable students in our area? Yes. Parents raged at school board meetings that “their children didn’t need to be taught empathy by the school”: “Focus on the three R’s.” Remember that? Honestly, when I teach my children at home about empathy, It would be amazing to have that reinforced in school. So many parents are caught up in their political non-issue d’jour that they forget that OTHER kids ARE hurting. OTHER kids DO need social emotional learning support.
Please take a look at where you keep your firearms and whether or not they can be accessed by anyone. Talk to your kids about guns. Talk to your kids about bullying, depression, anxiety, suicide, and the warning signs of crisis and how to report it. Make a plan if something should happen. Hug your kids; keep them safe.
AND LOCK UP YOUR GUNS.